Manchester United were able to commence their Europa League campaign on a positive note as they secured a 1-0 win over FC Astana at Old Trafford.
17-year-old Mason Greenwood netted the winner, his first senior goal for the club, in the 73rd minute.
Having fielded a remarkably youthful side, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be pleased with the outcome although the Red Devils squandered numerous chances during the game and the perseverance of the visitors could have easily ensured that the result remained goalless.
1. Marcus Rashford is Not A Striker
It was frankly disappointing to see Rashford miss chance after chance during the encounter. Then again, his positioning and eagerness to shoot was highly commendable. The five shots he tried to bury were more than the entirety of Astana’s attempts.
However, the clinical edge and the sharp finishing that defines a striker was missing. This game goes to highlight more than ever as to why the Englishman is best suited to a wider role and that Solskjaer hasn’t received his clinical striker yet.
2. More Gametime
In the starting lineup, Solskjaer was deft and decided to risk deploying academy graduates Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes, and Tahith Chong. While Chong’s performance did have a few elements lacking, the brilliance of Greenwood and Gomes cannot be denied. While one netted the all-important goal, Gomes showed impeccable passing skills and vision for a player of his age.
Fans have been rallying for these two to get starts for a long time now and their fresh creativity and attacking intent showed just why Solskjaer must deploy them more often.
3. Fred Shines In Europe
When Jose Mourinho signed Fred, he commented on how the Brazilian’s European experience was crucial for the club. Sure enough, last year’s Champions League tryst often had Fred as the talisman.
This time too, he didn’t disappoint on the European stage. The midfielder’s performance was truly impressive and many of his shots nearly found the mark. A strong statement was made by him as to why Solskjaer should risk him in the future and how he is still capable of justifying his pricetag.
The technical skill alone ought to make him the Man of the Match.
4. Marcos Rojo Enjoyed His Rare Start
Rojo was gifted a rare start by Solskjaer on account of Luke Shaw’s injuries. The Argentine fullback must have surprised quite a few fans through his display.
More than anything else, he appeared to enjoy himself on the pitch, and his three attempted shots is certainly testament to the same.
This performance indicates that he could actually compete with Shaw for the vital left-back spot ahead of Ashley Young.
5. Axel Tuanzebe Made a Mark
It certainly appeared to be a game of proving a point and the squad rotation may have been put into effect for purely that intent.
Axel Tuanzebe was another such player and as a defender he was quite capable during the outing. The youngster succeeded in proving that he is willing to fight for his place.
Keeping in mind Victor Lindelof’s recent uncertain showings, Tuanzebe can be easily used by the Norwegian gaffer as an alternative centre-back when forced by injury or form.