Manchester United will play their penultimate UEFA Europa League group stage match against Astana in the Astana Arena in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on Thursday afternoon (in the United Kingdom). The match will kick off at 15:50 GMT, 21:50 local time. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named a very young squad with ten players who have not yet made their debuts for the United first team.
There are also four players who have played for the first team this season, some of them sparingly and four players who are considered experienced, either seeking minutes of a way to get back into the first team after injury or a year of poor form, guess who?. The blooding of youth is going to be great for United as there are so many talented players in the youth teams seeking their chances.
Astana have been eliminated from the Europa League this season, despite having two more matches to play, which will end their 2019 season, of which they were crowned as the Kazakhstani Premier League champions once again. United will be seeking to bounce back from their 3-3 draw against Sheffield United on Sunday but will be rested ahead of the important visit of Aston Villa to the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday afternoon. Come on United!
Goalkeeper: Lee Grant
The veteran goalkeeper made one appearance last season, coming on for Sergio Romero against Derby County in the Carabao Cup, which United lost on penalties. He has played for the U23s as the overage goalkeeper, the most recent appearance last weekend, presumably to ensure he is ready to face Astana on Thursday in the penultimate Europa League group stage match this season. He can add some experience in what will be seen as a very young squad.
Defenders: Ethan Laird, Teden Mengi, Di’Shon Bernard, Luke Shaw
The defence, if I am right in my prediction, will have one experienced player; Luke Shaw, despite him coming back from a nearly three months injury layoff. Ethan Laird, Teden Mengi and Di’Shon Bernard could all make their debuts for United in what will be seen as an exciting time for supporters who have seen this trio play for the U23s and the U18s in the last few seasons. It is a gamble for Solskjaer, but a gamble which little to lose and a lot to gain.
Midfield Three: James Garner, Tim Fosu-Mensah, Dylan Levitt
I would imagine that Solskjaer may not opt for a 4-3-3 formation, but rather a 4-2-3-1 formation. I think this formation would enable Solskjaer to test Tim Fosu-Mensah in a defensive midfield position, which would benefit both he player and the club. Adding James Garner and Dylan Levitt in midfield would add pace, creativity and determination into the midfield, something that has been lacking for the past few months because of injury, inexperience and such a small squad.
Forward Three: Largie Ramazani, Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong
The attacking trio are just as exciting as the rest of the team. Largie Ramazani has scored nine goals and assisted two more whilst playing for the U23s this season. He is such an exciting player and one who could grow into becoming a decent winger in the first team. Tahith Chong has played 152 minutes in the first team this season, playing a lot more at youth level. Yet to score for the first team, he has scored four times at youth level, assisting two more goals. Mason Greenwood has scored four goals at first team level this season, assisting another. At youth level, he has scored twice. There are definitely goals in this trio.
Substitutes: Matej Kovar; Max Taylor; Ethan Galbraith, Arnau Puigmal, Jesse Lingard, Angel Gomes; D’Mani Bighail-Mellor
On the bench, there will be five more players who are yet to feature for the first team; Matej Kovar, Max Taylor, Ethan Galbraith, Arnau Puigmal, and D’Mani Bughail-Mellor, and at least three of them could gain that on Thursday. In terms of experience, Angel Gomes and Jesse Lingard could also make an appearance. Perhaps Lingard will start, however, he’s done nothing, at least for me, to warrant a place in this team, let alone a starting position. No goals this calendar year. Worrying.