Grant: I feel fortunate to play for United

Lee Grant feels extremely fortunate to have been able to make his full debut for Manchester United.

The goalkeeper had played just 20 minutes of football for the Reds, prior to our UEFA Europa League group stage game against Astana in Kazakhstan two weeks ago.

The 36-year-old made his first start for his boyhood club at the Astana Arena in Nur-Sultan, and even the subsequent 2-1 defeat to the Kazakh champions could not ruin the occasion for the veteran stopper.

Manchester United team line up ahead of Astana Europa League game.
At 36, Lee was our oldest player against Astana by 10 years.
“It’s been such a long process leading up to that moment,”
Grant, who joined the Reds in the summer of 2018, told United Review - our official matchday programme - ahead of the upcoming game with AZ Alkmaar on Thursday.

“I’d have loved to have followed on from my first pre-season game or my first Carabao Cup appearance last season – it would have been lovely to have a full debut soon after that – but it didn’t materialise last season.

“I absolutely understand why and my plan was to just keep plugging away and hope that it happened at some point. I feel fortunate that it has done, and now the next step for me is to look on to the next one.
“I enjoyed every moment of it [my debut] and I’m looking through the fixtures and planning my next forage into the first-team set-up!

“That’s my role in a nutshell, really, to be ready,”
he added.
“I have to be ready daily and at the weekend, regardless of whether I’m on the bench, starting or in the stands. The football club brought me here because they can trust me to do that, so that’s my role.”

Lee wasn’t the only man making his first start for United in Kazakhstan. Under-23 players Ethan Laird, Di’Shon Bernard and Dylan Levitt also made their bows, while D'Mani Mellor, Largie Ramazani and Ethan Galbraith came off the bench to make their first-team debuts.

“I was really delighted for the young guys who were involved in that game,”
said the stopper.
“The young guys are really good. They’re all mature and ready to be involved, so from my perspective, it was nice to have them around.
“Of course, it was strange not having those senior members around you that you’re used to, but at the same time it was nice to be in that authoritative position in the squad.

“The evening as a whole felt a little bit bigger than the result. It was more important in terms of what it meant to the football club, to have so many young players involved in an important fixture, no matter which way you look at it.

“To some people it may look like an insignificant fixture: Manchester United, already through, away in Kazakhstan, perhaps we’re not too fussed about what happens there.

“But Manchester United pride themselves on what they do with their young players and also wanting to win every game, so it’s an important fixture. It was a pleasure to be involved with.”
Lee Grant says

“Top spot is at stake, everybody wants to finish top and we also know that Alkmaar are a good team, so everybody will want to be involved."

Lee also shrugged off suggestions that Thursday night’s fixture is also insignificant. The Reds welcome AZ to Old Trafford with both teams already qualified for the knockout stages. However, with top spot in the group still up for grabs, the keeper stressed the importance of taking all three points against the Dutch side.
“Every game is important,”
he said
“You won’t catch the management or the players coming into these types of games, taking their foot off the gas, being relaxed or not viewing them as important.

“Especially when you’re playing at home, you’re playing in front of fans who are demanding results, good levels of performance and that’s something we all want to display.

“Top spot is at stake, everybody wants to finish top and we also know that Alkmaar are a good team, so everybody will want to be involved, from the youngsters who had a sniff in Kazakhstan all the way up to the first team.

“We’ve shown some really positive signs lately and I think we can carry the spark we’ve shown and the goal threat that we carry throughout the team, regardless of position, to really put our stamp down on the game and hopefully get the right result.”

Read the full exclusive interview with Lee in Thursday's United Review, which will be on sale inside and around Old Trafford before and during the AZ Alkmaar game.