Manchester United youngsters slip to defeat
Manchester United lost 2-1 against Astana in the Europa League on Thursday night, but with the club already through to the last 32 of the competition, it was an opportunity for some of the younger players in the squad to impress.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær left out most of his first-choice players for the trip to Kazakhstan, opting to go with a squad that was largely made up of graduates from the academy, with an average age of just over 22, making it the youngest in European competition.
They still went into the game as slight favourites with sports betting companies, and they took the lead on 10 minutes when a shot from Jesse Lingard was deflected into the net, only to see their lead overturned by Astana in the space of seven minutes in the second half
Speaking to the media after the game, the United manager said that many of the players picked for this game were close to earning a first-team spot, though he said that some of them may benefit from a period out on loan.
He said: “Of course, they need men’s football and it was a first taste of it for some of them.”
In particular, Solskjær was full of praise for Ethan Laird, who played at right back; Dylan Levitt, who featured in midfield; and the centre-half Di’Shon Bernard, all of whom were making their senior debuts for the club – though it was Bernard’s own goal that enabled Astana to level.
Lingard, who at the age of 26 was the oldest outfield player in the team, and was named captain on the night, gave United the lead, with a welcome goal, his first since January.
Tahith Chong had a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 in the second half, but missed from six yards out, just seconds before Astana levelled, when a shot from Dmitri Shomko was deflected wide of goalkeeper Lee Grant.
This was the first goal that United had conceded during the group stage of the competition, and they soon conceded another when a cross from Antonio Rukavina hit Bernard and fell in.
The visitors rallied, creating chances for Mason Greenwood and Angel Gomes, but they were unable to force an equaliser against the champions of Kazakhstan.
Words: Man Ngo