Europa League | FC Astana vs Manchester United 2-1
Manchester United have been handed their first Europa League defeat of the season after Solskaer’s fledglings are schooled in Kazahkstan.
Lingard Captain of a youth filled ship
Manchester United already secured qualification into the knockout stages of the Europa League prior to this game. So, tonights game against FC Astana meant pretty much nothing. The most intriguing dynamic of the tie in Kazakhstan was Ole’s promise of youth – a promise he kept.
The Starting 11 saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer field 4 debutants; Lee Grant, Dylan Levitt, Dishon Bernard and Ethan Laird. Three of whom being promising prospects. The debutants along with the likes of Greenwood, Chong, and Garner all getting starts added to the buzz amongst United fans before kick-off.
Manchester United carried that buzz into the first half. The reds went 1-0 up in the first 10 minutes with a Captain Lingard goal and it looked like the game was primed for a convincing Manchester United win. However, despite the attempts and high press, we failed to capitalise on an inferior FC Astana.
One of the main issues always going to arise when debuting and fielding a lot of youth is their fitness levels. Despite playing regular reserve football, the level of fitness required to play ‘men’s football’ is incomparable to an u23s game. That really showed after the interval.
FC Astana began to assert some dominance in the second half as they chased a victory that would be gargantuan for their football club’s short history. Manchester United, now on the back foot, had to resort to a series of counter attacks to create chances. The most meaningful chance Ole Gunnar’s boys had was when luke shaw carried the ball, played a give and go with Angel Gomes and played a driven ball for Tahith Chong… which he missed. How he missed it, I don’t know but he missed what was essentially an open goal.
Chong’s miss proved to be a turning point in the game as moments later, FC Astana got an equaliser and it wasn’t long after that when they were 2-1 up, via an own goal from Dishon Bernard. On Chong’s miss, Ole was quick to give the Dutchman some encouragement and said ‘No forward or striker should worry about missing chances, that’s about growing up, I think I did as well!’. After an all-round poor performance, it will be interesting to see whether Chong sinks or swims.