Manchester United begin their 2019/20 Europa League campaign with a home tie against Kazakh side Astana on Thursday.
This, of course, is not the European competition Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side want to be in but the Red Devils were the winners of the 2016/17 edition and a repeat of that feat will return Champions League football to Old Trafford.
Astana dropped out of Champions League qualifying themselves this season, losing 3-2 on aggregate to CFR Cluj, but impressively beat BATE by the same scoreline to reach the Europa League group stage.
Furthermore, they’ve won the last five Kazakhstan Premier League titles and have been known to shock much larger sides in Europe over the years – they’re certainly not an opponent to be underestimated.
Read on for Man Utd vs Astana predictions, preview, team news and TV coverage information.
When is Man Utd vs Astana and where can I watch live?
Competition: Uefa Europa League
Venue: Old Trafford
Date: Thursday, 18 September 2019
Kick-off: 8:00 PM BST
TV coverage (UK): BT Sport 2
Recent form (last five matches)
14 September 2019: Man Utd 1-0 Leicester City (Premier League)
31 August 2019: Southampton 1-1 Man Utd (Premier League)
24 August 2019: Man Utd 1-2 Crystal Palace (Premier League)
19 August 2019: Wolves 1-1 Man Utd (Premier League)
11 August 2019: Man Utd 4-0 Chelsea (Premier League)
Wins: 2 Draws: 2 Losses: 1 Goal difference: +4
15 September 2019: Astana 2-1 Shakhter Karagandy (Kazakhstan Premier League)
29 August 2019: BATE 2-0 Astana (Europa League qualifying)
25 August 2019: Astana 5-0 Taraz (Kazakhstan Premier League)
22 August 2019: Astana 3-0 BATE (Europa League qualifying)
16 August 2019: Valletta 0-4 Astana (Europa League qualifying)
Wins: 4 Draws: 0 Losses: 1 Goal difference: +11
Ones to watch
Man Utd: Mason Greenwood
Mason Greenwood has been given just 47 minutes of Premier League football so far this season but with Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez departing the club, he may yet have a major role to play.
At just 17, the striker has already been described as the “one of the best finishers” ever seen by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who confirmed his place in the starting XI for the clash with Astana.
Just as Marcus Rashford did in the Europa League three years ago, could Greenwood use this competition to make a massive statement?
Key stat: Mason Greenwood is Man Utd’s youngest-ever starter (17 years, 223 days) in the Premier League era.
Astana: Marin Tomasov
Winger Marin Tomasov was undoubtedly the star of Astana’s Europa League qualifying campaign, bagging seven goals in just six games, including a hat-trick in half an hour from the bench against FC Santa Coloma.
The 32-year-old former Croatia international has a wealth of experience having turned out for the likes of Hajduk Split, 1860 Munich and Rijeka in the past and has been a potent goalscoring at almost every club he’s played for.
Whoever fills in for Luke Shaw at left-back for Man Utd will have to be on their toes.
Key stat: Only Alfredo Morelos (8) score more goals than Tomasov (7) in this season’s Europa League qualifiers.
Ahead of United’s win over Leicester, Solskjaer suggested the likes of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Diogo Dalot may be fit for the trip to West Ham this weekend, all but ruling them out of Thursday’s clash with Astana. Shaw and Eric Bailly remain long-term absentees in a United squad rocked by recent injuries.
Astana may prove to be a banana skin but United are still expected to make a number of changes to their starting XI with Premier League commitments coming thick and fast.
As well as revealing Greenwood’s place in the first XI, Solskjaer also confirmed starts for Sergio Romero and Axel Tuanzebe, while Fred is also expected to feature from the off. However, United will be without Daniel James, who joins Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw on the sidelines.
Predicted XI: Romero; Young, Maguire, Lindelof, Tuanzebe; Fred, McTominay, Pereira; Lingard, Chong, Greenwood.
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Roman Hryhorchuk’s side look clear of injuries ahead of their historic trip to Old Trafford, while they will also be able to call upon defender Zarko Tomasevic, who is facing a hefty domestic suspension.
Predicted XI: Eric; Shomko, Simunovic, Postnikov, Rukavina; Mayewski, Logvinenko; Tomasov, Sigurjonsson, Rotariu; Murtazayev.
This looks set to be a tougher game than many expect and if United over-rotate or let their guard down, they may be in for a nasty shock.
That said, the Red Devils still have a squad big enough to handle these kinds of games and can be backed to do a professional job at Old Trafford.
Scoreline prediction: Man Utd 3-0 Astana.