Manchester United 4-0 AZ Alkmaar: Mason Greenwood’s brace sees hosts seal top-spot in Europa League Group L as Ashley Young and Juan Mata also score in an 11-minute second-half blitz
- Ashley Young gave Manchester United the lead from close range on 53 minutes on Thursday night
- Mason Greenwood made it 2-0 to the hosts five minutes later with a left-footed shot from outside the area
- Greenwood then earned United a penalty, from which playmaker Juan Mata converted on 62 minutes
- Greenwood grabbed his second goal two minutes later with an emphatic finish to the delight of the fans
- CLICK HERE to re-live all the action from Old Trafford as it happened with Sportsmail’s DAN RIPLEY
Group L certainly hasn’t been a group of hell, but Manchester United will have been relieved to clinch first place and park the Europa League until February.
Victory over AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford saw United advance to the knockout stage as one of the 16 seeded teams in Monday’s draw, thus avoiding the threat of Champions League dropouts Ajax, Inter Milan, Red Bull Salzburg and Benfica.
There was little else at stake here between two clubs that had already qualified from this group before kick-off ahead of Partizan Belgrade and Astana, and for more than 50 minutes it felt like it.
Mason Greenwood’s impressive full debut season with Manchester United continued on Thursday night against AZ Alkmaar
Greenwood scored two goals on the night – including this for his second – as United thumped AZ Alkmaar 4-0
Greenwood slides on his knees in celebration after scoring his second goal of the night to make it 4-0 to the hosts
The 18-year-old was quickly congratulated by his team-mates after his brilliant goal in front of the Stretford End
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Romero 6; Young 6.5 (Laird 68, 6.5), Tuanzebe 7, Maguire 6.5 (Jones 68, 6), Williams 7; Garner 6.5, Matic 6.5; Greenwood 8, Mata 7, Pereira 7; Martial 6 (Chong 59, 6). Subs: Grant, Rashford, Fred, McTominay.
Goals: Young 53, Greenwood 58 and 64; Mata (pen) 62
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 7.5
AZ Alkmaar (4-3-3): Bizot 5; Svensson 5.5, Clasie 5, Wuytens 6, Wijndal 6; Midtsjo 5.5, Stengs 6.5, Koopmeiners 6; Sugawara 6.5 (Vlaar 68, 6), De Wit 6 (Druijf 63, 6), Idrissi 7 (Ouwejan 77, 6). Subs: De Boer, Aboukhal, Reijnders, Kramer.
Booked: Clasie, Midtsjo, Koopmeiners
Manager: Arse Slot 5
Referee: Sandro Scharer (Switzerland) 6
But then a remarkable burst of four goals in 11 minutes saw Ashley Young break the deadlock before the excellent Mason Greenwood scored twice and earned a penalty converted by Juan Mata to give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side a more comfortable win than the scoreline suggests.
Solskjaer fielded a stronger and older team than he did in Kazakhstan against Astana a fortnight ago, although there was still a healthy smattering of youngsters in the shape of Axel Tuanzebe, Brandon Williams, James Garner and Greenwood.
Nemanja Matic also made his first appearance since playing in a goalless draw against Alkmaar in Den Haag at the beginning of October after more than two months out with injury.
United edged what has to be said was a rather uneventful first half befitting a match of limited importance that was played in front of plenty of empty red seats at Old Trafford.
Andreas Pereira created an early chance after a mazy run against three defenders that ended with a shot well held by goalkeeper Marco Bizot at his near post, but it was another 21 minutes before United threatened again.
Young clipped the ball into the box and Greenwood knocked it down for Mata with time and space, but the little Spaniard skewed his volley and it was always sailing wide.
Mata wasted another chance in the 33rd minute when he fired straight at Jordy Clasie from close range at the end of a breakaway also involving Greenwood and Young.
At 5ft 7in, Clasie was an interesting choice to play at centre-back – particularly considering 6ft 2in Ron Vlaar was on the bench – and the former Southampton man was the first player to be booked after bringing down Anthony Martial just before the half-hour mark.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer acknowledges the crowd prior to kick-off against AZ Alkmaar
Former Southampton midfielder Jordy Clasie (right) was deployed at centre back for AZ Alkmaar on Thursday night
Nemanja Matic (centre) was making his first appearance for the Red Devils since October due to injury
Red Devils centre back Axel Tuanzebe (right) puts pressure on Oussama Idrissi as the visitors try to start an attack
Alkmaar had their moments too and finished the half strongly. Oussama Idrissi’s low diagonal cross was begging for a finish but bobbled wide of the far post, Dani de Wit turned an effort over from close-range under pressure from Tuanzebe, and Calvin Stengs steered another attempt narrowly wide of Sergio Romero’s left-hand post.
Stengs had a great opportunity to break the deadlock moments after the restart when Idrissi’s cross reached him in front of goal but his instinctive effort was straight at Romero.
Martial was then presented with an equally good chance by the impressive Greenwood but lifted his shot over the bar from 10 yards.
Still, there was little to hint at the goal flurry that was about to follow.
It took until the 53rd minute for the deadlock to be broken – and that came via United captain Ashley Young
The 34-year-old was congratulated by his team-mates after firing home from close range following a cross by Juan Mata
Just five minutes later, United doubled their lead when Greenwood grabbed his first of the night at Old Trafford
It was a fabulous and instinctive strike from the England Under-21 international that was just outside the penalty area
It started in the 53rd minute when Pereira wriggled free of Jonas Svensson at the corner flag and combined with Matic and Mata for the latter to cross to the far post where Young hammered the ball into the roof of the net from a difficult angle.
Alkmaar were upset over the second and with good reason after Midtsjo’s run was ended by what appeared to be a foul by Garner. The Dutch team hesitated, expecting a freekick, but Greenwood didn’t. He took one touch and steered a left foot shot beyond Bizot from 20 yards.
Greenwood was the architect of United’s third as well when his bursting run into the box brought a clumsy challenge from Clasie, and Mata converted from the penalty spot.
The youngster, who has excelled in this competition, then rounded off the scoring against a shell-shocked Alkmaar when he cut in from the right and beat Bizot at his near post.
Greenwood was at the heart of everything good for Solskjaer’s side in the second half and soon earned them a penalty
Juan Mata duly stepped up and converted the spot kick into the right-hand side of the net to make it 3-0 on 62 minutes
The 31-year-old celebrated his strike with Greenwood as the pair rejoice in front of Old Trafford’s Stretford End
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