17-year-old Mason Greenwood made history as he became the youngest ever scorer in Europe for United after he netted the decisive late winner to seal the three points.
Manchester United got their Europa League campaign off to a winning start thanks to a narrow 1-0 win over Astana at Old Trafford on Thursday night.
? First Manchester United goal
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) September 19, 2019
It was a game the Red Devils expectedly dominated, though the scoreline hardly reflects their dominance on the night no thanks to their profligacy.
Manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer kept to his words for once and handed a first start to four academy graduates – Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong, Axel Tuanzebe and Mason Greenwood.
But only two of these youngsters impressed enough against Astana to get another chance from their manager as soon as possible – this weekend – Gomes and Tuanzebe.
Handed the number 10 role ahead of the usual suspects, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard, yes, a breath of fresh air for Manchester United fans, this baller should really be proud of his performance against Astana.
United have lacked a recognized playmaker for their 4-2-3-1 especially with Paul Pogba given a more disciplined role in midfield by Solskjaer this season. Fans of the Red Devils have always wanted to see Gomes given a run in that role and against Astana, they got their wish.
He provided the needed creative spark and movements on and off the ball that inspired belief.
Gomes was a little above decent. Greenwood , goal aside was absent. Chong? Zero. Never taken to him anyway
— DEĘJĂÝ (@dr_adedokun) September 19, 2019
Gomes’ ability to find space and constantly make himself available for a pass was refreshing, making him a constant threat and danger for the visitors’ defenders who had no other option but to foul him – he was the most fouled player on the pitch last night.
While not a jaw-dropping display, it was good to finally see that he could offer more in that number 10 role than his preferred senior teammates. He created one chance, one key pass, completed 100% of his take-ons and didn’t shy away from his defensive duties, too.
With 92% of his passes also completed, Gomes was very comfortable on the ball and looks ready to have another chance in that role.
The best way to describe his performance is to simply ask Victor Lindelof to be very afraid. Of course, it was just Astana, and tougher challenges are ahead, but not only was Tuanzebe as comfortable and graceful as the Swede, if not more than, but he also excelled in an area that his more experienced colleague has struggled since he joined the Red Devils – aerial duels.
Despite the height of the Astana players, Tuanzebe looked comfortable and commanding with the way he dealt with his aerial battles, winning eight of such duels in addition to creating one big chance.
A very assured performance from the 21-year-old who helped Aston Villa return to the Premier League last season during his time at the club on loan. He showed exactly why Solskjaer was brave enough to make him the third choice center back, behind Harry Maguire and Lindelof, who looks the most likely to lose his place to Tuanzebe.
I don’t think it should come as a surprise for anyone that Gomes and Tuanzebe were the standout performers from the group. Both players are the oldest at 19 and 21 years respectively and have been due for first-team football for a while now.
Mason Greenwood showed what he is about with the manner he took his goal, sending fans into a frenzy. Daddy was eventually rewarded with a man of the match award, understandably so, too, though I felt because he wasn’t as involved as I would have loved, Fred was deserving of that accolade.
Salute to Mason Greenwood. Good play from Utd..Really should have been more goals. But yea 3 points, on to Sunday Vs West Ham
— O O (@otoiks) September 19, 2019
Greenwood got better in the second half and netted the winner very late on to become the club’s youngest ever scorer in Europe at the age of 17.
But while only 17, there seems to be enough of the highly-rated youngster described by his manager as ‘better than me’. Hopefully, his brilliant goal could see him get a run at the problematic right-wing even though he is more comfortable as a striker.
Easily the worst Manchester United player on the night and by a large margin. His performance against Astana should be one nobody has to re-watch.
United were wasteful but in truth, it was Rashford who was profligate, missing three of five big chances the Red Devils created on the night. He has to do better or risk losing his starting berth especially if Greenwood gets the nod for that RW position with Anthony Martial preferred at center forward.
On a final note, it was good to see another youngster, Diogo Dalot back on the pitch, but his crosses really stained an otherwise good workout. Dalot attempted nine crosses but completed none.
Honestly, I am trying to put the blame on rustiness given he just returned from a relatively long layoff because I know he is better than what we saw last night.
His overlapping runs were good as usual and didn’t stop him from taking care of his defensive duty. But those crosses, we can’t afford to see a repeat.
Up next for these lads and Manchester United is a trip to the London Stadium on Sunday to take on the Hammers, West Ham United. Which of the will the hammer fall on when Solskjaer reveals his traveling squad for that game?