Europa League Group L: Manchester United v Astana
Kick-off: 8pm, Thursday. Venue: Old Trafford. On TV: Live on Virgin Media Sport and BT Sport 2.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has described Mason Greenwood as one of the best finishers he has seen, and is ready to give the 17-year-old a first senior start of the season in the Europa League group game against Astana on Thursday.
The Manchester United manager intends to make several changes, with one or two regulars nursing injuries and a testing game at West Ham in the Premier League on Sunday.
Daniel James has joined Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial on the sidelines after picking up a knock in the last league match against Leicester, and Solskjær hinted that Axel Tuanzebe, Diogo Dalot, Jesse Lingard and Fred are likely to face the Kazakh champions at Old Trafford.
“It’s a process at this club: some of the younger players need to grow and take their first steps,” Solskjær said. “If you don’t throw them in at some point you don’t know what you’ve got. I’ve always done this wherever I’ve been, and if you have good young forward players they will win you games.”
Marcus Rashford came through early as a result of being blooded through necessity in the Europa League under Louis van Gaal, and Solskjær is confident Greenwood can follow Rashford's example.
Greenwood's first start for the club came at Cardiff at the end of last season, and in coming on against Paris Saint-Germain in March he became United's youngest European debutant since Norman Whiteside.
“He’s still very young but he’s been maturing in the last six months,” the United manager said. “When I first came here I found a kid who just wanted to play with his mates in the under-18s, but now he’s knocking on the first-team door and his appetite is growing.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on him at this stage, I just want him to go out there and enjoy himself. He’ll be all right when the ball lands at his feet because he’s one of the best finishers I’ve seen, but the game is all about working hard and closing down when you don’t have the ball.
“Finishing might look as if it comes naturally to Mason, but I don’t actually believe you get gifts like that from birth, and I’ve seen how hard he works in training. His technique is brilliant, and that is a result of constant practice and repetition.”