Man United fail to register a shot on target in drab Alkmaar draw

Draw signals ninth match in a row Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have scored one goal or less

Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood and team-mates applaud the fans after the Europa League 0-0 draw with AZ Alkmaar. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood and team-mates applaud the fans after the Europa League 0-0 draw with AZ Alkmaar. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

 

AZ Alkmaar 0 Manchester United 0

Ole Gunnar Solskjær is still looking for his first away win as Manchester United’s permanent manager. Newcastle on Sunday would seem an inviting opportunity but Solskjær is going to have to alter his team and his tactics to have any hope of beating even demoralised opponents.

This was just as presentable a chance to turn a corner, yet a United side sorely lacking in ambition and creativity were unable to take it, merely adapting to AZ Alkmaar’s level and in the end being quite fortunate to escape with a draw. They were not exactly outplayed, in a borrowed stadium in front of a crowd slightly less than the stated capacity of 15,000, though the home side created the better chances and captain for the day, David de Gea, was certainly the busier of the two goalkeepers towards the end.

Solskjær’s concerns before the game had focused on the artificial surface, though it was clear from an early stage that AZ could pose United problems with the ball in the air. Myron Boadu had the ball in the net after 11 minutes from Fredrik Midtsjø’s cross. He was correctly ruled offside, yet De Gea would not have been impressed by his defenders allowing a free header. De Gea was called upon to make the first save of the game shortly afterwards, reacting well to Oussama Idrissi’s well-struck shot, and from the resulting corner Dani de Wit put another free header over the bar.

United had started well enough, with Daniel James not only playing but initially being deployed through the middle. After the first quarter passed without a shot on target Solskjær had a rethink and put James out on the right, again not his best position, with Mason Greenwood taking up his expected central role. This almost brought immediate results, with Diogo Dalot sending James skipping down the right and Greenwood meeting his cross in the middle, only for the former Aston Villa defender Ron Vlaar to block a goalbound effort.

If that was encouraging it was also untypical of United’s first-half efforts. AZ were the ones playing a more effective counterattacking game, in that they at least were capable of moving the ball swiftly upfield and on several occasions entered the United area with purpose.

United by comparison were ponderous and uninspired, retaining possession easily enough but failing to find any penetration. At 34 Vlaar might have been viewed as a weak link in the AZ defence, but the plodding, sideways game United played made it easy for the home side to stand their ground.

Making his first start for United, left-back Brandon Williams was lucky to get away with handball in the area early in the second half. Giving away a penalty would have spoiled an otherwise confident display, though the ball struck his arm and referees are now being told to ignore considerations of intent.

Marcus Rashford was sent on after an hour in an attempt to give United a little more bite up front. In the end it was another substitute, Jesse Lingard, who shot wide with a late chance to win the match. Rashford’s main contribution, a free-kick blasted wastefully high over the bar, was more in keeping with United’s overall performance. – Guardian

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.