Greenwood, Rashford shine in Solskjaer's United youth movement
Manchester United got their Europa League campaign off to a winning start with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Astana at Old Trafford. The Red Devils were made to be patient and twice rattled the woodwork on what threatened to be a frustrating night for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side. But the hosts finally found a way past a determined Astana backline as 17-year-old Mason Greenwood jinked past his man and finished superbly into the bottom corner to secure all three points.
United were in complete control from the very first whistle and the youthful XI showed plenty of promise. Angel Gomes displayed signs of being an excellent young footballer, but it was a night that belonged to Greenwood as the teenager fired home his first goal for the club on just his second senior start to become the club's youngest-ever scorer in European competition.
There have been countless great European nights at Old Trafford over the years, but this wasn't one of them. Despite completely dominating possession, United lacked a spark and were frustrated by an Astana side who executed their game plan perfectly. The hosts looked a little vulnerable on the counter at times and on another night their opponents could have snatched a point.
Manager rating (out of 10)
6 - Solskjaer made nine changes to the side that started Saturday's 1-0 win over Leicester on Saturday, with Marcus Rashford and Nemanja Matic the only survivors. The Norwegian showed his trust in the next generation as United started a European fixture with three teenagers in the XI for the first time in 10 years. United lacked creativity for large periods, but Solskjaer was rewarded for his faith as Greenwood struck in the 73rd minute on a night the young striker will always remember.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Sergio Romero, 5 -- Comfortably saved a tame effort when Astana managed to conjure up a rare attack on the break. More involved in the second 45 but had little of note to do.
DF Diogo Dalot, 6 -- Given an abundance of space and spent most of the game on the edge of his opponents' 18-yard box. Produced a brilliant, instinctive turn after showing immense tenacity to keep the ball in play, but his cross couldn't pick out a red shirt. Quieter after the break as United tried to add more variety to their attacks and got away with one at the other end.
DF Axel Tuanzebe, 5 -- Looked the more comfortable of the centre-back pairing at just 21 years of age. Had next to nothing to do for the better part of the game, but looked cool and composed when called into action.
DF Phil Jones 4 -- A lacklustre display. Was fortunate Astana couldn't find a finish after he got on the wrong side of his man in a dangerous area.
DF Marcos Rojo, 6 -- More involved in the opening five minutes after the break than he was in the whole of the first half. Produced an inviting ball across the face of goal that somehow managed to evade Greenwood and Tahith Chong. Almost doubled United's lead with a powerful curling effort from distance before being replaced by Ashley Young in the 78th minute.
MF Nemanja Matic, 6 -- Showed his class and totally dictated the pace of the game from midfield. Barely broke a sweat.
MF Fred, 5 -- Desperately unlucky to see his 35-yard wonder strike hit the top of the bar and after a lovely passing move. Drew a good save from a long-range free kick, but otherwise a relatively quiet performance and was booked with five minutes to play.
MF Tahith Chong, 5 -- Showed glimpses of his potential. Kept chipping away in midfield but didn't really manage to make anything happen. Replaced by Jesse Lingard in the 68th minute.
MF Angel Gomes, 6 -- Looked thoroughly relaxed playing alongside Matic. Showed signs that United may have an excellent young player on their hands, but was replaced by Juan Mata in the 68th minute after a quiet second-half.
MF Mason Greenwood, 7 -- Produced some lovely linkup play with Rashford and almost opened the scoring with a shot that whistled past the post. Finally broke the deadlock with an exquisite finish in the 74th minute. A brilliant night for him.
FW Marcus Rashford, 7 -- United's biggest threat in the first half. Should have done better after a corner dropped at his feet three yards out. Twice fired straight at the keeper from close range.
DF Ashley Young, NR -- Came on for Rojo in the 78th minute. No time to make an impact.
MF Juan Mata, 5 -- Came on for Gomes in the 68th minute. Didn't have too much opportunity to contribute, but was beaten by his man far too easily as Astana looked to snatch a point.
MF Jesse Lingard, 6 -- Came on for Chong in the 68th minute. Rattled the post with a powerful strike as United looked to move up a gear.