Manchester United were able to see off a dogged Astana side to ensure their Europa League campaign began with three points, but it wasn’t as comfortable as anticipated.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have been hoping that his much-changed United side found their golden touch in front of goal, but he had to rely on a moment of inspiration from Mason Greenwood who came to the rescue.
Only Marcus Rashford and Nemanja Matic retained their starting places after the win against Leicester, as the Norwegian opted to use the opening Group L match as an opportunity to rotate his squad.
There were some players that impressed in their first start of the season, but there were others who had a night to forget…
The young Dutchman struggled to impose himself on the game and on too many occasions was trying to force the play.
Unlike Angel Gomes and Greenwood, Chong looked nervous and timid in possession. The 19-year-old didn’t showcase the direct dribbling skills, which have played a pivotal part in his rise through the United academy.
Chong was replaced by Jesse Lingard in the 67th minute and left the pitch cutting a forlorn figure and clearly frustrated with his performance.
There will be more chances for Chong throughout the season, but his body language resembled a player who knew he had missed an opportunity to impress.
Jones may have to get used to cup appearances this season, but it was Axel Tuanzebe who looked the senior centre back.
There were moments of neat footwork and a rampaging run forward, but as is always the case with Jones, he has an error in him.
In the first half, he got caught the wrong side of the Astana forward Murtazaev after he dived in and was forced to make a lunging last ditch tackle. The worry is if that lack of concentration happens against a team with real firepower, United could get punished.
The Tuanzebe and Jones partnership could be used once again in next week’s clash against Rochdale.
Rashford could have had a hat-trick in the first-half, but the England forward was thwarted on more than one occasion by the impressive Astana goalkeeper Nenad Eric.
After Solskjaer stated that he believes that Greenwood is one of the best finishers he has ever seen it would have been interesting to see how many of Rashford’s chances the 17-year-old would have slotted away.
The positives for Rashford is that he had plenty of chances, but concerns about his natural finishing ability and predatory instincts will no doubt resurface. When he got opportunities, he was too casual with them.
There were however promising signs of a burgeoning link up between Rashford and Greenwood.
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