MAN UNITED 1, YOUNG BOYS 1
Mason Greenwood was the standout performer for Manchester United’s shadow team in the draw against Swiss side Young Boys at Old Trafford.
The 20-year-old striker scored a spectacular goal to show why he ought to be an integral part in interim coach Ralf Rangnick’s plans.
And Rangnick was impressed with Greenwood, saying: “Mason scored a beautiful goal, and he is a massive talent, right foot, left foot and on the ball.
“He also set up a chance for Juan Mata and on Sunday the goal for Fred.
“For his age, he is a great technical player. My job is to develop him athletically, physically and mentally and, if I can do that, he can be a very valuable player for the club.”
With United already through to the knockout phase as Group F winners with one game to spare, Rangnick opted to completely change the team that started the 1-0 win against Crystal Palace.
There were 11 changes with Amad Diallo and Anthony Elanga among the starters as six of the side have yet to make a Premier League start this season. Cristiano Ronaldo was not involved at all.
Six teenagers featured in the side – Shola Shoretire, Amad Diallo, Anthony Elanga, Teden Mengi, Charlie Savage and Zidane Iqbal.
It was only the fifth time that has ever happened in a match in Champions League history and the second time by an English side after Arsenal v Olympiakos in 2009.
Of the five outfield substitutes, there was a grand total of four first-team appearances, all of them off the bench – three for Shola Shoretire and the other for defender Teden Mengi, who spent last season on loan at Derby.
United named only seven on the bench as opposed to 12 for the visitors.
Rangnick had the chance to look at the youngsters as well as the senior players on the periphery at Old Trafford. Apart from Greenwood, there wasn’t anybody whose displays stood out.
After a promising opening half, United faded badly in the second half which was presumably down to a lack of competitive action as Young Boys bossed it after the restart.Embed from Getty Images
Rangnick admitted it was always his intention to “experiment”.
He said: “I was fully aware before the game that with this team that we played today, we haven’t played together as team.
“The first half hour we did quite okay. We had a few unforced errors but had control of the game. We should have been 2-0 or 3-0 up as Amad and Juan Mata had chances. We had some great opportunities, but we didn’t score. We were a bit sloppy with those situations.
“After we conceded the equaliser, we were not defending high enough or pro-active enough. If in the end, the score would have been 3-3 or 4-3 and nobody could have complained.
“There were quite a few debuts and game time for players who desperately need game time. I wouldn’t say I was happy, but it was okay.
“It was also good to see Luke Shaw back and hopefully he can be a candidate for the Norwich game. Aaron Wan-Bissaka got two knocks so we will have to see how this develops. It was an experiment, but I did it on purpose as I wanted to save the players’ energy for Norwich.
It was a bright start for new-look United as in the third minute Diallo, released by Mata, forced a diving save from Guillaume Faivre.
And the breakthrough came in the ninth minute through a spectacular strike from Greenwood.
Shaw broke forward and cut the ball back from the by-line. The ball was going behind Greenwood who found the net with an acrobatic scissor kick, his fifth goal of the season.
Young Boys, who could possibly still finish third to qualify for the Europa League, had their first chance just short of the half hour when a long-range drive from Michel Aebischer forced a diving save from Dean Henderson.
And the Swiss side remained a threat as an effort from Fabian Rieder was beaten out by Henderson.
Greenwood, keen to impress Rangnick, made a great run along the by-line before cutting the ball back to Mata who looked set to score but his goalbound shot was deflected over the bar by Fabian Lustenberger’s outstretched leg.
Henderson was called into action again to keep out a low drive by Christopher Martins Pereira as it remained a see-saw game.
Young Boys were lucky not to concede a penalty when Nicolas Moumi Ngameleu handed. Fans called for a spot kick and replays showed the defender was lucky.
But the visitors deservedly levelled in the 42nd minute after Donny van de Beek gave away possession.
Reider picked up the stray ball and bent a terrific shot high past Henderson from about 20 yards.
And Young Boys had a chance to take the lead early in the second half when Jordan Slebatcheu’s shot on the turn narrowly cleared the crossbar.
United ought to have made it 2-1 when Amad and Lingard broke to release Elanga who was through on goal only for Faivre to make a goal-saving block.
But they were lucky not to fall behind when substitute Silvan Hefti cut the ball back to Quentin Maceiras who incredibly shot wide with the goal gaping in front of him.
Rangnick rang the changes as Henderson, Diallo, and Shaw made way for Tom Heaton, Mengi and Shoretire.
Aged 35 years and 237 days, Heaton was the oldest Englishman to make a Champions League debut since John Lukic in October 2000 for Arsenal (39 years and 311 days). It was also his Reds’ debut 20 years after joining the club for the first of two spells.
Substitute Nico Maier, who had only been on the field for two minutes, had a chance in the 88th minute to give Young Boys victory, but shot disappointingly wide from a great position.
There was a special moment for Robbie Savage, commentating on the game for BT, when in the last minute his teenage son Charlie was handed his debut, something his father never achieved during his playing days at Old Trafford.
Also introduced at the same time was Zidane Iqbal, the first British South-Asian to represent United.
Perhaps some of the best footwork of the night came in the five minutes of added time when three pitch invaders eluded stewards who were in hot pursuit.
There was also an injury blow at the end when Aaron Wan-Bissaka sustained a wrist and knee injury after colliding with an advertising hoarding.