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Review & Ratings: Greenwood brace, Young and Mata’s penalty sank AZ Alkmaar; United win Europa League group

Manchester United beat AZ Alkmaar 4-0 at Old Trafford in the final group stage match of the UEFA Europa League. Ashley Young opened the scoring eight minutes into the second half before Mason Greenwood doubled the lead five minutes later. A penalty scored by Juan Mata came in the 62nd minute with Greenwood scoring the fourth goal of the match, ten and a half minutes after the opening goal. United have won their group.

The game had many similarities of the one which was played in the Netherlands back in October. It was a fraught first half with little to write home about. United started off the blocks in the second half and eight minutes later had their first goal of the game scored by Ashley Young and assisted by Juan Mata. United needed to keep their lead in the game ensuring that they topped the group.

United doubled their lead in the 58th minute through Mason Greenwood which showed the talent that the academy graduate has in his locker. He brought the ball under control on the edge of the box before smashing his effort into the back of the net. United then won a penalty through Greenwood four minutes later which Juan Mata took and buried to put United 3-0 up in the match. A great second half so far.

That was not it for United though, who scored a fourth goal, the second of the evening for Greenwood. Mata slotted the ball into the forward who then dropped as shoulder before firing into the back of the net at the near post. It was a great finish for the striker, who has scored six first team goals this season. Solskjaer will be proud of his toughly team this evening, who certainly did the club proud.

Manchester United

22 Sergio Romero

The Argentinian goalkeeper did well against the Dutch side, keeping a clean sheet and not having a lot to do in the game, He is a safe pair of hands in rotation for David De Gea and should perhaps play against Colchester United next week.

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18 Ashley Young

The veteran winger-cum-fullback scored the opening goal of the game eight minutes into the second half. In the first half of the match, he was nearly caught in possession whihc could have been a costly goal to conceded, luckily United recovered. Young was replaced in the 68th minute by Ethan Laird.

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38 Axel Tuanzebe

The defender played well alongside Harry Maguire for much of the match and with Phil Jones for 22 minutes plus added time. He did well and helped keep a clean sheet, which will be good going forward.

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5 Harry Maguire

The experienced defender did alright against AZ and helped keep the defence ticking over in the first half, not that there was much going on. United were 4-0 up at the time he was replaced by Phil Jones in the 68th minute of the match.

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33 Brandon Williams

The left-back continued his rise into the first team. playing a good game and getting involved in the action. He might not be fully up to speed as a first team player this season, but next season, he will have a lot of experience which could see him make this position his own.

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31 Nemanja Matic

The Serbian midfielder was back in action following a period of injury. He seemed slow and rusty and despite the lack of experienced midfielders in the team, might not play too much football this month as he can be easily exposed.

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James Garner

The academy graduate did well in the centre of midfield and will be trusted going forward from this game. United need midfield additions in January but Garner could be a competant player to utilise if they do not sign a player or need more midfielders.

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Andreas Pereira

The Belgian-born Brazilian was rather careless in the first half but as United grew into the second half, scoring four goals in just over ten minutes, Pereira showed his skillset. I think he is definitely a better playing in the final third of the pitch.

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8 Juan Mata

The Spanish midfielder seemed a bit slow at times and perhaps a few years ago, could have run riot in a game like this. However, he scored from the penalty spot in the 62nd minute of the match.

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11 Mason Greenwood

The 19-year-old had a great game against AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford. It was a fraught first half but in ten and a half minutes in the second half, United scored four goals, two of them from Greenwood, who has scored six first team goals this season. He won the penalty too, so could have been on a hat-trick. Solskjaer will be pleased with this lad.

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9 Anthony Martial

The Frenchman played an hour against AZ Alkmaar. He obviously needed the match fitness to be in the running to face Everton on Sunday. He did not score a goal or get an assist but played the game he needed to. United were 2-0 at the time Tahith Chong replaced him in the 60th minute of the match.

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Substitutes

Tahith Chong

Replaced Martial 60'. The winger played well for his 30-minute cameo and broke forward a few times, helping to get United ticking, which caught AZ a few times. A goo performance and one for his confidence.

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Ethan Laird

Replaced Young 68'. The right-back did well after his introduction. He was booked but was not a pushover for the Dutch side.

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4 Phil Jones

Replaced Maguire 68'. The central defender did well considering his lack of first team minutes this season.

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Goals: Ashley Young 53′, Mason Greenwood 58′, 64′, Juan Mata 62′

Assists: Juan Mata 53′, 64′

Manchester United: Romero; Young (Laird 68′), Tuanzebe, Maguire (Jones 68′), Williams; Matic, Garner; Pereira, Mata, Greenwood; Martial (Chong 60′)

Substitutes Not Used: Grant; Fred, McTominay; Rashford

Bookings: Ethan Laird 82′; Jordie Clasie 28′, Fredrik Midtsjø 58′

Confirmed Starting XI: Martial, Mata and Greenwood lead the attack against AZ; Garner and Williams start

Manchester United are back in action on this 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.

Manchester United:

Romero;

Young, Tuanzebe, Maguire, Williams;

Matic, Garner, Pereira;

Mata, Martial, Greenwood

Substitutes:

Grant; Jones, Laird; Fred, McTominay; Rashford, Chong

AZ Alkmaar:

Bizot;

Svenssoon, Clasie, Wuytens, Wijndal;

Midtsjo, Koopmeiners, de Wit;

Sugawara, Stengs, Idrissi

Substitutes:

de Boer; Vlaar, Ouwejan, Kramer; Reijnders; Druijf, Aboukhlal

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.

How Manchester United could look against AZ Alkmaar; 4-2-3-1 – Greenwood leading the line, Rashford keeping his place, Tuanzebe starting?

Manchester United will face AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford on Thursday evening in their final UEFA Europa League group stage match. United currently top the group, albeit by one point with the Dutch side in second place. The match will decide the group winners, which could mean an easier opposition in the round of 32 stage of the competition, which begins in February. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be hoping his side keeps their winning run going.

After beating both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City in the past week, the squad will be full of confidence to keep this run going, especially during a busy period of which no fewer than seven matches before the end of New Year’s Day. One question will be, how will Solskjaer have his team lined up to face AZ Alkmaar on Thursday evening? Here is one likely starting XI…

Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero

The Argentinian goalkeeper has not played for about a month, last starting in the 3-0 victory over Partizan Belgrade in this competition. He has recently returned to the bench after a brief layoff. This will be crucial for David De Gea, who will be able to have a break following last week which saw hims face Aston Villa (2-2 draw), Tottenham, Hotspur (2-1 victory) and Manchester City (2-1 victory). Romero is a player who can pull off a save just as good as De Gea, an ideal stand in goalkeeper.

Defenders: Ashley Young, Axel Tuanzebe, Harry Maguire, Brandon Williams

I would presume that some rotation will happen in the defence, although some experience is needed to ensure the victory. As the U23s played on Monday evening, I doubt that Solskjaer will make wholesale changes. Ashley Young could start at right-back, giving Aaron Wan-Bissaka a rest ahead of Sunday’s visit of Everton. Brandon Williams could step in at left-back with Axel Tuanzebe replacing Victor Lindelof in the heart of defence, possible partnered with Harry Maguire.

Midfield: Fred, Scott McTominay

I don’t think there will be many changes in the midfield with few players to fill the void. I would like to see one of Dylan Levitt or James Garner involved but the latter played on Monday. I reckon both Fred and Scott McTominay will keep their places in the midfield, which would be good for both players as they have given their all in the last week. There could be some rest for them in the coming weeks when more players in this position are available. Paul Pogba’s return seems to keep getting put back, whatever is happening there?

Attacking Midfielders: Daniel James, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford

I would expect Daniel James, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford to keep their places in the attacking midfield area against AZ Alkmaar. Rashford is unplayable at this moment in time, scoring 13 goals in his last 14 appearances for both club and country. James has been a stand out player this season and got himself another assist against City at the weekend. Lingard has a way to go before he is considered a player in form again, but another appearance could give him the confidence to perform for his club again – he’s got to be running out of chances to shine again.

Striker: Mason Greenwood

Mason Greenwood would be a great start against AZ Alkmaar. He’s a clinical striker with all the attributes to shine in his locker. He has scored four first team goals this season, which is a great start considering how quick his rise from U23 football came. This lad is going to be something special in the years to come, his his development continues. Anthony Martial recently came back from injury and started against City, scoring the second goal. Keeping him fresh is much-needed at this stage of the season. We don’t want him injured again as he’s really only just come back, again.

Substitutes: Lee Grant; Phil Jones, Luke Shaw; Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira, Dylan Levitt; Anthony Martial

Solskjaer will need to have some able players on the bench to keep the team fresh and either find a goal, or two or keep United ahead, depending on what happens during the match. I would expect Lee Grant to be the substitute goalkeeper with Phil Jones and Luke Shaw as the defenders on the bench. Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira could be the attacking minded midfielders on the bench with Dylan Levitt maybe on the bench. Anthony Martial could well be the forward on the bench if he needs to be utilised.

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

What We’ve Learned: Creativity the biggest problem, youth need time, Solskjaer needs to be backed, not sacked!

Manchester United hit a new low against AZ Alkmaar on Thursday night, a low that has not been seen since the last match, a 1-1 draw against Arsenal on Monday evening. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side seemed to be out of their depth as this lacklustre side failed to score a single goal in 90 minutes in a game which may not have been different without injuries.

United have Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly and Tim Fosu-Mensah on the sidelines through injury or illness at the moment, which might change before or after the international break. United’s attacking options were slim without injuries, a problem that Solskjaer and his team have to make do with.

The January transfer window will need to see some action from United for the first time since 2018 when Alexis Sanchez arrived from Arsenal. I do hope that will not be an omen. This is going to be a long process and a process which patience will be needed. Those that want to sack the manager, you are just going round in circles.

David De Gea showed his form once again in a tough result for United in the Europa League.

David De Gea made a few top-class saves to deny AZ Alkmaar from opening the scoring in The Hague on Thursday evening. It was by no means a good result for United, who lack a hell of a lot in this team compared to what they used to be. It seems a full rebuild is now on the cards, something we will have to get used to.

There is a lack of quality across the pitch with only the defence and the goalkeeping positions strong, which is better than nothing, I suppose. De Gea may need to work a lot harder in the coming weeks and months to keep his side in matches as he has done since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season, the last time United won the league.

Creativity is a massive problem and it does not seem like the majority of these players.

Ever since the Chelsea victory, which saw United score four times, there has been major problems with creativity at this club. I cannot get my head around it. Either these players are unable to step up to the mark or there are underlying issues that see them unable to create anything of note. I am sure that Solskjaer can see the problems.

However, solving the problems is not something that can be done at the click of the fingers. It is going to be a timely process. Yes, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez should have been replaced but don’t be thinking that both players put their lives on hold to fight for Manchester United, they didn’t. Sanchez did little for the club as it is. A waste of space.

The young players will need time in order to allow them to develop. People seem to forget that the Class of 1992 were not top class right away.

Just like the Class of 1992, the current crop of youth needs time in order to find their places in this United team. Some are more advanced than others, some just need a bit of polishing here and there. Others need to put in a lot more work. Tahith Chong looks different playing at U23 level then he does at first-team level. A clear indication of the step up?

Mason Greenwood has scored twice so far this season but as of yet, he has not been able to add to that tally. United seem unable to score simple goals. It is something that we will have to endure. We, as supporters of the club can do very little to avert the problems right now other than watch and show support to the players and the manager.

If you don’t want to do that, you are a supporter, or a fan that only wants to be around success, which is not the best thing but I guess there is a lot of this out there. Success is not going to be happening with this club at this moment in time, so you either get used to that and appreciate the cycle of football clubs or you moan and end up looking pathetic!

Brandon Williams may become a challenge for Luke Shaw, once he’s fully fit.

I have wanted to see Brandon Williams make the first team ever since Luke Shaw was injured and going to be out for a prolongs period of time. The 19-year-old come out of the 0-0 draw with AZ Alkmaar which his head held high knowing that he put his all into his performance, which will show that the talented youth at the club will have their day.

United have struggled at left-back for some time now, especially when Shaw has been injured or lacked form. Williams had a 90% pass accuracy, won five of seven ground duels, played three out of five success long balls and made three successful dribbles against the Dutch opposition. It seems that the youngster has carried his form from the U23 level this season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should be backed, not sacked.

After every Manchester United match that does not end with a victory, even a scruffy one, there are always ‘fans’ on social media with their #OleOut hashtags showing the fickleness of modern-day football. Back in 1989, this was something Sir Alex Ferguson endured, weathered and became something those ‘fans’ could not see coming.

United has sacked David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho in the past six years. Similar things are happening with the squad now as has happened with each of the above managers. A lack of investment, bad business, players unable to show their worth to the club, you name it, this club has endured it in the past six years.

The fact of the matter is that Solskjaer’s purchases; Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire are leaps and bounds above the players already at the club. Solskjaer has started to make his changes to the club. This was always going to take time. Now, for me, football is a passion. Win, lose or draw. I understand that patience is a virtue needed.

What I will not do is call for the sacking of a manager just because I am upset, which is all I see on Twitter these days. Modern-day ‘fans’ spewing their bile just because they end up as the brunt of banter with their ‘online’ friends. There, I said it. This is what Twitter has become, a moronic swamp of opinions from ‘fans’ who fail to raise their own opinions, adopting the opinions of others to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.

Ratings: David De Gea the stand out performer in lacklustre 0-0 draw against AZ Alkmaar

Manchester United were unable to get a shot on goal, let alone score in a poor away match against AZ Alkmaar in The Hague on Thursday evening. It has shown Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he has a lot of work to do with his team in order to drive them to the glory days. This season has shown that this club is on the decline faster than an ice cube in the Sahara.

The Dutch side had four shots on goal, all of them on target with United having three shots, none on target. It ended with both teams having 50% of the ball with United having an 89% passing accuracy with AZ Alkmaar having 88%. United made four blocks in their area with the Dutch side making three. There really was not much more to say about the match.

Marcus Rashford replaced Daniel James in the 63rd minute of the match, to try and seek the elusive goal, unable to do so. Jesse Lingard came on for Mason Greenwood in the 77th minute, possibly having the best chance of the game and not hitting the target from close range. Scott McTominay replaced Juan Mata with seven minutes remaining, unable to drive his team to victory.

This is a worrying sign for United, who are left with little quality in the team at this moment in time. Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial could well be nearing full fitness after long-term injuries, Paul Pogba needs to overcome an ankle injury and both Eric Bailly and Tim Fosu-Mensah need to overcome knee injuries. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is ill with tonsillitis.

Solskjaer will need to go back to the drawing board, otherwise he could be in deep trouble. The style of play is high pressing, which is not working. There needs to be a massive rebuilding plan with the club seeking to bring in players of quality in the areas lacking, which so far seems to be outfield players with the defence the strongest attribute.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

The captain made a great save in the opening 15 minutes of the first half, keeping his side in the game. Alkmaar did get a goal earlier but were ruled offside. In the second half, De Gea pulled off another good diving save to deny the home side from a goal. A clean sheet and a point from the game might be enough for now. On to the next game.

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Diogo Dalot

The Portuguese right-back looked a bit off the boil in this game, but after not playing much football and being a rookie, what else was to be expected? It is clear to say that Dalot does not offer what Wan-Bissaka does in the team but he should not be written off just yet - he’s got time on his side, something United may not.

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2 Victor Lindelof

I though the Swede did well defensively against AZ Alkmaar. He looked confident at times and was under pressure many times, dealing with that effectively. The clean sheet and a point from the game is something to remain positive about as the defence really is the strongest part of this team. Lindelof will be proud.

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16 Marcos Rojo

The Argentinian looked like one of the better player last week against Rochdale and got a rare start this evening. With the clean sheet, he did his job. Tried to break forward at times, to no avail. A good defensive performance but not a performance United will be proud of.

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33 Brandon Williams

I was happy to see his name on the team sheet tonight. I had hoped that he would have been given time as soon as Shaw was injured. Better late than never, I guess. The 19-year-old did well against his Dutch opposition and held his own at times. He got winded late in the game but came through it.

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31 Nemanja Matic

The Serbian midfielder can be slow at times but with another match coming up in three days, rotation was needed, especially with Pogba on the sidelines through injury. Late in the second half, Matic lost the ball at the edge of the United box, but surprised me and pressure the Alkmaar player to regain possession. A good game for the Serbian, despite United looking lacklustre.

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8 Juan Mata

The Spanish magician made a rare start, perhaps not having the pace needed to keep the high press running but his knowledge, experience and reading of the game was going to be much-needed in this toughly side. Unable to find anything for United, he was replaced by McTominay in the 83rd minute.

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28 Angel Gomes

The academy graduate played 90 minutes against AZ Alkmaar. Passing wise, he had a good game. He helped drive the team forward but could not come up with much to get the better of the home side. United failed to get a shot on target, showing the problems in the team right now. Youth need to be given a chance and all but this is going to be a long, hard season.

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17 Fred

The Brazilian start in the Netherlands and at times, his pressing on and off the ball and his eye to spot a pass were good but I thought he did not read danger or play his passes all that well. It might be something that changes over time, but it does not look. These skills should be in the locker of all footballers, no matter what age they are.

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21 Daniel James

The Welshman had a good game against the Dutch side but could not find a way forward for United. Seemingly playing as a central attacker, presumably to utilise his pace, which might have been better on the wings, which were less clogged up in the game. In the 63rd minute, Rashford replaced him, presumably he’s in mind to start on Sunday against Newcastle.

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11 Mason Greenwood

The 18-year-old started and despite not being able to score or create a goal, he did well against this Dutch side. There was a lack of creativity in the game and United looked so poor against the Dutch side, which could now be their level. Lingard replaced the teenager in the 77th minute.

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Substitutes

10 Marcus Rashford

Replaced James 63’. The England forward came on with just under 30 minutes left. Despite breaking forward a few times, and fouled many more times, he was unable to provide the difference this lacklustre team needed - a goal, or a shot on target.

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14 Jesse Lingard

Replaced Greenwood 77’. When Lingard seems to be the answer to the problem, it makes you wonder what the problem is. It certainly wasn’t finding in winner as when he had the chance, he missed the target completely. He lost his England place, his United place should be at risk too. Came off injured in added time.

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39 Scott McTominay

Replaced Mata 83’. The midfielder came on with seven minutes of the match left with United needing a goal to take all three points. Despite scoring at the weekend, he was unable to replicate that. A tough game for United but it will only get tougher with a lack of quality in this team. McTominay adds quality, he has proven that, however, he cannot do it all by himself.

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Manchester United: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Rojo, Williams; Matic; Mata (McTominay 83′), Gomes, Fred, James (Rashford 63′); Greenwood (Lingard 77′)

Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Maguire, Tuanzebe; Chong

Bookings: Diogo Dalot 90+1′

Confirmed Starting XI: De Gea, Dalot, Greenwood, Gomes, and Williams start against AZ Alkmaar. Solskjaer seeking a victory in the Netherlands?

Manchester United will face AZ Alkmaar at the Cars Jeans Stadium in The Hague this evening. The match will kick-off at 17:55 BST, giving United a few hours more to prepare for the trip to Newcastle on Sunday afternoon. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking under pressure this season as his team struggles, which he will hope to change before the international break.

The Norwegian manager has a similar record as Jose Mourinho in the 27 matches before the Arsenal draw which has led to supporters questioning whether Solskjaer is the right man for the job. Imagine having social media in the mid to late 1980s – Sir Alex Ferguson would not have stood a chance with the modern-day football supporter.

AZ Alkmaar manager Arne Slot will be seeking more of the same from his squad, which have lost just one match in the Eredivisie this season. Starting their season at the end of July, the Dutch side will be in better form and fitness than this United squad, who seem to be suffering many injuries early on. United won their first match, the Dutch drew theirs.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Dalot, Lindelof, Rojo, Williams;

Matic;

Mata, Gomes, Fred, James;

Greenwood

Substitutes:

Romero; Maguire, Tuanzebe; Lingard, McTominay; Rashford, Chong

AZ Alkmaar:

Bizot;

Sugawara, Vlaar, Wuytens, Wijndal;

Midtsjø, De Wit, Koopmeiners;

Stengs, Boadu, Idrissi

Substitutes:

De Boer, Hatzidiakos, Ouwejan, Druijf, Aboukhlal, Clasie, Reijnders

United and AZ Alkmaar have never played a competitive match in the history of both clubs. However, the Dutch side has played English clubs in European competition, never actually beating an English side. United has played many Dutch sides in European competition, beating Ajax and Feyenoord in this competition in the 2016/17 season, in which United lifted the trophy in the final played in Sweden.

Key Players and Battles: Axel Tuanzebe, Scott McTominay and Mason Greenwood the key men to victory in The Hague?

Manchester United will travel to the Netherlands to face AZ Alkmaar at the Cars Jeans Stadium in The Hague on Thursday evening. The match will kick-off at the earlier time of 17:55, giving United a few hours more to prepare for the trip to Newcastle on Sunday afternoon. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking under pressure this season as his team struggles.

The Norwegian manager has a similar record as Jose Mourinho in the 27 matches before the Arsenal draw which has led to supporters questioning whether Solskjaer is the right man for the job. Imagine having social media in the mid to late 1980s – Sir Alex Ferguson would not have stood a chance with the modern-day football supporter.

AZ Alkmaar manager Arne Slot will be seeking more of the same from his squad, which have lost just one match in the Eredivisie this season. Starting their season at the end of July, the Dutch side will be in better form and fitness than this United squad, who seem to be suffering many injuries early on. United won their first match, the Dutch drew theirs.

Key Players: United have a lot of talent in their squad, however, it is a bit thin in areas. Solskjaer’s side tasked with Dutch task to return with three points.

Manchester United: Sergio Romero, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Axel Tuanzebe, Marcos Rojo, Scott McTominay, Daniel James, Mason Greenwood

AZ Alkmaar: Marco Bizot, Stijn Wuytens, Teun Koopmeiners, Dani de Wit, Calvin Stengs, Myron Boadu, Oussama Idrissi

Key Battles: Axel Tuanzebe, Scott McTominay and Mason Greenwood to come up against Myron Boadu, Dani de Wit, and Stijn Wuytens.

Key Battle One: Axel Tuanzebe versus Myron Boadu

Axel Tuanzebe has played in back to back matches for United, captaining the side in the Carabao Cup 5-3 penalty victory against Rochdale, his home town, and keeping a place in the team against Arsenal, albeit playing at left-back in the 1-1 draw. The England youth international has played well for United in the last two matches, this might be a test though.

Myron Boadu has scored seven goals for AZ Alkmaar this season and is joint top scorer with Oussama Idrissi. Tuanzebe, who could be partnered by Marcos Rojo, will need to be ready for this test as the Dutch side will be seeking victory in this game, having drawn 2-2 with Partizan Belgrade a fortnight ago. Tuanzebe could just prove himself here, given the chance.

Key Battle Two: Scott McTominay versus Dani de Wit

Scott McTominay scored the only United goal in the 1-1 draw against Arsenal on Monday and he has already been impressing this season. The 22-year-old has been the brunt of negativity over the past season or so, he was trusted by Jose Mourinho, perhaps you can see why! The Scotland international has the ability, passion and desire to make it at United.

Dani de Wit could be a player he may need to get through in order to score himself of play a killer pass into the box for Mason Greenwood, Daniel James or even Tahith Chong to aim their shot on goal. McTominay has played in the UEFA Champions League, against better players, so could be up for this battle on the road to get three points for United.

Key Battle Three: Mason Greenwood versus Stijn Wuytens

Mason Greenwood turned 18 on Tuesday after playing for 16 minutes against Arsenal in the Premier League on Monday evening, unable to add to his tally of two goals this season. Against Astana, he scored his first competitive goal, following up against Rochdale, his next appearance, with his second. Seeking more goals, Greenwood could be dangerous.

AZ Alkmaar defender, Stijn Wuytens could be problematic for Greenwood with the defender playing some good football recently with the Dutch side aiming to start an early challenge with league leaders Ajax and second played (based on goal difference) PSV Eindhoven. Also, with the club seeking a first win in the Europa League, Greenwood might have a big challenge on his hands to find the back of the net for United.

[4-2-3-1] Mason Greenwood to lead the line against AZ Alkmaar; Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong and Daniel James supporting

Manchester United will travel to the Netherlands to face AZ Alkmaar at the Cars Jeans Stadium in The Hague on Thursday evening. The match will kick-off at the earlier time of 17:55, giving United a few hours more to prepare for the trip to Newcastle on Sunday afternoon. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking under pressure this season as his team struggles.

The Norwegian manager has a similar record as Jose Mourinho in the 27 matches before the Arsenal draw which has led to supporters questioning whether Solskjaer is the right man for the job. Imagine having social media in the mid to late 1980s – Sir Alex Ferguson would not have stood a chance with the modern-day football supporter.

AZ Alkmaar manager Arne Slot will be seeking more of the same from his squad, which have lost just one match in the Eredivisie this season. Starting their season at the end of July, the Dutch side will be in better form and fitness than this United squad, who seem to be suffering many injuries early on. United won their first match, the Dutch drew theirs.

Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero

The Argentinian goalkeeper has played twice this season, keeping a clean sheet in the home UEFA Europa League victory over Astana nearly a fortnight ago, also playing in the 5-3 penalty victory over Rochdale in the third round of the Carabao Cup last week. It is clear that Sergio Romero will be a cup competition goalkeeper for much of the time this season.

David De Gea will most likely be rested ahead of the visit to Newcastle United on Sunday, which will be an important match for United to get back to winning ways, especially after the 5-0 hammering they received from Leicester City last weekend. Romero will be ready to go, his professionalism is actually great to see, as are his performances in goal.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Axel Tuanzebe, Marcos Rojo, Brandon Williams

Aaron Wan-Bissaka missed the 1-1 draw with Arsenal due to a bout of tonsillitis and there is hope that he will be fit to face AZ Alkmaar. If not, Diogo Dalot could be called into the squad. Axel Tuanzebe should keep his place in the starting XI after his performances against Rochdale and Arsenal, despite the error he made which led to Arsenal’s equaliser.

Marcos Rojo should be given the chance to show Solskjaer what he has in his locker, as when he has played, especially against Rochdale, he was one of the most attacking players on the pitch. Tuanzebe played at left-back against Arsenal but in this match, Brandon Williams, who missed the EFL Trophy match on Tuesday evening, should start.

Midfield: Scott McTominay, Fred

The midfield is a problematic area in the squad right now. The lack of depth is worrying and the form of Paul Pogba is something that should be generating many questions, however, he is being praised by factions of the fan base. As he has problems with his ankle again, it is clear he’s not ready to start matches and play regularly.

Scott McTominay and Fred should start this match. The Brazilian needs a run of matches to find some form and McTominay is the better option to partner him in this match, although Nemanja Matic will probably be given the nod ahead of him, which will slow the game down. I would have liked to see James Garner, however, he played on Tuesday evening.

Attacking Midfield: Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Daniel James

Despite this being an important fixture, I think the youth should be given the opportunity to start matches and learn what is required to be a consistent starter at this club. I would have liked to see Tahith Chong start, but he started for the U21s in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday evening, no might not make the squad. Andreas Pereira might keep his place.

Angel Gomes should be given a start to show what he can do, playing in the number ten role, behind the striker. I feel he has the necessary creativity in order to drive United forward, which is what they want to be doing. Daniel James should keep his place on the left-wing, a position that he can be devastating in, given the chance.

Striker: Mason Greenwood

The 18-year-old should have started against Arsenal on Monday evening as in his last two matches before that one, he had scored two goals. Greenwood has all the attributes in his locker to be a great finisher for United but he needs to be afforded time and patience, something which many supposed supporter of the club are not willing to give.

Greenwood is a better option over Marcus Rashford, who has not looked 100% for the majority of the season. Obviously, unless Solskjaer has lied about Anthony Martial, Rashford can be used from the bench, if needed. Greenwood should be given the confidence to earn his place in the team, which is something that I believe he can do, in time.

Substitutes: Lee Grant; Victor Lindelof, Ashley Young; Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira, Nemanja Matic; Marcus Rashford

There are not all that many options to be utilised on the bench at this moment in time with many players on the sidelines through injury. Lee Grant will most likely be the substitute goalkeeper, giving David De Gea a rest. Victor Lindelof and Ashley Young may be the options in defence, should they be needed.

I don’t think Jesse Lingard has done enough to get into the squad recently, so he will need to earn his place, in my option. Solskjaer will most likely continue to use him, despite him offering nothing though. Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira could be impact substitutes in this game. Marcus Rashford, if fit enough, could occupy a place on the bench, if needed.

Preview: Manchester United aiming for victory over AZ Alkmaar as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aims to avert recent poor form

AZ Alkmaar -v- Manchester United

UEFA Europa League

Cars Jeans Stadium, The Hague, Netherlands

Thursday 3 October 2019, KO 17:55 BST

Referee: Gediminas Mažeika  Assistants: Vytautas Šimkus; Vytenis Kazlauskas Fourth Official: Robertas Valikonis

Manchester United will travel to the Netherlands to face AZ Alkmaar at the Cars Jeans Stadium in The Hague on Thursday evening. The match will kick-off at the earlier time of 17:55, giving United a few hours more to prepare for the trip to Newcastle on Sunday afternoon. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking under pressure this season as his team struggles.

The Norwegian manager has a similar record as Jose Mourinho in the 27 matches before the Arsenal draw which has led to supporters questioning whether Solskjaer is the right man for the job. Imagine having social media in the mid to late 1980s – Sir Alex Ferguson would not have stood a chance with the modern-day football supporter.

AZ Alkmaar manager Arne Slot will be seeking more of the same from his squad, which have lost just one match in the Eredivisie this season. Starting their season at the end of July, the Dutch side will be in better form and fitness than this United squad, who seem to be suffering many injuries early on. United won their first match, the Dutch drew theirs.

Form: One defeat in six matches for both United and AZ Alkmaar but the Dutch side are in much better form with four wins to United’s three.

Manchester United: DWLWWD

Arsenal 1-1 D, Rochdale 1-1 (5-3 pens) W, West Ham United 2-0 L, Astana 1-0 W, Leicester City 1-0 W, Southampton 1-1 D

AZ Alkmaar: WWWDWL

Heracles 2-0 W, Feyenoord 3-0 W, Den Haag 1-0 W, Partizan Belgrade 2-2 D, Sparta 5-1 W, Vitesse 2-1 L

Top Scorers: Daniel James is United’s top scorer in terms of goals from open play but he’s four goals behind the top scorers of AZ Alkmaar this season.

Manchester United: 11 goals scored by this United side this season, who could struggle against the Dutch high flyers.

Goals: 3 – Daniel James, Marcus Rashford, 2 – Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, 1 – Scott McTominay

This is going to be a tough season for United. They have not been able to find a second goal in any match in which they have scored since the 4-0 thrashing of Chelsea in the opening weekend of the season. Injuries have been unfortunate but in terms of leadership, desire, determination and fight, there is not a lot of this at United this season. More changes needed.

AZ Alkmaar: 24 goals scored this season for the Dutch side and they could be a thorn in the side of this lacklustre United team.

Goals: 7 – Myron Boadu, Oussama Idrissi, 6 – Calvin Stengs, 1 – Albert Gudmundsson, Teun Koopmeiners, Thomas Ouwejan, Stijn Wuytens

AZ Alkmaar currently sits in third-place in the Eredivisie after eight matches played, a point adrift of both Ajax (league leaders) and PSV Eindhoven, losing just one match this season. The Dutch side started their season on the 25 July in the second qualifying round of the Europa League, earning their group stage place by beating BK Häcken, Mariupol, and Antwerp.

Team News: Anthony Martial to miss the AZ Alkmaar match due to injury, Paul Pogba a doubt. Youth to take charge to show Solskjaer what they can do?

Solskjaer has confirmed that Anthony Martial will not return to the squad in time to face AZ Alkmaar on Thursday evening. There are also reports that Paul Pogba will miss the match with a recurrence of his ankle injury, not that much will be missed from him. Aaron Wan-Bissaka missed the 1-1 draw with Arsenal due to tonsillitis but could recover in time.

Phil Jones, Eric Bailly and Tim Fosu-Mensah will also miss the match with all three recovering from injuries. Diogo Dalot and Angel Gomes could both be called into action to face the Dutch side and Axel Tuanzebe could feature, whether in the centre of the defence or slotting into the left-back position as he did against Arsenal.

Predicted Starting XI: Changes to be expected with Newcastle on the horizon so youth could be trusted to get themselves experience on the road in Europe.

With United facing Newcastle United at St James’ Park on Sunday, I would expect a number of changes from the draw with Arsenal with a view of players being rested for the trip to that ‘wee club’ in the North East. Mason Greenwood could lead the line, supported by Daniel James, Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong, whith will give these players experience in European matches which will help them along the way.

Match Prediction: Another Dutch European experience for United, who have never faced AZ Alkmaar; dangerous ground for Solskjaer?

United and AZ Alkmaar have never played a competitive match in the history of both clubs. However, the Dutch side has played English clubs in European competition, never actually beating an English side. United has played many Dutch sides in European competition, beating Ajax and Feyenoord in this competition in the 2016/17 season, in which United lifted the trophy in the final played in Sweden.

AZ Alkmaar 0-1 Manchester United

copyright: JW