Manchester United v Astana: Europa League Matchday 5 preview

Tahith Chong
Photo: Kane Brooker (CC BY 2.0)

Manchester United travel to Kazakhstan to face Astana this afternoon, having already qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League.

With this is mind, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken a squad packed full of youth on the long away trip.

No fewer than 14 academy players are part of the squad, including fan favourites Ethan Laird and Spanish sensation Arnau Puigmal.

Arnau Puigmal
Arnau Puigmal (Photo: Kane Brooker (CC BY 2.0))

Arguably the most notable name in the squad is 19-year-old Max Taylor. The young defender was diagnosed with testicular cancer in November 2018, but 11 months later he was back on the pitch for the Under-23s at Swansea. Just last week in fact, he played at Old Trafford as the youngsters beat Sunderland 3-0.

Despite the youthful look to the squad, Solskjaer says challenging in the cup competitions is the main aim this season.

”I think the cup tournaments are realistic for us to challenge for trophies and to win something ,” the United boss said.

“Of course, we’ve taken these games seriously. In the league, we’re too far behind the top and so it’s a chance for us to win something and we’re going to give our all.”

Team News

The Norwegian has already named five of the starting XI. Ethan Laird, Di’Shon Bernard and Dylan Levitt will be handed their first team debuts. Meanwhile, 36-year-old Lee Grant will make his first start for the club in goal, while Jesse Lingard captains the side. Luke Shaw is also expected to return after a lengthy injury absence.

Mason Greenwood
Mason Greenwood (Photo: Kane Brooker (CC BY 2.0))

After scoring his first Premier League goal on Sunday, Mason Greenwood is expected to lead the line in Nur-Sultan. The 18-year-old actually has the most goal contributions per 90 minutes for United this campaign (0.76).

Man United expected line-up: Lee Grant; Ethan Laird, Axel Tuanzebe, Di’Shon Bernard, Luke Shaw; Dylan Levitt, James Garner; Tahith Chong, Jesse Lingard, Angel Gomes; Mason Greenwood.

Man United’s Expected Lineup

Despite their inexperience, Solskjaer has faith that the young players will rise to the occasion this evening.

“I think this is going to be an even, tight game,” he said.

“We have some young players. If they’re going to learn to play this games I think it’s a great start for them.”

Angel Gomes
Angel Gomes (Photo: Kane Brooker (CC BY 2.0))

With players like Greenwood, Angel Gomes and Brandon Williams making a big impact in the first team this season, tonight’s game is a real chance for another crop of young talent to make a real impact.

United aren’t the only English side in European action tonight, however. Wolves face a tough test away in Braga, while Arsenal are at home to Frankfurt – a match that could decide the future of under-pressure boss Unai Emery.