United Preview: Astana (H) Europa League Group Opener

As frustrating it is to be back in the Europa League it could be a great chance….

18 September 2019

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 25: Phil Jones of Manchester United is consoled by Eric Bailly after missing his penalty during the shoot out during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Manchester United and Derby County at Old Trafford on September 25, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

As frustrating it is to be back in the Europa League it could be a great chance for Ole to put more of United’s young talent into the limelight as the Red Devils take on Kazakhstan Champions Astana.

After returning to winning ways against Leicester on Saturday, United must turn their attention to the Europa League as they take on FC Astana of Kazakhstan.

As fans and for everyone involved at the club it isn’t the competition that we want to be in but the Red Devils have the chance to repeat the success of 2017 and that wonderful night in Stockholm come next May in Gdansk, Poland for the final.

As was expected when the draw was made, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are expected to overpower a Europa League Group which contains Partizan Belgrade, AZ Alkmaar and this week’s opponents Astana, but that doesn’t give this United side the right to rest on their laurels ahead of Thursday’s encounter – in fact it’s the perfect chance for both the fringe and young players to stake their claim for more first team football.

We could all tell with the way the transfer window went for United that they’re now somewhat lacking in depth for a calendar that due to stack up thanks to the hectic schedule that this competition brings which is why Ole needs to choose a side that is both capable of getting the job done and one that is brimming with youth.

Since Ole took charge we’ve seen a number of youth players come to the fray, with the likes of Mason Greenwood, James Garner, Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes all getting minutes in the Premier League and this could be the perfect time for them to get the chance to shine in Europe, starting with this game with Astana.

Those four prospects are all highly rated by everyone at the club and it’s vital that Ole gives them the chance to get some good minutes under their belt at this early stage of the tournament like such Arsenal, who started Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock and Chelsea with Ruben Loftus Cheek and Callum Hudson Odoi.

Just throwing them all in however, could become costly to United so it’s incredibly important to get the balance between the two right. Bedding a couple of these players in, potentially alongside the likes of Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata (due to them being substituted at the weekend) could be a good way of setting up going forward with the youthful legs making runs in behind and the senior players being clever enough to find the space for the pass.  

Giving these players the game time should give Solskjaer the chance to rest players such as Marcus Rashford a well-earned rest after Saturday’s win so they can focus on getting the Red Devils back into the Champions League next season.  

The visitors, though massive underdogs, have been Champions of Kazakhstan in each of the last five seasons and will be relishing the chance to showcase their talent on such a massive stage.

In 2016/17 they made history by becoming the first Kazakhstani side to qualify for the knockout stages of a European Competition by reaching the Round of 32 in the Europa League and made the Champions League Group Stage in 2015/16 where they even managed to take a point from games with Benfica and Atletico Madrid, so they’re certainly no pushovers.

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