Belfast Telegraph

Teen star Greenwood swoops to hand United victory

Man United 1 Astana 0

Rising star: Mason Greenwood celebrates his decisive strike
Rising star: Mason Greenwood celebrates his decisive strike

By Simon Peach

Mason Greenwood opened his Manchester United account in style as the 17-year-old secured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men an unconvincing win against Astana in their Europa League opener.

Back in the competition for the first time since lifting the trophy two years ago, the Reds' gruelling road to Gdansk got off to a surprisingly uncomfortable start against the perennial Kazakhstan champions.

An embarrassing European result was looming large in front of an increasingly frustrated Old Trafford crowd, only for teenager Greenwood to produce a moment of magic and secure a 1-0 win.

Solskjaer will be relieved to have got Group L off to a winning start, although will surely be alarmed by the way his side's performance dropped off after Fred hit the woodwork and Marcus Rashford saw early efforts denied.

Perhaps the disjointed display should not come as a surprise given teenagers Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Greenwood were all handed starting roles as United named their youngest European line-up since 2012.

The latter would eventually save the day - and show just why Solskjaer called him one of the best finishers he had seen - by confidently making space and smashing home in front of the Stretford End, becoming the first player born this millennium to score for United.

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.

The second half started in similar vein as United huffed and puffed but couldn't find a breakthrough. Greenwood and Chong were inches away from getting on the end of a Marcos Rojo cross, Greenwood saw a shot brilliantly blocked and Rashford and Fred both wasted set-piece opportunities.

Astana did show some signs of ambition on the counter-attack, and Marin Tomasov's excellent ball was turned wide at the back post by Dorin Rotariu.

But Greenwood had the decisive say when he fired home in the 73rd minute, much to the relief of the United fans.

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