Teenager Mason Greenwood’s first senior goal ensured Manchester United made a winning start to their Europa League campaign against Astana at Old Trafford.
On a night the 17-year-old will never forget and with the visitors from Kazakhstan threatening to hold out for a draw, Greenwood produced a clever finish in front of the Stretford End to become United’s youngest scorer in Europe.
Earlier, Brazil midfielder Fred hit the bar from 25 yards before forcing a fine save from a free-kick, while England forward Marcus Rashford wasted a string of chances against the European minnows.
Greenwood takes his chance
It was a far from perfect return to the Europa League stage for United on their first appearance in the competition since goals by Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan defeated Ajax in the 2017 final in Stockholm.
United, of course, would rather be competing with Europe’s elite in the Champions League but the Europa League at least offers manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the chance to give some of his younger players experience of a European night under the Old Trafford lights.
Against the five-time Kazakhstan Premier League champions, United fielded their youngest side for a European game since December 2012.
Greenwood was one of six players aged 21 or under who started.
Having grown up in United’s academy, the Bradford-born forward had already given United fans a glimpse of his talent during pre-season when he scored against Leeds in Australia.
In the heat of a competitive European game, he showed tremendous maturity as he cut the ball back on to his right foot after holding off an opponent before dispatching a low shot through the keeper’s legs.
United fail to sparkle despite win
Greenwood’s goal was the highlight on an otherwise scrappy night for United, who were far from convincing against a team that had come through qualifying to make the group stage.
Rashford, one of two survivors from the side that started last weekend’s win over Leicester, wasted enough chances to have walked away with the match ball.
At the other end, Astana were worryingly able to get behind United’s defence on more than one occasion.
Axel Tuanzebe partnered Phil Jones in the centre of the backline and, with the game goalless, the visitors should have taken the lead when Marin Tomasov found space to float a cross to the back post which went unpunished.
Man of the Match – Mason Greenwood