Manchester Evening News - - FRONT PAGE - By SA­MUEL LUCK­HURST

The re­sult has to go down as a dis­ap­point­ment for Sol­sk­jaer, ir­re­spec­tive of the youth­ful squad

SIR Matt Busby’s ‘if they’re good enough, they’re old enough’ quote was not as per­ti­nent here in Nur-Sul­tan as Clint East­wood’s Harry Callahan in Mag­num Force: “How the hell’s a man sup­posed to get ex­pe­ri­ence if no­body gives him a chance?”

An­gel Gomes and Tahith Chong, both 19, did not travel to Bel­grade to face Par­ti­zan last month and were back in the first-team fold for the first time since Oc­to­ber 6 amid un­cer­tainty over their fu­tures.

They each have seven months left on their con­tracts with the Reds and both strug­gled to ex­ert pressure on the older at­tack­ers back in Manch­ester.

Chong some­how scooped the ball over the bar with the goal gap­ing and was con­soled by Jesse Lin­gard, only sec­onds later Dmitri Shomko ar­rowed in the equaliser. Then As­tana went ahead.

That was when the im­petu­ous­ness of the United young­sters started to sur­face. Ma­son Green­wood de­spaired at a loose James Garner pass and the lack of se­nior­ity be­gan to show.

Axel Tuanzebe tried to re­as­sure the debu­tant Dis­hon Bernard af­ter he had put through his own net. Bernard looked like he was about to break into tears and it would be cal­lous to pin the de­feat on his rookie mis­take.

Bernard held his head aloft to ap­proach and ap­plaud the trav­el­ling sup­port­ers at full-time and re­ceived a pat on the head from Sol­sk­jaer, who of­fered some re­as­sur­ing words. The 19-year-old will return to Manch­ester more res­o­lute.

Chong was the first to be hooked for the 19-year-old D’mani Mel­lor and if the Dutch­man chooses to run down his con­tract, United are un­likely to rue his loss in the same way as they did with Paul Pogba in 2012.

Gomes en­deav­oured to spare Bernard, forc­ing a fine save from Ne­nad Eric and tee­ing up Ma­son Green­wood to test the goal­keeper again.

As­tana were one of three point­less teams out of the 48 Europa League group par­tic­i­pants at kick-off and had shipped 14 goals.

The re­sult has to go down as a dis­ap­point­ment for Sol­sk­jaer, ir­re­spec­tive of the youth­ful squad and qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the knock­outs al­ready as­sured. United’s un­beaten Europa League streak ends at 15.

This was a chance for the young and old(ish) in a match­day 18 whose squad num­bers added up to 768. The av­er­age age of 22 years and 26 days was skewed by 36-year-old full debu­tant Lee Grant in goal.

Gary Neville re­fused to an­a­lyse the ‘mid-table’ mid­field of An­dreas Pereira and Fred at the week­end and would have been more forth­com­ing were he in Kaza­khstan to wit­ness the axis of Garner and Dy­lan Le­vitt.

Le­vitt, 19, and Garner, 18, went to the same United devel­op­ment cen­tre, trained together at the Lit­tle­ton Road breed­ing ground for ju­niors and ar­rived at the Car­ring­ton train­ing com­plex si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Their un­der­stand­ing was a clear pos­i­tive in the As­tana Arena.

Wales in­ter­na­tional Le­vitt’s touch and move­ment were usually in one mo­tion – a cer­tain sign of a proper player. Garner came through from the fer­vent Par­ti­zan Bel­grade at­mos­phere on his maiden start last month and was com­posed in front of a more ami­able crowd.

The United officials will have to tem­per their en­thu­si­asm at the prospect of the pair off­set­ting the in­evitable de­par­tures of Ne­manja Matic and Pogba in the fu­ture. The cal­low­ness of the Reds side was ex­posed in the se­cond half.

The 4,000th con­sec­u­tive match with a

homegrown player looms. Nine of the XI against As­tana were academy-bred and three more - Mel­lor, Largie Ra­mazani and Ethan Gal­braith - de­buted off the bench.

Ed Wood­ward al­ready has some high­lights for his next in­vestors’ call, how­ever hol­low they are in de­feat.

It was -16 out­side the sta­dium and Bovril would have been the or­der had the ref­eree called for a drinks break.

The win­try weather made the As­tana Arena an apt set­ting for United sup­port­ers to com­mence their sea­sonal ren­di­tion of ‘Five Can­tonas.’ There were a re­mark­able num­ber in the south-east pocket, dec­o­rated by tri­colour ban­ners, some pay­ing paean to Busby. Jesse Lin­gard’s an­nus hor­ri­bilis sug­gests he is play­ing for his fu­ture and he ended a 10-month goalscor­ing drought whilst wear­ing the cap­tain’s arm­band.

The pre­cise strike was rem­i­nis­cent of the Lin­gard of Sol­sk­jaer’s hon­ey­moon pe­riod and the Reds boss’ pre­ma­ture pre-match claim Lin­gard was ‘com­ing back into his own’ af­ter a pur­pose­ful 45 min­utes in Sh­effield now ap­pears pre­scient.

Lin­gard jus­ti­fied his rank in


As­tana should have been oblig­ing op­po­nents for the Reds rook­ies and reg­u­lars look­ing for a pick-me-up.

Lin­gard is maybe the only starter who should ex­pect to re­tain his place against As­ton Villa on Sun­day, partly by virtue of An­dreas Pereira’s strug­gles at Bra­mall Lane.

Tuanzebe and Luke Shaw will likely have to bide their time a lit­tle longer. Tuanzebe was the more nat­u­ral skip­per, chip­ping away at debu­tant Bernard and pass­ing on the mes­sage from Sol­sk­jaer.

United have nine games in De­cem­ber, start­ing with Villa, and the return to fit­ness of Tuanzebe and Shaw are timely.

Shaw should have as­sisted Chong at 1-0 and within a minute Shomko lev­elled be­fore Bernard de­flected an An­to­nio Rukav­ina cross in off the wood­work.

Jesse Lin­gard cel­e­brates his goal which gave the Reds the lead in Kaza­khstan

D’Mani Mel­lor and, right, Dy­lan Le­vitt in action for United

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