Lee Grant training at Astana Arena

Grant grasping chance to start for United

Lee Grant may have been “waiting a long time” for his maiden start with Manchester United, but the 36-year-old says he will savour every moment whilst focusing fully on maintaining the Reds’ excellent defensive record in the Europa League.

Grant will begin a competitive game in goal for the first time in his Reds’ career as he makes just his second appearance for the club following his debut last September as a second-half substitute against former side Derby County in a Carabao Cup third-round tie.

With the Reds already qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has brought a young squad with him out to Astana and has opted to leave David De Gea and Sergio Romero at home to prepare for a busy run of matches in December. That has afforded Grant his opportunity and the experienced keeper can’t wait.

“It’s got big significance for me [this game]. I’ve been waiting for a long time. I’m excited by the prospect [of it] and it will be a proud moment,” he told MUTV. “I had a taste of it in the cup last year pretty quickly after I signed and I’ve had to wait quite a while since. I’m really excited by the prospect and I can’t wait to get out there.

“Day to day, my role consists of basically getting after the other two [goalkeepers] and keeping them on their toes. But, of course, from a professional standpoint, it's about keeping my standards as high as possible and giving myself an opportunity to be in the team when called upon because that chance can come around very quickly and I have to be ready. 

“There will be a few nerves [on Thursday], I don’t think that ever really leaves you throughout your career regardless of where you’ve been or what you’ve done. I think those nerves show that you’re ready and hopefully it’ll be a nice evening’s work.”

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In front of Grant will be a host of budding prospects, with Solskjaer revealing he will hand debuts to at least three members of the travelling squad - Ethan Laird, Di'Shon Bernard and Dylan Levitt.

“It sends out a great message to everyone at the club, right from the Under-9s through to the Under-23s, everyone should be looking at this game with a real sense of pride. The players we’ve brought here are ready to play and it’s an opportunity for them and they’ve earned the right to be part of the first-team set-up for this game. A number of them have been part of the senior squad for a number of weeks and months now and it’s exciting for everyone involved with the football club.”

Back-up for Grant on the night will be 19-year-old Matej Kovar who is rated highly by the 36-year-old.

“He’s an excellent prospect,” declared Grant. “I enjoy working with him, he’s a good kid and he’s got a really good attitude. I experienced it myself as a young goalkeeper; it’s not an easy journey to get through and make your first experience at a club, especially at one the size of this. So there is a lot of work ahead for him but, for me, he’s shown the right characteristics and he’s got a great future.”

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