Teenager Mason Greenwood scored his first senior goal as Manchester United stuttered to a 1-0 victory over Astana in their Europa League opener.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have breathed a sigh of relief as the 17-year-old finally opened the scoring against the Kazakhstan side with 17 minutes left on the Old Trafford clock.
Tipped by his boss as one of the best natural finishers he’s seen, Greenwood was the youngest of three teenage academy products starting for United and the only one still on the pitch when he netted on just his second start.
It spared United’s blushes, as they passed up numerous opportunities and found Astana stopper Nenad Eric in inspired form between the sticks.
Rather than going home frustrated, however, United fans will be talking about their latest star and just how many goals Greenwood may net in the famous red shirt.
Despite making nine changes from the victory over Leicester, United dominated from the off and very nearly opened the scoring after just three minutes, Fred firing a shot against the bar from range on his return to the side.
Marcus Rashford was then guilty of passing up a gilt-edged chance 10 minutes later. The ball fell to him in the six-yard box and he should have scored, only to fire his effort straight at Astana keeper Eric.
Greenwood fired wide after a neat flick from Rashford, before the England striker passed up another opportunity with a weak finish that was easily claimed by Eric.
United had a near complete hold of the ball and camped out in Astana’s half, only for their final ball to let them down on numerous occasions as Old Trafford grew frustrated before the break.
The second half started in similar vein as United huffed and puffed but couldn’t find a breakthrough. Greenwood and Tahith Chong were inches away from getting on the end of Marcos Rojo cross, Greenwood saw a shot brilliantly blocked and Rashford and Fred both waste set-piece opportunities.
Up the other end, Astana did show some signs of ambition on the counter-attack. Marin Tomasov’s excellent ball was turned wide at the back post by Dorin Rotariu.
With 22 minutes remaining, Solskjaer rung the changes - off went Angel Gomes and Chong, on came Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata.
But it was the youngest man on the pitch who made the different six minutes later in front of the Stretford End.
Greenwood was fed the ball by Fred, he faked to go on on his left foot, shifted the ball onto his right, jinked past his full-back and fired it low and hard under the body of Eric.
Rojo nearly doubled that lead with a thunderous effort from range, which Eric tipped around the post, before Jesse Lingard hit the woodwork and saw Diogo Dalot fluff his lines from the rebound.
A far from perfect display from United but a future Old Trafford hero ensured it wasn’t an embarrassing one and you suspect it won’t be the only time he does that in the next decade.
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