Mason Greenwood's 1st Senior Goal Leads Manchester United Past Astana

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2019

Manchester United's striker Mason Greenwood celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the UEFA Europa League Group L football match between Manchester United and Astana at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on September 19, 2019. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)        (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Mason Greenwood wrote his name into the record books as Manchester United's youngest-ever goalscorer in European competition after netting his first senior goal to help United beat FC Astana 1-0 in the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League at Old Trafford on Thursday night.

The 17-year-old's second-half strike helped a team featuring nine changes from Saturday's 1-0 Premier League win over Leicester City ensure the winners of this competition in 2017 set the early pace in Group L.

Bleacher Report Live @brlive

Mason Greenwood gets his first senior goal for Manchester United 🔴⚫ ➡️ https://t.co/rHZzZ7i4yv https://t.co/BzVdSBbcup

Football on BT Sport @btsportfootball

Man Utd FINALLY have the breakthrough vs Astana... And it just had to be Mason Greenwood 🙌 The youngster bags his first senior goal! https://t.co/rOxyVmAN3y

United predictably owned possession from the off against an Astana team putting nine men behind the ball. The hosts dominated, but their play left a lot to be desired.

Rashford went close from a free-kick and was also denied by a fine stop from Nenad Eric when one on one. Aside from Rashford, United weren't getting enough men into threatening positions in the danger areas.

It didn't help there was a curious shape to the home side's front three. Marcus Rashford occupied the middle, while Greenwood, a prolific centre-forward at academy level, was shunted out wide, where he rarely looked comfortable.

In fairness to the players up top, there was a lack of quality service, particularly from wide areas. Raiding right-back Diogo Dalot was never shy about getting forward, but his poor final decisions were raising the ire of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:

Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst

Solskjaer telling Dalot to move further forward. Not happy with him standing deep. Rashford's finish very similar to the one he wasted at Bournemouth last season before he did score. #mufc

Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst

Solskjaer particularly angry with Dalot. Couldn't understand why he didn't cross it earlier. United have played reasonably well but just not clinical enough so far. #mufc

Things didn't improve immediately after a goalless first half, with Greenwood still looking lost out wide following the restart. United were still struggling to move the ball quickly enough between the lines to drag the visitors out of their compact shape.

At least Angel Gomes was looking confident and accomplished on the ball in midfield:

Statman Dave @StatmanDave

Angel Gomes’ first half vs. FC Astana by numbers: 94% overall pass accuracy 91% final third pass accuracy 2 fouls suffered 1 key pass Looked tidy in the final third. 👍 https://t.co/JuCcydo7hs

The 19-year-old continued to exert his influence after the break, showcasing plenty of deft touches and neat, intelligent passing. Yet even with Gomes catching the eye, United struggled to manufacture clear-cut chances.

The best the home side managed was forgotten man Fred going close from a free-kick. Solskjaer then asked experience to bail United out when he brought on Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata for Gomes and fellow 19-year-old Tahith Chong.

Despite the arrival of two senior players, it was one of the youngsters who made the difference when the previously quiet Greenwood struck on 73 minutes. A neat piece of skill fashioned a shooting chance, one the teenager took with expert coolness.

In the process, Greenwood made club history:

Squawka Football @Squawka

Youngest players to score for Man Utd in European competition: 🔴 Mason Greenwood (17Y 353D) 🔴 Marcus Rashford (18Y 117D) 🔴 George Best (18Y 158D) Not a bad list to be top of. https://t.co/mARxqTBwHa

United went close to doubling the lead when a Lingard effort struck the bar and Dalot fluffed his lines from the rebound. Lingard also went close when Greenwood played him in late on, only for Eric to stand tall once again.

The Red Devils made it over the line, but Solskjaer's refreshed group looked far from impressive doing it, bar Greenwood, who offered a timely reminder of his match-winning quality in front of goal.


What's Next?

The Red Devils are away to West Ham United in domestic action on Sunday, while Astana face Zhetysu at home on the same day. Both teams return to the Europa League on Oct. 3, when United travel to face AZ Alkmaar and Astana host Partizan Belgrade.