AZ Alkmaar 0 United 0
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United were forced to settle for a point in The Hague on Thursday evening, as the Reds played out a goalless draw with AZ Alkmaar.
The story of Alkmaar v UnitedGallery
Browse match pics from the Reds' first Europa League away trip of the campaign.
Solskjaer made eight changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Arsenal at Old Trafford three days earlier, notably handing a first start to 19-year-old left-back Brandon Williams, who impressed during a cameo against Rochdale in the Carabao Cup last month.
Decent spells of possession for the Reds characterised the very earliest stages, but Alkmaar sprang to life in the 10th minute, when Wijndal swept a dangerous low cross from the left into the United six-yard box, where Marcos Rojo did well to hoick the fizzing ball over the bar.
From the resulting corner, played short, Boadu headed Midtsjo's cross past David De Gea, but United were instantly reprieved by the linesman's flag.
Further pressure came minutes later, when a rasping Idrissi drive from 25 yards or so stung De Gea's fingertips.
United had to wait until the 30th minute for the first chance of real note, when Dalot and James combined well down the right. The Welshman’s low centre found Greenwood, but the young Englishman’s right-footed effort was well diverted by former Aston Villa defender Ron Vlaar.
United’s 950-strong away following ran through a selection of well-honed classics – devoted to former greats such as Ruud van Nistelrooy and Eric Cantona – to try and liven up proceedings inside the half-empty Cars Jeans Stadium – around 43 miles south of AZ’s home stadium in Alkmaar – but the Dutch side, who have conceded just twice in seven home games so far this term, held firm.
The hosts started brightly after the interval, and De Wit was inches away from turning home Sugawara’s cross from the right, but United soon regained control with a concentrated passage of possession play – while the eager Williams showed his confidence with several sharp bursts down the left.
Just after the hour-mark, Solskjaer decided to introduce Marcus Rashford, who replaced Daniel James and took a position on the left flank.
Angel Gomes registered our first shot after the interval, but his effort from distance was too high to trouble AZ stopper Marco Bizot.
The bright Wijndal fared better with his long-range effort minutes later, and forced De Gea into a smart stop to his right, which buoyed the home crowd no end.
Greenwood made way for Jesse Lingard, but it was the hosts whose attacking threat bore the greater incision as the game crept towards the final 10 minutes.
Twice Idrissi fired rasping drives at De Gea – one which the Spaniard palmed away, and the second which whisked by the four-time Player of the Year’s left-hand post.
Rashford rasped into life minutes later, and stayed down after claiming to have been clipped in the penalty area, following a clever Ronaldo-style ‘chop’, but the referee played on. Then the England forward won a free-kick via a clever nutmeg on the left, but could only fire over when taking on the set-piece.
United’s best move came in the 84th minute, when a pinpoint pass from our final substitute, Scott McTominay, picked out Lingard in the penalty area, but the Academy graduate’s subsequent shot speared just left of Bizot’s goal.
It was the final substantial effort of the match as United earned a point that puts us joint-top of Group L, ahead of our second trip of the group-stage phase later this month, away to Partizan Belgrade.
AZ Alkmaar: Bizot; Sugawara, Vlaar, Wuytens, Wijndal; Midtsjo, De Wit (Hatzidiakos 87), Koopmeiners; Stengs, Boadu, Idrissi.
Subs not used: De Boer, Ouwejan, Druijf, Aboukhlal, Clasie, Reijnders.
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