After the dross performance barring a 15-minute spell in the 3-3 draw with Sheffield United, Manchester United turn their attention to the Europa League with an away fixture coming up against Astana of Kazakhstan. The reds will make a 6000-mile trip to Nur-Saltan, the capital of Kazakhstan to play their fifth European game of the season.
With qualification to the knockout phase already in the bag, and Manchester United sitting at the top of group L, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can experiment with the squad and give the likes of Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire and many other players in the first team a well needed rest to allow them to return to premier league action fresh and ready for the game against Aston Villa on the weekend.
Astana have failed to win any of their four Europa League group stage ties this season with the reverse fixture at Old Trafford resulting in 1-0 win for the Reds. Manchester United will play the match at the Astana Arena with the stadium boasting a retractable roof, something United will certainly not be used to. The game will have a slightly earlier kick-off time of 15:50 due to the 6-hour time difference between Kazakhstan and England.
On paper, this game should be a routine victory, however, a weaker opposition none the less, conditions in Kazakhstan are said to be Baltic at this time of the year with the travelling squad told to not go outside for a prolonged period due to temperatures going as low as -20 degrees. The retractable roof in the stadium should calm the conditions down but it still won’t be easy for the Manchester club who are used to playing in the Manchester rain and won’t be accustomed to such extreme weather conditions.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has named an inexperienced and young squad for the clash in the Europa League this Thursday night as most of the squad will be making their first senior appearance for Manchester United. The only members of the squad who have any meaningful experience playing for the first team being Lingard, Greenwood (who scored in the reverse fixture), Fosu-Mensah, and Shaw, it is clear to see that Ole wants to see how his young Reds can fair in a senior competitive club match.
The squad for the game against Astana is: Grant, Kovar, Taylor, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Axel, Levitt, Menqi, Bernard, Ramazani, Laird, Galbraith, Puigmal, Bughail-Mellor, Garner, Lingard, Chong, Gomes, Greenwood. A potential ten first team debutants in the squad.
A huge chance to be seized for a lot of the young squad who can show not only Solskjaer, but the fans of the club that they are good enough to play for Manchester United. A special mention needs to go to Max Taylor for receiving his first senior squad call up as it was only a couple of months ago that it was announced he had beaten cancer. An incredible turnaround for Max and all of us here on the Full Time Devils blog wish him luck in what could be his first Manchester United call up. Good luck to him.
Although qualification is already sealed, winning the group would be a bonus for the lads and help us in the draw for the knockout stage. If Manchester United win their game against Astana and AZ Alkmaar fail to win away to Partizan Belgrade, then the reds will clinch first place in Group L with a game still to spare.