Manchester United vs AZ Alkmaar Analysis and Player Ratings

Mason Greenwood Celebrating scoring his brace against AZ Alkmaar.  Picture Courtesy of Getty Images

As we enter the festive season and busy December period, the schedule for Manchester United in the coming weeks is pretty intense. In fact, the Red Devils will be playing no less than five further matches before the start of New Year. Bearing this in mind, squad rotation is critical in order to keep the players fresh and ready to tackle the heavy fixture schedule. Solskjaer has realised he needs to rotate his squad as he made 9 changes to the team who beat fierce local rivals Manchester City 2-1 on  Saturday in their critical Premier League derby. Only Harry Maguire and Anthony Martial were picked to play in the must-not-lose game against AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford. The winners of this match would determine who would finish first place in the Europa League Group L Pool although United only needed to draw to top the group. The winner of the pool would definitely have an advantage in the draw for the next phase of the competition. 

Solskjaer team reflected a balance of both youth and experienced players and the team had a familiar look to it with long term absentee Nemanja Matic and bit-part player, Juan Mata playing in the starting lineup with captain, Ashley Young leading a crop of youngsters, including teenage sensation Mason Greenwood, partnering upfront with Anthony Martial. The old guard of Ashley Young and Sergio Romero held the key to defensive line with the next generation of United defenders the likes of Axel Tuanzebe and  Brandon Williams set to continue their first team starts. The first half ebbed and flowed and AZ Alkmaar were trying to catch the Red Devils on the counter attack.  A few half chances came United's way and at half time the game was reflective of a score line that matched the 0-0 result. 

Second half was a complete contrast to the first and what ever was said in the dressing room clearly had an impact on the Red Devils. In a devastating 12 minute period Manchester United managed to score 4 goals and completely mesmerised their opponents. It all started with a brilliant build up involving Andreas Pereira who linked with Juan Mata whose through ball across the goal mouth was clinically finished by Ashley Young in the 53rd minute, his first goal of the season. The very next attack allowed the star of the match Mason Greenwood to show how deadly he can be if given an opportunity to shoot at goal.  In the 58th minute the score doubled as James Garner managed to break up play and the ball fell kindly for Mason whose shot beat a despairing AZ Alkmaar goalkeeper Marco Bizot. Shortly after the restart United were looking to add to their advantage and a clumsy tackle in the penalty box on Mason Greenwood in the 62 minute allowed Juan Mata to open his account for the season from the penalty spot. He coolly slotted the penalty and promptly assisted in the fourth and final goal by setting up Man of the match Mason Greenwood to grab a brace. with a low shot to the near post to put his team four goals to the good.The pair of goals made Greenwood the youngest player to score a brace in major European competition for Manchester United at 18 years and 72 days.Solskjaer can be very happy with the performance overall and having the luxury of giving some key players a well deserved rest. He has managed to maintain the momentum from last weeks games and is looking to ensure his team can continue to improve and build on the momentum  in the coming weeks.

Player Ratings

Sergio Romero - 6  
Was a little rusty in the first half but made a magnificent save in the second half and kept a hard earned clean sheet. Romero has kept 31 clean sheets in 50 games for the Red Devils, a better clean sheet percentage than any other United goalkeeper who has played more than five games for the club.

Ashley Young (c) - 7.5 
Had a solid game at the back scored his first goal of the season.

Axel Tuanzebe - 6 
Another start in the Europa League had a good game still recovering from injury needs to keep focus.

Harry Maguire - 6.5 
Maguire had a steady game seems to beginning to warm up to the role of being a leader on the pitch and the captain for the league games.

Brandon Williams - 6 
Made a few mistakes in the first half and is still learning quickly how to improve, seemed to settle into the game easier once the first goal was scored.

Nemanja Matic - 6.5 
Marshalled the midfield astutely in his first game back following injury. Will take  game time to get back to his best

James Garner- 7 
Was very quiet in the first 45 mins but was instrumental in setting up second goal and also got stuck into key tackles. 

Andreas Pereira - 7  
Certainly one of his better United games. Showed an incredible bit of individual skill during United’s opener and bombed forward where possible.

Juan Mata -7.5 
Played some nice, clever passes forward and scored his penalty. A decent outing with two assists and an emphatic penalty.

Mason Greenwood - 9 (MOTM) 
Two wonderfully taken goals and won a penalty was by far the star of the match. His willingness to shoot at goal is a breath of fresh air. 

Anthony Martial - 6 
A relatively quiet  game and was substituted after the hour mark. Still recovering from  injury and the game time needs to be managed carefully ahead of tough fixture  schedule. 


Tahith Chong - 5.5 
Tried to make things happen but it didn’t really come off came on as substitute for Anthony Martial in 60th minute.

Phil Jones - 6
Sured up the defence. Replaced Harry Maguire in the 68th minute.

Ethan Laird - 5.5 
Had opportunity to get some more valuable game time came on for Ashley Young in the 68th minute, one to keep an eye on for the future.


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