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Manchester United set to complete £10.9 million signing of Serbian midfielder

Manchester United have reported signed Partizan Belgrade’s 17-year-old midfielder Filip Stevanovic according to reports by the Serbian Telegraph. The teenaged faced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in the UEFA Europa League group stage doubled header earlier this season, playing 15 minutes in Partizan’s 1-0 defeat in Serbia and playing 20 minutes in the 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford. It is suggested that Solskjaer was impressed with the teenager, prompting further scouting of the player.

United are said to be spending £10.9 million on Stevanovic this summer, although he will spend the entire 2020/21 season at his former club on loan, moving to Manchester next summer ahead of the first season playing for his new club. It is stated that Partizan wanted to receive £18 million for the player this summer, which could explain why the player will stay at his club on loan for next season. That could be good for the player, who could be ready to play for United’s first team in a years time.

The coronavirus pandemic is probably the reason why the lower fee was accepted though with clubs seemingly suffering financial problems with supporters not yet able to attend matches, therefore cutting the revenue of all clubs around the world. The player will follow in the footsteps of Zoran Tošić, who signed for United in 2009 from Partizan, although that does not suggest the player could amount to much seeing as Tošić stayed at United for just one season. Hopefully, this time will be different.

During the 2019/20 season, Stevanovic made a total of 35 appearances for Partizan Belgrade, playing in the Super Liga Srbije, the Kup Srbije and the UEFA Europa League, including the qualification stages. The teenager scored nine goals and three assists for his club, which is good considering the player’s age and the fact he is playing regular first team football for his club. It would seem that the player has a good future head of him and seeing him play next season, albeit in Serbia, will be interesting.

Despite being described as a midfielder, Stevanovic predominantly plays as a wide forward mainly on the left but has played on the right, and also through the middle in the central attacking midfielder position. The player is an attacking all-rounder, a superb dribbler of the ball, he has great technique; footwork, ball control and composure in tight spaces, which is a good sign. He also has goos coordination, agility and balance, great vision, playmaking skills and is a creative player.

This all seems good to read but will need to be experienced by watching the player. In the 2019/20 season, Stevanovic played 1,887 minutes of football, which for his age and the fact he is playing first team football, is great. Of course, what he does in Serbia matter little for United and the player will be judged on what he can do wearing the famous Manchester United shirt. If United do end up signing the player and he arrives at the club in a year’s time, he will be eligible to play U23 and first team football. It will be interesting to see what he can achieve at the club.

Written by John Walker

What We’ve Learned: Martial, Greenwood and Rashford putting in performances, McTominay showing his worth, Solskjaer supported by match-going fans

Manchester United beat Partizan Belgrade 3-0 at Old Trafford in the fourth group stage match of the UEFA Europa League. Goals from Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford saw United reign supreme leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side two points clear at the top of the group with two matches remaining.

 United started well and could have scored at least twice before they finally found the net. After lacking composure in the early stages, United started to take their chances. Mason Greenwood opened up the scoring in the 22nd minute of the match, assisted by Marcus Rashford, scoring his second goal in the competition this season.

Just 11 minutes later, after peppering the Partizan goal a few times, United doubled their lead through Anthony Martial, who scored his fifth goal of the season, his third in five matches since returning from injury. Greenwood charged down a clearance with Martial receiving the ball putting his finish underneath the goalkeeper for a 2-0 lead.

Just four minutes into the second half, United scored their third goal of the evening, the third time they had scored this many goals in a match this season. Rashford, assisted by Ashley Young fired his rasping drive with his left foot which was not going to be stopped by the Partizan goalkeeper. United cruised to victory at Old Trafford.

Anthony Martial looked clinical against Partizan Belgrade, which could be the start of him heading back into a period of form.

Anthony Martial was a big miss to the club during his injury spell which lasted eight matches. Playing in the last six matches, including a six-minute cameo against Liverpool, the Frenchman has scored three times which is great to see. Martial played his best game for United this season and perhaps during his career at the club, leading the line and doing what was needed to ensure United took the spoils and qualified for the round of 32 stage in the Europa League this season.

Marcus Rashford can produce the goods for United when playing on the left-wing much better than he can when leading the line.

Marcus Rashford has scored eight goals for the club this season, assisting three more meaning he has been involved in 11 goals in the 16 matches he has played in this season. Rashford reached the 50 goal milestone for the club at the end of last month, which was a big achievement for lad, who turned 22 four days later. Rashford has led the line in the absence of Martial but seemingly struggled in that position and plays much better on the left-wing, which is where he scored from this evening and for England at the start of October.

Mason Greenwood is starting to fit into this United squad and showing his class in various positions.

The 18-year-old has risen to the occasion this season and is starting to raise his game for this club. Scoring his third goal for the club this season, his second in the Europa League, Greenwood is going to be some player when he finally reaches his level, which is showing signs of being predatory in front of goal and also handy with his passing. Greenwood might be a striker, but he’s not going to dislodge Martial from the team, unless he is injured. Playing on the right-wing is best for him now and as he develops as a player, he can play in his favoured role, which could shock his opposition is he develops as many think he might.

Scott McTominay has been a model professional for United this season, becoming the first name on the team sheet – if his injury is a serious one he will be a big loss.

Scott McTominay has been a model professional for the club ever since he first played football. He was a late developer in the academy but slowly made his way into the first team, Jose Mourinho gave him his first opportunity in his second season at the club. He has been a mainstay since last season and despite the criticism he has received from the all-knowing supporters on social media, he has proved them wrong. I don’t think he’s world class but he gets on with his job and puts his all in for this team, which cannot be faulted. Against Partizan, he came off injured in the 75th minute and if that stops his from playing for a prolonged period of time, it could be a massive blow for Solskjaer and United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might face a lot of criticism on social media, but inside Old Trafford and beyond, there is nothing but patience for the manager, not incessant moaning.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been disrespected by many this season because of the results this team has had. Some would think this team was great before Solskjaer came in but true to form, the fans, mainly on social media, have no patience and just call for a manager to be sacked when everything does not fall into place when they expect it to. We have seen this mentality see the end of three managers of the club already and if it does not stop, United will never venture any further than being a year or two into a rebuild, starting again under a new manager.

Patience is a virtue and something that the social media ‘fans’ need to adopt otherwise the toxicity will start to turn against them. On social media after a poor draw or a defeat, you always tend to see #OleOut trending, which in effect means nothing other than a moment of pleasure for toxic ‘fans’ who think they are the ones who make decisions. However, at Old Trafford and in other stadiums, the same discontent is not visible against Solskjaer which suggests the fans are patient – as despite what some say on Twitter, they have seen much worse things at this club in the last six years.

I saw one ‘fan’ on Twitter suggest that the players Solskjaer has brought to the club during the summer transfer window, the only transfer window so far that he has brought players to the club, were the players that were responsible for poor performances this season. Harry Maguire has largely been a rock in the centre of defence this season. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been a massive need for the right-back position, doing more good things than bad and Daniel James has had a better influence on this team in just over three months than Alexis Sanchez in more than 18 months. If that is bad, I would hate to see the ones this whopper thought were good.

Review & Ratings: Greenwood, Martial and Rashford shine in 3-0 victory over Partizan Belgrade; Martial MOTM?

Manchester United beat Partizan Belgrade 3-0 at Old Trafford in the fourth group stage match of the UEFA Europa League. Goals from Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford saw United reign supreme leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side two points clear at the top of the group with two matches remaining.

United started well and could have scored at least twice before they finally found the net. After lacking composure in the early stages, United started to take their chances. Mason Greenwood opened up the scoring in the 22nd minute of the match, assisted by Marcus Rashford, scoring his second goal in the competition this season.

Just 11 minutes later, after peppering the Partizan goal a few times, United doubled their lead through Anthony Martial, who scored his fifth goal of the season, his third in five matches since returning from injury. Greenwood charged down a clearance with Martial receiving the ball putting his finish underneath the goalkeeper for a 2-0 lead.

Just four minutes into the second half, United scored their third goal of the evening, the third time they had scored this many goals in a match this season. Rashford, assisted by Ashley Young fired his rasping drive with his left foot which was not going to be stopped by the Partizan goalkeeper. United cruised to victory at Old Trafford.

Manchester United

22 Sergio Romero

The second in command goalkeeper stood in for David De Gea against Partizan, continuing his good form as United's goalkeeper.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

The right-back has a good game for United and will have redeemed himself after the mistake he made against Bournemouth, despite covering for Harry Maguire, which some on social media slated him for. I get Partizan were the weaker side, but it will be a performance to raise his confidence ahead of Sunday's must win clash against Brighton at Old Trafford.

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5 Harry Maguire

Solid in defence for the majority of the game, although Partizan did have chances to score, finding the back of the net, although offside. Maguire has not been at his best yet this season with United's fortunes being quite sparce. The confidence gained from this match could see United put in another good performance at home against Brighton.

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16 Marcos Rojo

The Argentinian has been called upon a few times this season by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, despite the fact that he could have exited the club before the Premier League transfer window closed back in August. Rojo could have earned his stripes to remain at the club, which may become telling over the next two months with the January transfer window coming ever closer. Rojo had a good defensive game, not that there was much to really do.

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18 Ashley Young

The club captain got an assist for Marcus Rashford's goal, United's third. Defensively, I though Young was poor, however, he got forward a lot, in fact every time United pressed forward, Young was supporting the attack. He's suspended for Sunday's clash with Brighton so won't play for United again until after the final international break of 2019.

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39 Scott McTominay

The Scotland international has been on top of his game of late and could well be the first name on the teamsheet for the manager. He ran his heart out against Partizan, showing his class in midfield. He really has risen his game over the last few seasons and you can see what Jose Mourinho saw in him. Sadly, due to a knock, his match was over in the 75th minute with Jesse Lingard replacing him.

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17 Fred

The Brazilian midfielder has been in good form recently and kind of continued that against Partizan. His passing was good as was his distribution, although he did make a mistake which could have seen Partizan get a goal, but they didn't. Fred was replaced by James Garner in the 63rd minute, ending his evening for United.

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11 Mason Greenwood

The 18-year-old scored his third goal for the club this season, his second in the Europa League with a great finish against Partizan. He also was credited with the assist for Anthony Martial's goal, United's second and did well throughout the match. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be impressed with Greenwood's ability on and off the ball which could see him play again this weekend.

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8 Juan Mata

The veteran Spanish midfielder did well for United against the Serbian side. He may not have scored or assisted any goals but did use his footballing brain to read the game and create advantages for United in the attack. Matches like this show Mata's ability and worth to the squad. However, he may struggle to play like this against most teams in the Premier League.

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10 Marcus Rashford

The England forward did well against the Serbian side and could have perhaps scored a few goals. He got his name on the scoresheet, scoring United's third of the evening, assisted by Ashley Young. Rashford could have been rested for this match but winning this game will put United in good stead for the knockout stages, meaning job done, for now at least. Rashford's evening ended in the 67th minute after Andreas Pereira replaced him.

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9 Anthony Martial

The Frenchman played well against Partizan in what was probablt his best performance as a forward this season, perhaps in his United career. If this is the start of a period of form for Martial, it will certainly silence the moaners.

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Substitutes

James Garner

Replaced Fred 63'. Made his Old Trafford debut for the first team.

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Andreas Pereira

Replaced Rashford 67'. The Belgian-born Brazilian did well against Partizan but after Scott McTominay came off injured, he played alongside James Garner in midfield, doing well against the Serbian side.

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14 Jesse Lingard

Replaced McTominay 75'. It has been a frustrating season for Lingard, who needs to find a way back into creating and scoring goals. His last goal for the club (a brace) came against Cardiff City almost 11 months ago, which is poor considering his performances on social media, which suggest he's better than he is.

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Goals: Mason Greenwood 22′, Anthony Martial 33′, Marcus Rashford 49′

Assists: Mason Greenwood 33′, Ashley Young 49′

Manchester United: Romero; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Rojo, Young; McTominay (Lingard 75′), Fred (Garner 63′); Greenwood, Mata, Rashford (Pereira 67′); Martial

Substitutes Not Used: Grant; Jones, Williams; James

Bookings: Ashley Young 71′; Bibras Natkho 32′, Strahinja Pavlovic 58′

Confirmed Starting XI: Martial, Rashford, Greenwood and Mata start against Partizan Belgrade

Manchester United will be back in UEFA Europa League action this evening as they welcome Partizan Belgrade to Old Trafford. A fortnight ago, United beat Partizan in Belgrade 1-0 with Anthony Martial scoring a penalty in the 43rd minute of the match. It was United third game in the group and their second victory, drawing with AZ Alkmaar weeks before.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has changed the form of his team after the last international break, drawing 1-1 with Liverpool at Old Trafford, then beating Partizan (1-0), Norwich City (3-1) and Chelsea (2-1) before falling to a lack lustre 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth at the weekend. Solskjaer will need to get his team back to winning ways, which could also see United reach the round of 32 stage of the tournament.

It would be fair to say that United has not had a great amount of luck this season, added to injuries, which saw Martial out for eight weeks and other important players facing time on the sidelines. Selling Romelu Lukaku may not be seen as a mistake, as supporters had stated that they wanted to see the back of him, however, not replacing him in the summer transfer window will be seen as a mistake.

Manchester United:

Romero;

Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Rojo, Young;

McTominay, Fred;

Greenwood, Mata, Rashford;

Martial

Substitutes:

Grant; Jones, Williams; Lingard, Pereira, James, Garner

Partizan Belgrade:

Stojkovic;

Miletic, Ostojic, Pavlovic, Urosevic;

Natkho, Zdjelar, Scekic, Asano;

Soumah, Sadiq

Substitutes:

Stevanovic, Vujacic, Tosic, Ivanovic, Brezancic, Lutovac

United and Partizan Belgrade have played three times in the history of both clubs. United has won twice, losing the other match. The first match came in 1966 in the European Cup, a match played at the Partizan Stadium with ended up being a 2-0 defeat to United, despite the likes of Harry Gregg, Bill Foulkes, Paddy Crerand, Nobby Styles, George Best, and Denis Law all playing.

Just a week later, United won 1-0 at Old Trafford with Styles scoring the goal but it saw United eliminated from the competition just eight years after the Munich Air Disaster. United would be European champions two years later though, a decade after the tragedy. A fortnight ago, United beat Partizan 1-0 in Belgrade with Anthony Martial scoring a penalty.

Key Battles: Marcos Rojo, Daniel James, and Anthony Martial to be involved in battles against Partizan Belgrade at Old Trafford?

Manchester United will be back in UEFA Europa League action on Thursday evening as they welcome Partizan Belgrade to Old Trafford. A fortnight ago, United beat Partizan in Belgrade 1-0 with Anthony Martial scoring a penalty in the 43rd minute of the match. It was United third game in the group and their second victory, drawing with AZ Alkmaar weeks before.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has changed the form of his team after the last international break, drawing 1-1 with Liverpool at Old Trafford, then beating Partizan (1-0), Norwich City (3-1) and Chelsea (2-1) before falling to a lack lustre 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth at the weekend. Solskjaer will need to get his team back to winning ways, which could also see United reach the round of 32 stage of the tournament.

It would be fair to say that United has not had a great amount of luck this season, added to injuries, which saw Martial out for eight weeks and other important players facing time on the sidelines. Selling Romelu Lukaku may not be seen as a mistake, as supporters had stated that they wanted to see the back of him, however, not replacing him in the summer transfer window will be seen as a mistake.

Predicted Starting XI: United might have many changes from the last match, a defeat to Bournemouth but playing a largely second-string in the Europa League gives players a rest for Sunday.

Manchester United: Sergio Romero; Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Brandon Williams; Scott McTominay, Fred; Mason Greenwood, Juan Mata, Daniel James, Anthony Martial

Partizan Belgrade: Vladimir Stojković; Nemanja Miletić, Bojan Ostojić, Strahinja Pavlović, Slobodan Urošević; Saša Zdjelar, Bibras Natkho; Zoran Tošić, Seydouba Soumah, Takuma Asano; Umar Sadiq

Key Battles: Marcos Rojo, Daniel James, and Anthony Martial to be involved in the key battles against Partizan Belgrade? Umar Sadiq, Bibras Natkho, and Strahinja Pavlović involved for the away side.

Key Battle One: Marcos Rojo versus Umar Sadiq

Marcos Rojo was linked with an exit in the summer with Everton the team interested in the player, but it all fell through. He has played seven times in all competitions this season, putting in some good performances along the way. The Argentinian might have something in his locked to remain at the club, seemingly being trusted, albeit scarcely, by Solskjaer.

Rojo might have to be at his defensive best to stop United from conceding a goal or two at Old Trafford. Top scorer, Umar Sadiq has scored ten goals in all competitions this season and if he starts, he will be seeking to add to that tally. United conceded a sloppy goal against Bournemouth at the weekend, something they have been party to this season.

Key Battle Two: Daniel James versus Bibras Natkho

Daniel James was a £15 million bargain on the summer based on the impact he has had at the club in such a short spell. In terms of what he has offered, he has nearly matched what Alexis Sanchez did for the club in 18 months in the first three months of his career at the club. James has scored three goals, assisting two more, all in the Premier League.

Bibras Natkho could be a player tasked with closing down James, if he does start at Old Trafford on Thursday evening. The veteran midfielder is the captain for the Israeli national team and has played 14 times this season, scoring six goals. His experience in the game could be the key in stopping the 21-year-old from creating for his team.

Key Battle Three: Anthony Martial versus Strahinja Pavlović

Anthony Martial has scored four goals for United this season, two of them at the start of the season, the other two in the last four appearances, one of them a fortnight ago against Partizan, from the penalty spot. Missing eight matches through injury, Martial was a big miss for United throughout September and the start of October.

Coming into form now will be a good time with many matches coming up before the end of the year in the Europa League, Carabao Cup, and the Premier League. Strahinja Pavlović could be a problem for Martial as Partizan has once conceded 17 goals in all competitions this season, keeping a clean sheet 11 times.

How Manchester United should look in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Partizan Belgrade giving Rashford a rest and Greenwood a start

Manchester United will be back in UEFA Europa League action on Thursday evening as they welcome Partizan Belgrade to Old Trafford. A fortnight ago, United beat Partizan in Belgrade 1-0 with Anthony Martial scoring a penalty in the 43rd minute of the match. It was United third game in the group and their second victory, drawing with AZ Alkmaar weeks before.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has changed the form of his team after the last international break, drawing 1-1 with Liverpool at Old Trafford, then beating Partizan (1-0), Norwich City (3-1) and Chelsea (2-1) before falling to a lack lustre 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth at the weekend. Solskjaer will need to get his team back to winning ways, which could also see United reach the round of 32 stage of the tournament.

It would be fair to say that United has not had a great amount of luck this season, added to injuries, which saw Martial out for eight weeks and other important players facing time on the sidelines. Selling Romelu Lukaku may not be seen as a mistake, as supporters had stated that they wanted to see the back of him, however, not replacing him in the summer transfer window will be seen as a mistake.

Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero

Sergio Romero has largely been the first choice goalkeeper in the Europa League and the Carabao Cup this season, giving David De Gea a break to refresh, which is a good thing. Romero is a great understudy and will put in the required performance, giving United the strength to rest the number one goalkeeper at the club.

With the number of matches coming up before the end of the year, De Gea will be grateful of having a professional number two in Romero, giving him the time to recharge his batteries ahead of important matches. If United get the win, they could qualify for the round of 32 stage with two matches left, which could see youth tested with nothing to lose.

Defenders: Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Brandon Williams

The defence is an area which needs rotation. Victor Lindelof and Axel Tuanzebe are both injured and Harry Maguire would benefit from a rest, if allowed. This could see Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo in the centre of midfield. The latter has been doing well recently, despite his collapsed move to Everton putting him in a poor frame of mind.

On the flanks, Ashley Young could play in the right-back position, giving Aaron Wan-Bissaka a rest as the club captain will be suspended for the clash with Brighton on Sunday. Brandon Williams could start in the left-back position, something that should have happened against Bournemouth at the weekend, rather than trust Young on the flank.

Midfield: Scott McTominay, Fred

There is not a lot of rotation to be made in this team at this stage of the season with both Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic both on the sidelines through injury. Scott McTominay has been one of the stand out players in the squad recently, scoring two goals already this season and improving on a game by game basis.

Fred should also keep his place, not because the club lack other options but because he has been gaining confidence and showing what he can do in the midfield, which is good to see. Some suggest he has been terrible, despite showing promise, I guess there are so many critical supporters out there who won’t show any positivity.

Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Juan Mata, Daniel James

With the importance of changing the form of the team in the Premier League this season, resting Marcus Rashford, as he has led the line throughout the absence of Anthony Martial, is something that needs to happen. Hopefully, being on the bench could see him playing, if needed, or rested if he is not needed. Mason Greenwood should start.

The teenager is full of promise and him operating on the right-wing could be helpful with Daniel James playing on the left, which is where he started his run of form in the opening stages of the season. Juan Mata could play behind Martial, being the brain in the team flanked by pace, which should help him massively.

Striker: Anthony Martial

The Frenchman is slowly finding his form once again after scoring twice in his last four appearances for the club. I would like to see him score more goals than he has done now that he is playing in the number nine role that Martial FC say he is good at. I will give him more time to find that form though and hope that he does.

The is a lack of creativity at the club, which could be one of the reasons for his inability to score goals every time he plays, so that is also there for the manager and the club to change. When Paul Pogba is back in action, if he ever is, should give more creativity, if the player wants to put in the effort. Other than that, the transfer window in January may provide something.

Substitutes: Lee Grant; Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw; Jesse Lingard, James Garner; Marcus Rashford, Tahith Chong

The bench could be important for this match, especially with United in action again three days later against Brighton. Victor Lindelof is injured to Harry Maguire should occupy a place on the bench, possible with Luke Shaw, who has been out for a long period of time. Lee Grant will be the substitute goalkeeper, although he should not be needed.

Jesse Lingard should be on the bench to offer experience, however, he’s not exactly offered much this season and is facing an uphill battle to offer anything this season. James Garner could offer something later on in the game, if needed. Tahith Chong scored twice (one deflected) and assisted another for the U23s this week, so should get a chance. Marcus Rashford could be rested completely, unless something is needed.

Preview: Back to winning ways for United? Something to silence the #OleOut crowd whose support is flawed because of impatience!

Manchester United -v- Partizan Belgrade

UEFA Europa League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Thursday 7 November 2019, KO 20:00 GMT

Referee: Mattias Gestranius  Assistants: Jan-Peter Aravirta; Mikko Alakare Fourth Official: Ville Nevalainen

Manchester United will be back in UEFA Europa League action on Thursday evening as they welcome Partizan Belgrade to Old Trafford. A fortnight ago, United beat Partizan in Belgrade 1-0 with Anthony Martial scoring a penalty in the 43rd minute of the match. It was United third game in the group and their second victory, drawing with AZ Alkmaar weeks before.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has changed the form of his team after the last international break, drawing 1-1 with Liverpool at Old Trafford, then beating Partizan (1-0), Norwich City (3-1) and Chelsea (2-1) before falling to a lack lustre 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth at the weekend. Solskjaer will need to get his team back to winning ways, which could also see United reach the round of 32 stage of the tournament.

It would be fair to say that United has not had a great amount of luck this season, added to injuries, which saw Martial out for eight weeks and other important players facing time on the sidelines. Selling Romelu Lukaku may not be seen as a mistake, as supporters had stated that they wanted to see the back of him, however, not replacing him in the summer transfer window will be seen as a mistake.

Form: Believe it or not, United are the in form team ahead of Thursday’s clash at the Theatre of Dreams with three wins, two defeats and one draw in their last six matches.

Manchester United: LWWWDL

Bournemouth 1-0 L, Chelsea 2-1 W, Norwich City 3-1 W, Partizan Belgrade 1-0 W, Liverpool 1-1 D, Newcastle United 1-0 L

Partizan Belgrade: WLWLLW

Vojvodina 4-0 W, Čukarički 2-1 L, Spartak Subotica 4-0 W, Manchester United 1-0 L, Mladost Lučani 1-0 L, Vodojaža 6-0 W

Top Scorers: Marcus Rashford and Umar Sadiq have seven goals each this season going into Thursday’s clash at the Theatre of Dreams in the UEFA Europa League.

Manchester United: Marcus Rashford out to increase his goal tally against Partizan Belgrade at Old Trafford or will he be rested, giving other players the chance to fire themselves onto the scoresheet?

Goals: 7 – Marcus Rashford, 4 – Anthony Martial, 3 – Daniel James, 2 – Mason Greenwood, Scott McTominay

United need to return to winning ways on Thursday night at Old Trafford after losing to Bournemouth on Saturday in what was a lack lustre defeat and something to be ashamed of. Previous to that, Solskjaer’s side had draw 1-1 at home against Liverpool then beaten Partizan Belgrade, Norwich City and Chelsea away from home.

Partizan Belgrade: Umar Sadiq has scored seven goals for Partizan Belgrade this season. Can he and his team step up against United at the Theatre of Dreams?

Goals: 7 – Umar Sadiq, 5 – Seydouba Soumah, 4 – Bibras Natcho, 3 – Lazar Marković, Filip Stevanović, Zoran Tošić, 2 – Đorđe Ivanović, 1 – Rajko Brežančić, Strahinja Pavlović, Saša Zdjelar

Partizan Belgrade started their pre-season on June, commencing the season proper in late July in the Europa League. The Serbian side sits fourth in the Super Liga, ten points from the summit, currently held by rivals Red Star Belgrade. Over the past six matches, Partizan has won 6-0 once, 4-0 twice, losing 1-0 twice also losing 2-1 once.

Team News: Injuries still causing issues for United but there are many fringe players that could be called upon in this match with United seeking to qualify for the latter stages of the Europa League.

Solskjaer still has many players on the sidelines that will not be involved in this match. The long-term absences of Eric Bailly and Tim Fosu-Mensah will continue with their recovery. In addition to this, Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof Axel Tuanzebe, Nemanja Matic, Angel Gomes and Paul Pogba are all still out of action. Ashley Young is available for this match but not for the Brighton match due to suspension.

It would seem likely that Young will be involved in this match instead with either Brandon Williams (left-back) or Aaron Wan-Bissaka (right-back) missing this game in favour to start on Sunday. Phil Jones could get a start in the Europa League, as he did in the reverse fixture a fortnight ago, which could also see Marcos Rojo called into the squad to face the Serbian side.

Predicted Starting XI: Solskjaer to rest some key players ahead of the clash with Brighton at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon?

With United needing to get back to winning ways, the clash with Partizan could see a number of players rested with a view of Sunday’s class with Brighton with United needing a victory to rise again in the Premier League table. I expect Anthony Martial to start and it could see Marcus Rashford rested, which is something he could do with at this time, perhaps coming on late in the game, if needed.

Match Prediction: United seeking to qualify for the round of 32 stage of the Europa League with victory over Partizan Belgrade at Old Trafford. With two wins in three matches, they seem to be the favourites.

United and Partizan Belgrade have played three times in the history of both clubs. United has won twice, losing the other match. The first match came in 1966 in the European Cup, a match played at the Partizan Stadium with ended up being a 2-0 defeat to United, despite the likes of Harry Gregg, Bill Foulkes, Paddy Crerand, Nobby Styles, George Best, and Denis Law all playing.

Just a week later, United won 1-0 at Old Trafford with Styles scoring the goal but it saw United eliminated from the competition just eight years after the Munich Air Disaster. United would be European champions two years later though, a decade after the tragedy. A fortnight ago, United beat Partizan 1-0 in Belgrade with Anthony Martial scoring a penalty.

Manchester United 2-0 Partizan Belgrade

UEFA Europa League foes have been decided. Just how rocky is the road ahead for Manchester United?

Manchester United have been drawn in Group L of the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League, along with Kazakhstani side FC AstanaSerbian outfit FK Partizan, as well as Dutch team AZ Alkmaar. United are the seeded team in this group and will be looking to secure top spot. The last time the club played in the group stages of the tournament, they went all the way to the final, defeating AFC Ajax 2-0 to claim their maiden Europa League title.

That was the climax of a long and arduous European campaign for the Red Devils, who had to endure trips to Turkey and Ukraine during the group stages, as well as Russia during the knockout stages. With their group stage fixtures for 2019/20 decided, let’s take a closer look at when and where these games are placed on United’s calendar for the remainder of 2019.

FC Astana, Old Trafford, Manchester – Thursday 19 September 2019

United will begin their European campaign at home later this month when they face reigning Kazakhstani champions FC Astana for the first time in the club’s history. This game will take place after the Red Devils face Leicester City at Old Trafford on the 14 September and will precede a trip to the London Stadium to take on West Ham United on the 22 September.

United will face Leicester having not won a game since their opening match of the Premier League, and will no doubt want to get back to winning ways before embarking on their European journey and then going to face West Ham, where they were soundly beaten last season. If United are to progress to the knockout stages, it will imperative for them to get the first three points on offer, particularly as it will be at home to a team that was only founded a decade ago.

AZ Alkmaar, AFAS Stadium, Alkmaar, Thursday 3 October 2019

The second game of United’s European campaign sees them make a relatively short journey to the Netherlands to face AZ for the first time. This game will come after United take on rivals Arsenal at Old Trafford on Monday 30 September, in a game that is likely to be draining for both sets of players, who will then have to play again on Thursday evening.

This could mean that United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will opt to rotate his squad and field those who haven’t seen much action so far this season against the Dutch side. The Red Devils have lost on their last two visits to the Netherlands, to PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord Rotterdam respectively.

They will no doubt be looking to correct this before they make another relatively short trip, this time to face Newcastle United in the Premier League, a game that is always tougher than it looks on paper. This will be the first of a few testing weeks for a young and somewhat threadbare United squad.

FK Partizan, Partizan Stadium, Belgrade – Thursday 24 October 2019

This Europa League match-day will follow a home clash against fierce rivals Liverpool on Sunday 20 October. This will be another draining affair for United’s players, who will, however, have an extra day to recover this time around. After this match, United face a trip to Carrow Road to take on newly-promoted Norwich City, who have already shown they are not to be underestimated. The trip to Belgrade is not the longest United will have to make this season but it will definitely be the most poignant journey for the club.

The Partizan Stadium is where the United side of 1958, known infamously as the Busby Babes, played against Partizan’s local rivals Red Star Belgrade, a day before the Munich Air Disaster. This will be the first time the club has returned to play a competitive match since that 3-3 draw against Red Star and it will no doubt be an emotional return, as the club and its supporters honour those who lost their lives in the disaster.

FK Partizan, Old Trafford, Manchester – Thursday 7 November 2019

Old Trafford will host its second European game of the season when United welcome the Serbian side for the return fixture. This will take place after United travel to the south coast to take on Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium. The time and date for this fixture, which could be very entertaining, has not been confirmed by the Premier League at the time of writing.

The fixture that comes after Europa League matchday four will, however, take place either on the Sunday or Monday that follows, as United welcome Brighton and Hove Albion to Old Trafford. The Seagulls have proven to be a tricky opponent for United in recent times, as they can be difficult to crack, particularly when they are in form. Before this, United will be looking to claim victory against Partizan, which will become even more important if the previous two European games away from home do not yield many points.

FC Astana, Astana Arena, Nur-Sultan – Thursday 28 November 2019

This will be by far the longest trip the Red Devils will have to make this season. Astana is closer to major cities in Asia than it is to Manchester, and the round trip for this fixture will be over a distance of around 12,000 kilometres. Fortuitously for United, it has been sandwiched between two Premier League games that are against newly-promoted sides and do not require much more travelling.

Before facing the Kazakhstani champions, United will travel to face Sheffield United. The Blades, of course, will be without their regular first-choice goalkeeper, Dean Henderson, who would be ineligible to face his parent club. After the long and exhausting journey to Kazakhstan, United will have a home game against Aston Villa.

As with the previous fixtures, the exact time and dates have yet to be confirmed by the Premier League at the time of writing, although the game against Villa will definitely be on the Sunday or Monday that follows. United will be hoping they are in a position to seal progression to the knockout stages when they make the journey to Eastern Europe.

AZ Alkmaar, Old Trafford, Manchester – Thursday 12 December 2019

United will conclude their participation in the group stages of the 2019/20 Europa League at home against AZ. This game comes during a difficult period of fixtures for the Red Devils, who will host Tottenham Hotspur and then make the short trip to face Manchester City in a derby at the Etihad Stadium in the days prior.

After the final match-day of the Europa League, United will be welcoming Everton to Old Trafford. These exact times and dates of these fixtures have also yet to be confirmed by the Premier League, although the game against Everton will take place on the Sunday or Monday that follows. This will represent a significant challenge for United as the Premier League will be heading towards the busy festive period, although they do have the benefit of not having to do much travelling.

Solskjaer will be hoping that qualification for the knockout stages is assured by this point, so that he may be allowed to rest players and rotate his squad in this fixture. AZ, however, have been particularly productive in away games in Europe so far this season and should not be underestimated.

In Closing

This is a group that United would expect to be topping. It does, however, remain to be seen how Solskjaer goes about selecting players for these games. He has promised a number of United’s highly-rated younger players will get chances this season, most likely in the Europa League and League Cup, at least in the first half of the season.

The inexperience of these players will probably make qualification for the knockout stages a little more difficult than it looks on paper. Progression from the Carabao Cup, where United have been drawn at home to Rochdale in the third round, will also have an impact on United’s attempts to secure the points needed to get to the knockout phase of the Europa League.

Solskjaer is going to have carefully manage the playing time of each of his players, in order to make sure United remain active in three competitions. The Europa League should perhaps be considered more important than the League Cup, particularly as it offers the club a second route to qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.

Written by Shiven Nayager

UEFA Europa League: Who are FC Astana, Manchester United’s Kazakhstani group stage opposition

Manchester United group in the UEFA Europa League was drawn on Friday afternoon. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United will be pitted against FC Astana of Kazakhstan, Partizan Belgrade of Serbia, and AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands. After United’s start to the season, these matches will ensure that the club will sink or swim in the competition.

FC Astana are from Kazakhstan and were founded in 2009 as Lokomotiv Astana, so have had ten years experience as a football club. The young club plays in the Kazakhstan Premier League, winning the league five times in the decade they have been a club. Home matches are played a the Astana Arena, a 30,244 capacity stadium Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

The Astana Arena was completed on the 3 July 2009 and homes Astana, FC Baytarek, the Kazakhstani national team, also hosting the 2011 Asian Winter Games. Astana has had 12 managers in this history of the club, the most successful was Stanimir Stoilov who won four Kazakhstan Premier League titles, one Kazakhstan Cup and one Kazakhstan Super Cup.

Astana won their first trophy in 2010, the Kazakhstan Cup, which has been won three times by the club. The Kazakhstan Super Cup was lifted in 2011 with the club winning it four times. The first league title was won in 2014, lifting it each year since. Currently, Astana are fourth in the league, five points adrift of league leaders FC Tobol.

As the reigning Kazakhstani champions, Astana initially qualified for the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round and were drawn against CFR Cluj. Astana won the first leg 1-0 but lost the second leg 3-1, losing 3-2 on aggregate and exiting the competition. They then faced qualification in the UEFA Europa League instead.

Entering in the second qualification round, Astana beat Santa Coloma 4-1 on aggregate, after a 0-0 draw in the first leg. They were then drawn against Maltese side Valletta, winning 5-1 and 4-0, 9-1 on aggregate. In the playoff round, they face BATE Borisov, winning 3-0 at home and losing 2-0 away but reaching the group stages with a 3-2 aggregate victory.

Who is the manager of FC Astana?

Roman Hryhorchuk is the current manager of the club. The 54-year-old was announced as the manager of the club on the 1 June 2018. The Ukrainian was a striker in his playing career coming through the academy of Nyva Berezhany. He has played for many clubs, including Silmash Kolomyia, Prykarpattya Ivano-Frankivsk, and Temp Shepetivka.

In 1994, Hryhorchuk played for Austrian club VSE St. Poelten, before moving to Polish club ZKS Petrochemia Płock, then to Russian club Saturn Ramenskoye. His playing career was over in 2001 after ending his time as a player at Latvian club Dinaburg. Whilst playing for the club, he was the assistant manager, becoming the manager the years before he retired.

Hryhorchuk left his role at Dinaburg in 2004, commencing his management career in 2005 at Ventspils in Latvia. He left the club in 2009 to return to Ukraine, taking on the top job at Metalurh Zaporizhya, before being named as the Chornomorets Odesa manager a year later. He left Ukraine in 2014 to manager Azerbaijani club Gabala, before taking on his current role four years later.

Who plays for FC Astana?

Marin Tomasov, a 31-year-old Croatian winger, has played for Astana for around two years now. He is currently the clubs top scorer with 18 goals in 32 appearances for the club. In his career, Tomasov has played for Hajduk Split and 1860 München before moving to Astana, where he spent a period on loan before becoming a permanent signing at the club.

The second top scorer at the club is Kazakhstani forward Roman Murtazayev. The 25-year-old has been at the club since 2016, signing from Irtysh Pavlodar. Murtazayev has scored ten goals in 33 appearances for the club this season. Granted, the season is 23 league games in for this club but they will be ready to take on United before the winter.

Curaçao-born Rangelo Janga is joint-third in goals scored this season, scoring six times in 31 appearances. The 6ft 5in striker in 27 and could well pose a threat for United if given the chance. Teammate, Rúnar Már Sigurjónsson is also on six goals in just 14 appearances with the Icelandic midfielder show his class in this league. Dorin Rotariu, a 24-year-old forward from Romania has five goals in 31 appearances.

Does United have a history with FC Astana?

United and Astana have never met competitively, so this will be the first time both clubs have played a competitive fixture. It will be relatively unknown for United, although they have played teams from far away in the UEFA Europa League before, although never against a club from Kazakhstan, this will be the first time for that also.

Astana, despite being a young club, had experience playing European football. They first played in the Europa League in 2013 and also made it to the group stages of the UEFA Champions League during the 2015/16 season, where they were unbeaten at home against Atletico Madrid, Benfica and Galatasaray, which was good for them.

During the 2016/17 season, when United lifted the Europa League for the first time, they were drawn against Zorya Luhansk of Ukraine in the group stages. United were also drawn against Russian side Rostov in the round of 16. Jose Mourinho, then manager of the club, led his side to glory by beating Ajax 2-0 in the final, played in Stockholm, Sweden.

When are the matches against FC Astana going to be played?

United will face Astana at Old Trafford on Thursday 19 September 2019 with the match kicking off at 20:00 BST. The away leg in Kazakhstan will be played at the Astana Arena on Thursday 28 November 2019, kicking off at 15:50 BST. Kazakhstan is six hours ahead of the United Kingdom. This will be a massive trip for United, who will travel more than 6,000 miles for the match, in between a trip to Sheffield United and welcoming Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

UEFA Europa League: Who are AZ Alkmaar, Manchester United’s Dutch group stage opposition

The draw for the group stages of the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League has been made and Manchester United find themselves in Group L alongside FC Astana of Kazakhstan, FK Partizan of Serbia and AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands. United, who were seeded in Pot 1 and should be considered favourites to top the group, will play the competition’s group stage for the second time in the last five seasons and will no doubt be aiming to repeat their triumph in the 2016/17 season.

Alkmaar Zaanstreek, known simply as AZ, were founded on the 10 May 1967 as the result of a merger between nearby clubs Alkmaar ’54 and FC Zaanstreek. The club plays home games at the AFAS Stadion, which is located in southern Alkmaar and has a capacity of around 17,000. This stadium, which is owned directly by the club, has been their home since the summer of 2006.

The club competes in the top tier of Dutch football, the Eredivisie, which it has won twice in its relatively brief history. They have also finished as runners-up on two occasions, while also achieving similar successes in the lower divisions during the 1950s and 60s. They have however, spent most of the last 50 years in the Eredivisie. The club has also won the Dutch National Cup, the KNVB Cup, four times, while also finishing as losing finalists on three occasions, most recently in the 2017/18 season.

Their most recent Eredivisie title win in 2008/09 also enabled them to claim their only Johan Cruyff Shield at the beginning of the following season. Continentally, the club has regularly competed in UEFA’s second-tier competitions, the European Cup Winners’ Cup, UEFA Cup and the UEFA Europa League. They have a decent record in the Europa League and its predecessor competition, finishing runners-up during the 1980/81 season, where they also claimed a domestic league and cup double.

They have since made the semi-finals just once, however, and their campaigns have ended at the quarter-final stage a further three times. The club participated in the UEFA Champions League group stages in the 2009/10 season as a result of winning the 2008/09 Eredivisie. They eventually finished bottom of a group which contained United’s domestic rivals Arsenal.

They qualified for this seasons Europa League, having defeated Swedish side BK Häcken 3-0 on aggregate in the second qualifying round, which they were eligible to enter courtesy of a fourth-place finish in the 2018/19 Eredivisie. This was followed by a 4-0 aggregate win over Ukrainian side FC Mariupol in the third qualifying round. They then defeated United’s former Belgian feeder club, Royal Antwerp, 5-2 on aggregate in the playoff round to earn their place in the group stage.

Who is the manager of AZ Alkmaar?

AZ are currently managed by Dutchman Arne Slot, a former midfielder who represented a number of clubs in his homeland. He is very much in the infancy of his career as a manager and will no doubt be looking to claim a few scalps to enhance his reputation. As a player, he made his professional debut as a teenager in 1995 at FC Zwolle, for whom he scored 50 goals over the course of seven seasons. He later joined NAC Breda, where he spent the next five seasons.

He left to join Sparta Rotterdam, where he played for two seasons, before being loaned back to his old club, FC Zwolle. He then joined their local rivals PEC Zwolle, scoring 16 goals in three seasons with them, before retiring in 2013. He stayed on at the club and begun his coaching career with their youth teams. A year later, he was appointed assistant manager at a club in the lower divisions of Dutch football, SC Cambuur. He worked there for three years before becoming assistant manager of AZ, eventually becoming the club’s manager on the 1 July 2019.

Under his tutelage, they have begun this season unbeaten in domestic and European competitions. They kicked off the season at home with a goalless draw against Häcken, whom they then beat 3-0 in Sweden. Their domestic campaign got underway with a resounding 4-0 win over Fortuna Sittard. This preceded another goalless draw, this time away at Mariupol. They continued their domestic campaign with a 2-0 win at RKC Waalwijk. The return fixture against the Ukrainians ended in a 4-0 win, which booked their place in the playoff round of the Europa League.

Their next two games were also at home, where a goalless draw in the Eredivisie against FC Groningen was followed by a 1-1 draw against Royal Antwerp, who hung on for the draw after having a man sent off. They put this frustrating result behind them just a few days ago, beating the Belgian side 4-1 on their own patch, thus qualifying for the Europa League group stages. This match went to extra time, after AZ equalised in the last minute of regulation time, against an Antwerp side who, by that point, had been reduced to nine men.

Who plays for AZ Alkmaar?

AZ boast players who may not be as unfamiliar to United as one might think. These include Dutch internationals in the form of club captain Ron Vlaar, a former Aston Villa defender, as well as midfielder Jordy Clasie, formerly of Southampton. One of their key players is a compatriot of United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Norwegian international midfielder Fredrik Midtsjø. 

AZ typically line up in a 4-3-3 formation, a favourite of Dutch teams in years gone by. This is hardly surprising since the club has a Dutch manager and a predominantly Dutch squad. Even the players who aren’t Dutch were either born in or have spent their formative years in the Netherlands, so United can expect a stern test against a team that is comfortable in possession. Similar to United, AZ also have a number of academy graduates in their first-team squad for the 2019/20 season.

As one would expect from Dutch teams, their forwards are their most potent threat. Their first-choice forwards include Dutch-born Moroccan international Oussama Idrissi, who has scored four goals so far this season, predominantly from the left-wing. On the opposite flank is 20-year-old Dutch winger Calvin Stengs, who is of Surinamese descent. He has scored three goals and provided two assists already this season. Their most exciting player is up front, in the form of 18-year-old Dutch striker Myron Boadu, who is of Ghanaian descent.

He has three goals and three assists to his name in 2019/20. Further back, their trio in midfield, which includes a holding player, enables their forward players and full-backs to get at their opposition. Over the years, Dutch teams have produced some potent forwards, who have been coveted by bigger European clubs for their ability in front of goal. AZ appear to have this across their frontline, so United’s defence will have their work cut out when they face them. 

The Eredivisie still in its early stages, and the club will be hoping to keep pace with rivals PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord Rotterdam, as well as reigning champions AFC Ajax, who were a surprise package in last season’s Champions League. Having their first full season under a new manager themselves, it is likely that AZ have similar expectations for the season as United. A run in domestic and European cup competitions would be welcomed, provided that their league form didn’t suffer as a result.

Does United have a history with AZ Alkmaar?

United will be facing AZ for the first time in the club’s history. They will be the fifth different Dutch opponent United will have faced in European competition, following Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord and Willem II. United were defeated on their last two visits to the Netherlands, which were coincidentally the opening fixtures of their European campaigns in those respective seasons. They lost 2-1 to PSV in the 2015/16 Champions League group stage, and 1-0 to Feyenoord during the group stage of their victorious 2016/17 Europa League campaign.

AZ’s most recent league title win was masterminded by former United manager Louis van Gaal. The Dutchman left the club after this triumph to manage German giants Bayern Munich, whom he led to a domestic league and cup double. He also led them to the 2010 Champions League final, where he was defeated by Inter Milan, who were managed by his eventual replacement as United manager, José Mourinho. AZ has also been managed by former Southampton and Everton manager Ronald Koeman, as well as former Sunderland manager Dick Advocaat.

In addition to these two, they have also been managed by legendary Dutch striker Marco van Basten, who played against the Red Devils for Ajax during pre-season in 1986, just a few months before Sir Alex Ferguson first took the reins at Old Trafford. United’s current number two goalkeeper Sergio Romero was a key member of AZ’s last Eredivisie-winning side and his relationship with van Gaal is perhaps what persuaded him to sign for the Red Devils in 2015.

Romero of course, was the club’s first-choice goalkeeper in the 2016/17 Europa League, keeping a clean sheet in the final against Ajax as United emerged victorious. United have previously been acquainted with a few of AZ’s notable youth team graduates. These include former Sunderland winger Jeremain Lens, who scored a fantastic free-kick against United while on loan at Fenerbahçe during the group stages of the 2016/17 Europa League.

This group of players also includes former PSV winger Luciano Narsingh, who scored in United’s 2-1 defeat to the Dutch side in the 2015/16 Champions League, as well as current Burnley winger Jóhann Berg Guđmundsson. Among players to have previously played for AZ is Belgian international and former Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Mousa Dembélé, who was another key player under van Gaal at the Dutch club.

When are the matches against AZ Alkmaar going to be played?

United will visit the AFAS Stadion to play AZ for the very first time on Europa League match-day 2 on the 3 October, with kick-off set for 17:55 BST. The away trip to Alkmaar will be the shortest that United and their supporters will have to make in the group stages of this seasons competition, with the two cities being separated by less than 500 kilometres. The return fixture at Old Trafford will bring the group stage to a conclusion and will take place on December 12th, with kick-off at 21:00 BST.

As usual, these group matches will be sandwiched between Premier League fixtures. The first meeting takes place a few days after United face rivals Arsenal at Old Trafford. It will be followed by another trip, this time to face Newcastle United. The return fixture comes after a Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium and will precede another home game for United, against Everton. All in all, United will be looking to get maximum points from both encounters against a relatively inexperienced side.

That being said, AZ still looks like a dangerous opponent who should not be underestimated, particularly as they’ve won games by large margins, even away from home. The trips to and from the away game are probably going to be the most comfortable for the players, as it is a much shorter journey than those to Kazakhstan and Serbia. These games are all still likely be tough tests for United’s players, many of whom are inexperienced in European competition.

Written by Shiven Nayager

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