Manchester United’s game against Astana on 19th September 2019 gave us a glimpse of the molding taking place inside Old Trafford. Astana is third in their league, having lost only one of their last five matches. On the other hand, Manchester United sits fourth in the Premier League with only two out of its last five matches. This should have been a worrying trend when making the team selection, but at least not for Ole. The team he selected for the match speaks volumes of the direction that the club is taking.
Senior players like De Gea and Lindelof were completely missing from the travelling squad, with youngsters James Garner, Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes, and Tahith Chong all making the cut. It is interesting to note that these are youth products who have been brought up through the ranks at Old Trafford. Anyone would be forgiven for terming them as the class of 2019. Credit to Ole Gunnar Solskjær for choosing to invest trust in them, and they never disappointed. In the absence of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford played from what would be considered his natural, favourite position; CF.
Angel Gomes had a decent outing. Despite his short stature and body size that would make it difficult to contest for the ball with aerially-advantaged players, Gomes has a sharp sight for spaces. He easily identifies and penetrates positions that seem difficult for the opponents to pick up, and this resulted in problems for the centre backs. He showed his dazzling skills particularly during the second half at the edge of the box to allow a low shot for Rojo, although it went unappreciated by Chong and co.
Mason Greenwood was also decent. The match was typical of United’s recent struggles in breaking sides that sit deep low and look organized. Since putting four past Chelsea on the opening day, Manchester United has scored one goal in its last four games against Wolves, Crystal Palace, Southampton, and Leicester City; they have only won against Leicester City, lost against Crystal Palace, and drawn the rest. Although this could sound alarm on United’s lack of sharpness upfront, Mason Greenwood offers hope of revival and redemption of the club’s dimming glory.
On the other hand, Tahith Chong had a quiet night, albeit showing glimpses of his abilities. However, he failed to match the expectation on either side of the flanks, flopping on both. In the second, his performance was increasingly worsening; poor ball control, incomplete passes, and easy loss of possession. At some point in the second half, he tripped over the ball and this prompted Solskjaer to prepare the substitutes.
However, a positive takeaway from the match is that United can boast of Axel Tuanzebe, Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood, James Garner, and Angel Gomes as among the teens ready to explode in Europe. The frontline might be missing finishers like Lukaku, but Mason Greenwood is more of a long term solution. The team also looks a bit disorganized at the moment, but there is hope for tomorrow as the mold continues to show the height of momentum it could hit. This is not a one-day rebuild, it may take some time, but it will be worth the wait when the team gains full moment and starts sweeping opponents aside.