Manchester United confirmed their position at the top of their group in the Europa League with an emphatic 4-0 win against Dutch side AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford on Thursday evening.
The first half remained fairly uneventful with both sides playing fairly passive football, happy to pass the ball around the back four without taking too many risks. Bar the odd fast counter from Man Utd neither side really looked like scoring.
The game changed in the second half though as the Red Devils began pressing for an opening goal and becoming more adventurous with the ball. They took the lead through a composed finish from Ashley Young into the roof of the net from a tight angle after clever skill from Andreas Pereira and a neat pass across the goal from Juan Mata.
The goal led to Alkmaar’s capitulation as they went on to concede three more in just over 11 minutes.
Mason Greenwood netted the second in controversial circumstances with a sweet strike from just outside the box. He received the ball after what seemed a clear foul from James Garner but the ref waved play on. Greenwood was again involved minutes later as a clever touch from the youngster off a through ball led to a penalty as he was tripped by Jordy Classie. Mata stepped up to the plate and buried the pen. Just moments later, Greenwood scored his second of the night as he cut inside onto his left foot and swept the ball past the keeper from the right side of the box to make it 4-0.
Alkmaar remained seemingly uninterested in attack as they continued to apply little pressure to United’s back four. The Dutch side scrape through the group in second place while Man Utd comfortably top it. An easy night’s work for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his team.
Key Talking Point
Manchester United’s youth showed they can be relied upon when needed. The likes of Mason Greenwood showed how dangerous and fearless he can be and has given United fans further reason to be excited about the future. Brandon Williams showed great calmness both at the back and going forward today despite his relative inexperience.
With Solskajer willing to look to the younger players, United know there are exciting, young talents ready to step in at any time.
Starting XI: Romero (6), Young (7), Tuanzebe (5), Maguire (6), Williams (6), Garner (4), Matic (5), Mata (7), Pereira (7), Greenwood (9), Martial (6)
Substitutes: Jones (6), Chong (6), Laird (6)
Mason Greenwood has proven once again he can be relied on by United despite his relatively young age. Even at just 18 years old, Greenwood showed great composure on the ball, protecting it well and helping to create chances.
Both goals required great poise which he showed in abundance to sweep both past the helpless goalkeeper.
Greenwood showed his willingness to make runs down the middle as well as show his danger out wide so United could have a fantastic player on their hands in the years to come. They will have to figure out whether he is more comfortable down the middle or out wide.
Starting XI: Bizot (6), Clasie (4), Wijndal (5), Svensson (5), Wuytens (5), Midtsjo (5), de Wit (6), Koopmeiners (5), Idrissi (6), Stengs (6), Sugawara (5)
Substitutes: Vlaar (5), Ouwejan (5), Druijf (5)
The Premier League returns again this weekend and Manchester United face managerless Everton at home on Sunday as they look to continue their strong run of form.
Alkmaar face a very difficult challenge as they take on Eredivisie champions Ajax at home on Sunday in the league.