Revealed: Solskjaer's team to face FC Astana
Manchester United's team to face FC Astana in UEFA Europa League Group L at Old Trafford tonight (Thursday, kick-off 20:00 BST) has been announced.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made wholesale changes - nine from the Reds XI that beat Leicester City 1-0 last Saturday afternoon - as Old Trafford stages a night of firsts.
The nine players brought into the side are all making their first starts of the season. Sergio Romero, who played in our Europa League final win in Stockholm in 2017, is back in goal for the new continental campaign.
With Lee Grant on the bench as cover, it means a rest for David de Gea who signed his new Old Trafford contract on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the back line from the Premier League game against the Foxes has been completely replaced with Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Axel Tuanzebe making up the rearguard against the Kazakhstan outfit.
Nemanja Matic is the only midfield survivor from the Leicester win but Fred joins him in the starting XI following his 23-minute substitute appearance last Saturday.
The other player who keeps his place in what is otherwise a freshening-up exercise is Marcus Rashford. The successful penalty taker last weekend leads our European attack, alongside Mason Greenwood who makes his first start of the season.
Ole has opted for a youthful creative core against FC Astana with Tahith Chong adding to his 20-minute cameo off the bench against Leicester by beginning a game for the very first time. Angel Gomes shares that achievement; the 19-year-old was an unused sub against Leicester and his previous four senior outings were all from the bench, including his debut against Cardiff City on the final day of the 2016/17 Premier League season.
Solskjaer believes the Europa League stage is the perfect platform for the United youngsters' education.
“I think we've got a mix of experience and youngsters. The youngsters are more up front and I think it's about time they get the chance to play,” the manager told BT Sport.
“Let's hope they [Gomes, Chong and Greenwood] enjoy it. They're playing with Marcus who started off his career in the Europa League and they know how important this can be for their development. Let's just hope the other more experienced lads around them play up to their standards and make it easy for the youngsters.
”We've played a few games behind closed doors and the kids have been doing well in training. Everyone wants to help them develop their careers and the Europa League is always a nice time for them to get their first game out of the way.
“We want to progress, it's a tournament we want to win and tonight is the start of that.”
Solskjaer also suggested to MUTV that it will be the experienced core who'll decide whether or not the Reds succeed in the opening European fixture of the season.
”There are players that need game time, that want to show me and the other staff that they should play more,
“ he said.
”I hope it can be a good blend so that the experienced ones can help the younger players express themselves. They’re out there to enjoy themselves, but the older professionals are there to make sure we win the game.
United: Romero, Dalot, Jones, Tuanzebe, Rojo, Matic, Fred, Chong, Gomes, Greenwood, Rashford.
Subs: Grant, Maguire, Young, McTominay, Garner, Lingard, Mata.
Astana: Eric; Shomko, Simunovic, Postnikov, Rukavina; Maevski, Tomasevic; Tomasov, Sigurjonsson, Rotariu; Murtazayev.
Subs: Mokin, Muzhikov, Beysebekov, Logvinenko, Mubele, Pertsukh, Janga.