Manchester United will be looking to end the group stages of the 2019-20 UEFA Europa League with a win when they take on Dutch outfit AZ Alkmaar at home.
Manchester United will be looking to clinch the top spot in Group L of the 2019-20 UEFA Europa League when they lock horns with AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford on Thursday night.
Manchester United have already qualified for the knockout phase of the competition and currently sit atop the group, with ten points from five games, just a point above AZ in second. And a draw on Thursday will be enough for them to end this phase of the tournament as group leaders.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will be full of confidence having won two big games against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City in the Premier League this past week. They will be aiming to carry that momentum forward and make it three wins in three across all competitions.
AZ Alkmaar, however, will be a difficult opponent for the Red Devils to get past. The Dutch outfit are currently on a nine-game unbeaten across all competitions, with their last defeat coming in October. Having held Manchester United to a draw in the reverse fixture, Arne Slot’s men will be looking to take all three points at Old Trafford and claim the top spot for themselves.
Team News & Tactics
Manchester United have been greeted with some positive news on the injury front as Diogo Dalot, Marcos Rojo and Nemanja Matic are all back in training. Eric Bailly and Timothy Fosu-Mensah are also closing in on a return, although Paul Pogba remains sidelined. Jesse Lingard will miss the midweek clash after picking up a knock in the weekend game.
Solksjaer fielded an ultra-youthful side in Manchester United’s last Europa League clash against Astana, but is unlikely to go down the same route on Thursday. However, there will be plenty of changes across the pitch as the Norwegian looks to rest some of his regulars.
Sergio Romero ought to get the nod in goal against his former club ahead of Lee Grant, who started the last European fixture. There will be wholesale changes in defence as Axel Tuanzebe is set to team up with Phil Jones at the centre while teenagers Ethan Laird and Brandon Williams are likely to slot in as the full-backs.
With Matic back in contention, he ought to be given a go on Thursday night. The Serb is likely to partner James Garner in the double pivot for Manchester United, with Fred and Scott McTominay likely to be given a well-earned rest.
Juan Mata should pip Andreas Pereira to the No. 10 slot against AZ. Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong should get a run out on the flanks at Old Trafford, while Mason Greenwood spearheads the Manchester United attack.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Romero; Laird, Tuanzebe, Jones, Williams; Garner, Matic; Chong, Mata, Gomes; Greenwood
Teenage forward Myron Boadu will miss out for AZ due to suspension, after being sent off in the last game against Partizan Belgrade. Arne Slot will also be without the services of Albert Gudmundsson and Pantelis Hatzidiakos, both of whom are out injured.
✈️ Travel squad
🏴 Met deze selectie reist AZ af naar Manchester.
✅ De geschorste Boadu en winteraanwinst Evjen reizen ook mee.
— AZ (@AZAlkmaar) December 11, 2019
AZ are expected to line up in a 4-3-3 formation, with first-choice goalkeeper Marco Bizot starting between the sticks. Jonas Svensson and Owen Wijndal ought to be the two full-backs, both of whom will be potent outlets with their overlapping forward runs.
Former Aston Villa centre-back Ron Vlaar was named on the bench in AZ’s last match against PEC Zwolle having returned from injury. He is likely to start at Old Trafford, pairing up with Stijn Wuytens at the heart of the AZ defence.
Fredrik Midtsjo should slot in as the deepest of the three central midfielders for AZ, with the remaining two slots likely to be taken up by club captain Teun Koopmeiners and Dani de Wit. Former Southampton man Jordy Clasie is a viable option at the manager’s disposal, should he opt for more experience on the pitch.
Ousama Idrissi, who bagged a brace in AZ’s 3-0 win against Zwolle last week, ought to hold on to his spot on the left flank, while Calvin Stengs will provide the threat from the right. With Boadu ruled out, Ferdy Druijf is likely to get the nod as the centre-forward for the Dutch outfit.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bizot; Svensson, Vlaar, Wuytens, Wijndal; de Wit, Midtsjo, Koopmeiners; Stengs, Druijf, Idrissi
- The only previous meeting between Manchester United and AZ Alkmaar finished 0-0 on Matchday 2 of this season’s Europa League, with the Red Devils failing to record a shot on target in the game.
- Manchester United have won six of their eight previous home games against Dutch clubs across all competitions, drawing with PSV in November 2015 (Champions League) and losing to Ajax in February 2012 (Europa League).
- AZ Alkmaar have lost all five of their away matches against English sides in all competitions, most recently a 1-4 loss at the Emirates against Arsenal in November 2009.
- Mason Greenwood has been directly involved in 75% of Manchester United’s goals at Old Trafford in the Europa League this season (3/4), scoring two himself and providing one assist.
- Ferdy Druijf scored a brace versus FK Partizan in AZ Alkmaar’s last Europa League game – of the six players aged 21 or under that have scored braces in the competition this season, three of them have been for AZ Alkmaar (also Myron Boadu and Teun Koopmeiners).
Player to Watch
The Dutch winger, who turned 20 earlier this month, is one of the young prospects who is held in very high regard at Manchester United. Chong made his first-team debut for the Red Devils in January earlier this year and has since gone on to feature on eight more occasions, but hasn’t been able to make the impact that was expected of him.
Chong was guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance in Manchester United’s last Europa League clash against Astana that eventually ended up costing them the game. There is no denying that the youngster possesses loads of potential, but he needs to start making the most of the opportunities that come his way in the senior team and a match-winning display against AZ on Thursday would be the ideal way to start.
Manchester United 1-1 AZ Alkmaar
Manchester United are coming on the back of two morale-boosting wins in their last two matches and will be in high spirits heading into the midweek clash. AZ Alkmaar though, have won eight of their last nine games (D1) in all competitions and will come to Old Trafford with the belief of taking all three points, having ran the Red Devils so close in the reverse fixture.
Solskjaer will most certainly ring in the changes ahead of a busy period which could have a negative effect on Manchester United’s chances on Thursday night. However, they should have enough in the tank to secure a point and finish as the table-toppers in Group L.