Angel Gomes probes for an opening.

Talking points from the Astana Arena

Thursday 28 November 2019 17:53

Manchester United's young and inexperienced side slipped to a 2-1 defeat against Astana, despite being in almost total control in the first half.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Reds led through Jesse Lingard's early strike but conceded twice against the much-improved hosts after the break, through Dmitri Shomko and Di'Shon Bernard's unfortunate own goal.

We take a look at some of the key topics coming out of the Group L tie...

Jesse Lingard lashes home the opening goal after 10 minutes.


Captain Lingard's first goal of the season was an excellent one, smashing a firm drive past home skipper Nenad Eric's despairing left hand from the edge of the box in the 10th minute. The midfielder celebrated in front of the travelling Red Army and clearly enjoyed the moment. With his tail up, he could have added to his tally in the first half as he remained a real threat. It was the first time the starting captain had scored for the club since Ashley Young hit the net at Crystal Palace in February.


Head of first-team development Nicky Butt had warned beforehand he expected the youngsters to make mistakes but it was an assured start. James Garner and Dylan Levitt, who attended the same development centre as kids, controlled matters in the middle of the park, while Angel Gomes was typically bright and inventive. In terms of silencing the home crowd, it was an ideal opening to the fixture, even before Lingard's strike, by the club's youngest-ever line-up in European games, excluding qualifiers. Unfortunately, the side from Kazakhstan turned things around in the second half to show what a steep learning curve it is at this level.


Forwards Largie Ramazani and D'Mani Mellor came off the bench to make their first appearance at senior level, before Ethan Galbraith's late introduction for Gomes. They joined Ethan Laird, Bernard and Levitt in making their bow to ensure history was made with the most debutants in a game for the club since World War I.


Almost 1,000 Reds fans were in the away end at the Astana Arena but there were more flags, banners and shirts scattered around the ground as it was clear Ole's men were a top draw on a special night for a club only formed in 2009. It was not easy to travel 3,000 miles to Nur-Sultan, with no direct route except for the Aeroflot charter flight carrying the official party and players.Yet so many supporters will follow their team wherever we play in the world and all credit must go to them for their devotion.

Manchester United fans at the Astana Arena.


Despite the defeat, United can still earn top spot in Group L, after already qualifying for the knockout stages. AZ Alkmaar can gain three points from the match against Partizan Belgrade later tonight and it is set to be a winner-takes-all situation at Old Trafford when we take on the Dutch outfit on 13 December. It's important to win the group in order to be seeded, along with the four third-placed teams from the Champions League with the best group records, when the draw for the round of 32 takes place. The Reds cannot be paired with another English side.


United always had one eye on Sunday's home Premier League match against Aston Villa and Luke Shaw got through the 90 minutes on his return from a hamstring injury. Lingard can be pleased with his performance and Ole will hopefully have a number of rested regulars available for the game, with the fixtures starting to come thick and fast now.

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