Man United kids show promise at Astana but Tahith Chong's miss proves pivotal
Two goals in seven minutes gifted Astana an unlikely 2-1 victory against Manchester United in the Europa League. Jesse Lingard had spearheaded United's youngest-ever side in a European match and scored as United raced to an early lead.
However, the Reds were left to rue a glaring miss from Tahith Chong that would have doubled their advantage. Two quickfire efforts followed from the home side, the second an unfortunate own goal, and gifted the Kazakh champions their first win in Group L.
Despite the result, there was plenty to please Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, particularly the performances of Ethan Laird at right-back and Mason Greenwood in attack. His young side dominated the ball at times and looked dangerous when going forward, but ultimately a seven-minute spell undid all the good work.
Solskjaer will have felt uneasy with the way Astana dominated the opening exchanges of the second half. He will feel particularly aggrieved with the way the hosts equalised, their leveller coming just 38 seconds after Chong's glaring miss.
Manager rating out of 10
5 - Solskjaer made a brave decision to blood so many youngsters, though his decision seemed justified for much of the game. Ultimately, though, they buckled when put under pressure, but the Norwegian may still feel the experience will have long-term benefits for his young squad.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Lee Grant 5 -- A comfortable first half turned into a testing second for the former Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday and Burnley shot-stopper. Dealt with any tests thrown at him before half-time but could do little about either goal.
DF Ethan Laird 7 -- The youngster impressed with a series of attacking runs down the right, often overlapping and driving into the box or towards the byline and offering United's greatest attacking outlet. Looked assured when on defensive duty, too.
DF Di'Shon Bernard 5 -- The centre-back was comfortable in the first half but was unlucky twice after the break, first when Dmitri Shomko struck the ball through his legs for the equaliser and again when he deflected Antonio Rukavina's cross into his own goal.
DF Axel Tuanzebe 5 -- Looked a strong presence at the back and won his aerial battles. His central pairing with Bernard was tested in a critical spell of 15 minutes in the second half and the duo struggled to deal with the pressure. Looked comfortable with the ball at his feet.
DF Luke Shaw 6 -- The experienced left-back needed to impress but he switched off early on to lose Dorin Rotariu as Astana came close to scoring. He redeemed himself with a key defensive clearance when under pressure on the hour mark.
MF James Garner 6 -- Both Garner and Levitt looked comfortable in the middle of the park, dominating possession and attempting to take risks in and around the opposition area, though their influence wilted after Astana's double strike. Made way for Largie Ramazani.
MF Dylan Levitt 6 -- A mature performance in the centre of the park and, until the goals, was rarely put under pressure when he had the ball at his feet. Looked confident and was constantly starting attacks from deep positions. Unlucky to receive a yellow card in the second half.
MF Tahith Chong 4 -- Looked lively on the right flank with his quick feet and looked comfortable when drifting into central areas, though at times looked overreliant on his left foot. Missed a golden opportunity to score his first United goal but missed an open goal. A pivotal moment in the game.
MF Jesse Lingard 6 -- The attacking midfielder, captaining United for the first time, ended a run of 28 games without a goal to open the scoring. His fine strike, with the outside of his boot to the goalkeeper's left, was one of several chances in the first half.
FW Angel Gomes 6 -- A good run inside the first 10 minutes was a glimpse of things to come, though he often found his route to goal blocked. When United needed someone to take risks in the second half, Gomes was the one to try to make things happen. Saw a free-kick saved with 15 minutes left on the clock.
FW Mason Greenwood 7 -- Greenwood came into the game with three goals in his last four starts and he came close to making it four in five on numerous occasions. He showed good movement throughout and tested the goalkeeper with a series of shots in and around the area, particularly a stinging effort 12 minutes from time.
D'Mani Bughail-Mellor 5 -- Came into the game at a testing point with United having gone two goals down, and subsequently struggled to stamp his authority on the game. Showed signs of his speed and aggression with the ball.
Largie Ramazani N/A -- Came on late and had little time to influence proceedings.
Ethan Galbraith N/A -- Replaced Gomes as stoppage time approached.