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Preview: Manchester United tasked with winning the group by beating AZ Alkmaar; youth to shine or fringe players given a chance?

Manchester United -v- AZ Alkmaar

UEFA Europa League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Thursday 12 December 2019, KO 20:00 GMT

Referee: Sandro Schärer Assistants: Stephane De Almeida; Bekim Zogaj Fourth Official: Fedayi San

Manchester United are back in action on Thursday evening, welcoming AZ Alkmaar to Old Trafford in the final UEFA Europa League group stage match this season. Both teams are through to the Round of 32 stage, which will commence next year – this match will decide which team tops the group, which is currently United, a point ahead of the Dutch side. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will want to keep his winning run going.

In their last two matches, United has defeated Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Old Trafford and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, at the Etihad, with the same scoreline. These were two matches that the #OleOut brigade were gunning to be defeats, which is a shame for them as their fickle support seems to have been shown massively. Patience and stability is what is needed this season, not changing another manager.

Form: AZ Alkmaar are the team in much better form, undefeated in their last six matches but United have played much bigger teams in the past week, getting great results so will be boosted by that.

Manchester United: WWDLDW

Manchester City 2-1 W, Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 W, Aston Villa 2-2 D, Astana 2-1 L, Sheffield United 3-3 D, Brighton And Hove Albion 3-1 W

AZ Alkmaar: WWDWWW

PEC Zwolle 3-0 W, VVV-Venlo 1-0 W, Partizan Belgrade 2-2 D, FC Utrecht 3-0 W, Emmen 3-0 W, Astana 5-0 W

Top Scorers: Both United and AZ have scored many goals this season but Marcus Rashford is in form and full of confidence and if he plays, he could find the back of the net once again.

Manchester United Goals: 13 – Marcus Rashford, 6 – Anthony Martial, 4 – Mason Greenwood, 3 – Daniel James, Scott McTominay, 1 – Andreas Pereira, Brandon Williams, Jesse Lingard, Own Goal, Victor Lindelof

United are currently on the back of two great results this season; beating both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City in the last week, rising to fifth in the Premier League table from a lowly ninth after drawing with Aston Villa in the match before these two. Solskjaer will be confident of his side getting a result and topping the group at the Theatre of Dreams, playing their last European fixture of 2019.

AZ Alkmaar Goals: 10 – Myron Boadu, 9 – Oussama Idrissi, 7 – Teun Koopmeiners, 4 – Calvin Stengs, 2 – Dani de Wit, Yukinari Sugawara, Ron Vlaar, 1 – Pantelis Hatzidiakos, Jonas Svensson

AZ Alkmaar are having a good season. Currently, they are second in the Eredivisie with 38 points, three points adrift of league leaders, Ajax. In their last six matches, the Dutch team are unbeaten, winning five times and drawing once; which was their last Europa League match against Partizan Belgrade. They will be seeking a much better match than the one in October, possible seeking to win the group themselves.

Team News: Solskjaer to be without a number of players due to injury; AZ Alkmaar without top scorer, Myron Boadu.

United will be without Eric Bailly and Tim Fosu-Mensah as they bid to return to full fitness from knee injuries. Marcos Rojo, Diogo Dalot, and Nemanja Matic seem to be unlikely to feature in this match also. Paul Pogba also seems to be unlikely to be involved, which will continue to be a blow for both Solskjaer and United. It would seem that his availability keeps being rolled back for some reason; injured or not willing to play?

This match could see youth being given a chance to shine, despite most playing for the U23s on Monday evening in their 3-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion. AZ Alkmaar will be without top scorer Myron Boadu who is suspended for this match. United will have a battle on their hands though, which is what they need in order to keep their winning run going, which could see them end the year in style, which is much needed.

Predicted Starting XI: Mason Greenwood to lead the line supported by Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Daniel James against AZ Alkmaar?

I would imagine Solskjaer would like to make a number of changes in this game but still have a team capable of winning. However, with a lot of the talented youth players turning out to beat West Bromwich Albion for the U23s on Monday, this could suggest that many first team players, some on the fringes, could face Alkmaar at Old Trafford. Mason Greenwood could give Anthony Martial a rest after his injury, although he might need minutes on the pitch to continue his recovery.

Match Prediction: With United’s recent rise in form and two great results in the past week, this team should grab this match by the horns and win the group with relative ease.

United and AZ Alkmaar have played just once in the history of both clubs, a 0-0 draw in the group stages of the UEFA Europa League this season. There was literally nothing great from the match back in October and it was the only match in which United dropped points and failed to score in the competition this season. The match though will decide which teams tops the group, although both teams are safely through to the round of 32 stage of the competition next year.

Manchester United 2-1 AZ Alkmaar

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