Astana v Manchester United team news
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to hand a number of academy products a first-team chance during Manchester United's Europa League clash with Astana on Thursday.
United will head to Kazakhstan having already guaranteed their place in the knockout stages of Europe’s secondary competition and Solskjaer is keen to use the game as an opportunity to give several young players a chance to impress in the first team.
Indeed, 14 of United’s travelling party are under the age of 20, with the only senior players included in the squad being Lee Grant, Axel Tuanzebe, Luke Shaw and Jesse Lingard.
Academy trio Di’Shon Bernard, Ethan Laird and Dylan Levitt are all set to start Thursday’s match and, with temperatures at the Astana Arena set to fall to around -10 degrees Celsius, Solskjaer feels it will be a good experience for the youngsters.
“If our young players are going to learn to play in these European games, I think this is a great start for them,” Solskjaer told reporters.
“It’s the right challenge for these boys now and it’s going to be a good game of football. It’s hard with the young kids to give them enough games against men, professional games.”
Veteran goalkeeper Grant will bring up the average age of the team on Thursday, as he is set to be handed his first United start.
The 36-year-old’s only previous senior appearance for the Red Devils came as a substitute in last season’s Carabao Cup defeat to Derby, but Solskjaer feels he is another player that deserves a chance.
“He’s probably the fittest of the goalkeepers, he always does extra. He’s a 36-year-old going on 26. I’ve got the perfect goalkeeping department,” Solskjaer added.
Astana are bottom of Group L and can no longer reach the knockout stages after losing all four of their games to date.
The Kazakh champions did clinch their domestic title earlier this month, but they will be without key man Marin Tomasov on Thursday due to injury.