Manchester United’s Europa League match at Astana is the ideal opportunity for the Premier League club to field youngsters in a top level game as they have already qualified for the knockout stages, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said on Wednesday.
With 10 points from four games, Group L leaders United are assured of a place in the last-32 and Solskjaer said it was “common sense” to rest most of their senior players while a number of youngsters expected to make their senior debut.
“We have done great to qualify after four games and it gives us an opportunity to give game time to experienced lads who need it,” Solskjaer told reporters ahead of Thursday’s encounter.
“Axel (Tuanzebe), Luke (Shaw), Jesse (Lingard)... have not played too many games. It’s a great chance to give (36-year-old goalkeeper) Lee Grant his first start for the club.
“It’s hard to give young kids games against men... This is a great chance to see them all together. You’ll see (Ethan) Laird, (Di’Shon) Bernard and (Dylan) Levitt from the start so you’ll definitely get a few (debuts).”
United narrowly beat Astana 1-0 in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford when Solskjaer fielded a second string side and the Norwegian said he expected a similar game at the Astana Arena.
“I think this is going to be an even, tight game,” he added. “We have some young players. If they’re going to learn to play these games I think it’s a great start for them.
“I’m not expecting them to dominate but we should compete and challenge. If we went with every first team player then maybe we have a better chance to win the game. But this is the right decision and it’s going to be a great game of football.”
United’s central defender Max Taylor is expected to play — 12 months after the 19-year-old had chemotherapy for testicular cancer — and Solskjaer said his comeback was a “fantastic story”.
“I met Max very early after I got the job and to have seen his journey back to full fitness and the way he’s conducted himself, it’s something he’ll always have with him,” Solskjaer said.
“He’s been through something no one should have to go through but he’s come through the other end. He’s an inspiration to others.”
Under-fire Emery seeks fan support
Arsenal manager Unai Emery said that he hopes the club’s supporters get behind the team in their Europa League match against Eintracht Frankfurt after a string of poor results increased pressure on the Spanish manager to deliver.
Arsenal are winless in six games in all competitions and a five-match winless run in the Premier League saw them drop to eighth in the standings, with disillusioned fans constantly voicing their displeasure over their failure to win.
Group leaders Arsenal can seal progress to the knockout stages of the Europa League with a win over Frankfurt and Emery said he hopes to “connect” with the disappointed fanbase and win them over.
“We are doing a very good job in this competition but we need to make sure of our first position in the table. Our second objective is to win and take confidence as well as connect with our supporters,” Emery told reporters.
“My only focus is to show tomorrow our performance and connect with our supporters. We know our supporters are disappointed... My wish is, tomorrow, every supporter helps the team and helps the players.
“Our confidence depends a lot on how we can feel in our stadium with our supporters. Teams are coming here playing fearlessly, we need to be strong and together.”
Emery said midfielder Granit Xhaka could return to the squad for the first time since his vocal outburst in October during a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace when he swore at home fans on being substituted and was later stripped of the captain’s armband.
Emery said earlier this month that he was unsure whether the Swiss international would play for the club again.
“He’s in the group and he has the possibility to play. I hope every supporter supports him,” Emery said. “Xhaka’s comeback is going to be important for us.”
When questioned about his own future at the club with British media linking candidates to take over if he was sacked, Emery said: “My future is today and tomorrow. My job is to prepare (for) the match tomorrow, to look only at the match tomorrow.”
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Updated Date: Nov 28, 2019 09:35:02 IST