Five things we learned as Manchester United lose 2-1 to Astana

A youthful Manchester United side gave up a half time lead to lose 2-1 to Astana on a freezing night in Kazakhstan.

Thankfully, United’s fifth game in Europa League Group L was a dead rubber with the Red Devils already through with the hosts eliminated without a point to their name before kick off.

Here’s five things we learned despite the defeat…

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Jesse Lingard has his confidence back

The obvious caveat to any positive conclusion that can be drawn from the match is that the opposition was of a reasonably poor standard and United lost it anyway.

Even allowing for that, Jesse Lingard needed a game to get his confidence back and this was it.

His early opening goal clearly got his tail up and thereafter, he kept popping up in space and driving at Astana.

Lingard took a number of potshots which indicate his belief is coming back in front of goal, having netted his first strike of the season.

It was a disappointing result, but a good night for Lingard individually, even though his maiden outing as captain ended in defeat.

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Luke Shaw is lacking sharpness

Like Lingard, Luke Shaw was handed some much-needed minutes, adding some experience to United’s youngest ever European side.

But he looked slow and sluggish during his first outing since the August bank holiday weekend.

It has taken him too long to get up to speed following injuries before and he didn’t exactly hit the ground running here.

On 23 minutes, he fell asleep and handed Dorin Rotariu a chance, at a time when United were in complete control and the winning goal came down his left hand side.

Brandon Williams was left at home and on this evidence, he doesn’t have to worry about Shaw regaining his spot any time soon.

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Axel Tuanzebe could replace Victor Lindelof

Axel Tuanzebe marshalled the backline and looks sharp following a period of injury.

Victor Lindelof was impressive last season but has been nervous this time around and there’s a growing case that Tuanzebe would be a more reliable partner at this moment in time.

He will only get better the more he plays and it was a very encouraging night’s work from the defender, who could do nothing to stop either goal.

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A positive midfield makes all the difference

The United midfield was placed under little pressure all night but Lingard, James Garner and Dylan Levitt were always looking to turn and go forward when they got the ball.

That makes a welcome change for supporters who have grown used to Fred’s safety-first approach at the heart of midfield this season, and to a lesser extent Andreas Pereira’s.

It makes all the difference; taking pressure away from the backline and helping the side to get on the front foot as much as possible. United kept moving the ball smartly even after going behind, even if more risks may have been welcome at times.

Garner especially may hope for more first team chances in the absence of Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay.

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Tatith Chong again fails to deliver

Tatith Chong and Angel Gomes started the game on the wings, handed another chance to show why they have been talked about with such excitement for a number of years now.

Despite the fact that United were on top for much of the game, against defenders without great pace or match fitness, neither man was able to greatly influence proceedings.

Gomes offered at least glimpses of what he could do, and can perhaps be pardoned somewhat because his slender stature suggests he’s a late developer.

Chong should have the physicality to make an impact in the men’s game and has little excuse for being so ineffectual once again before his 65th minute substitution.

He missed an absolute sitter in the second half, and Astana promptly went down the other end to equalise 38 seconds later. That passage of play swung the game away from United.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.