Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gives Mason Greenwood the licence to enjoy himself in Astana clash

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Mason Greenwood is set to be unleashed.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will unleash Mason Greenwood in Manchester United’s Europa League opener against Astana, with the 1999 treble hero saying the 17-year-old is already one of the best finishers he has ever seen.

After two years back at European football’s top table, the Old Trafford giants are preparing to kick off a gruelling Europa League campaign at home to the perennial Kazakh champions.

United lifted the trophy when they last played in the competition in 2016-17, when manager Jose Mourinho’s side bulldozed their way through to the final with an experienced squad.

But Solskjaer will change tack by trusting youth, with Greenwood’s starting role the most eye-catching news heading into the Group L encounter.

“He is still very young, Mason, but he’s maturing,” Manchester United manager Solskjaer said. “He’s developed so much in the last six months since I came in.

“I remember the kid who just wanted to play with mates in the under-18s. And now he’s knocking on a door, he’s ready to play these games.

“For me, he has been in the under-21s with England, he’s tasting it more and more. And his appetite for football must be growing.

“I just don’t want to put too much pressure on him, apart from, ‘go out there and enjoy yourself’.

“Work hard, close down, because when the ball lands in your feet I know you’re going to score anyway. I know you’ll make the right finish. Keeper might make a fantastic save but he’s one of the best finishers I’ve seen.

“It’s just that enjoyment, express yourself, go out at Old Trafford because there’ll be 11 Astana players living the dream tomorrow.

“It must be one of the biggest games of their careers for some of these players, but I want it to be a memorable one for our players as well and Mason is one of them.”

Solskjaer has confirmed fellow academy graduate Axel Tuanzebe, 21, will be in the line-up against Astana, 28 months since last starting a match for United at Old Trafford.

A knock sees Daniel James join Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw on the sidelines, while Fred comes into midfield and back-up goalkeeper Sergio Romero gets the nod ahead of David De Gea.

The Spain goalkeeper extended his contract at Old Trafford until at least 2023 at the start of the week and United have acted quickly to tie Victor Lindelof down to a new and improved deal.

Lindelof was linked with Barcelona over the summer but has ended any such talk by committing his future to the Old Trafford club, signing a deal until 2024 with the option of a further year.

“I love playing football and my aim now is to help the team to win trophies and repay the fans for their unrivalled support,” the defender said.

“I know that everyone at the club shares this vision and will give everything to get Manchester United back to where it belongs.”

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Mason Greenwood to spearhead a young Manchester United side against Astana

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Mason Greenwood will spearhead a young Manchester United side in Thursday’s Europa League opener against Astana, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer calling the 17-year-old one of the best finishers he has ever seen.

After two years back at European football’s top table, the Old Trafford giants are preparing to kick-off a gruelling Europa League campaign at home to the perennial Kazakhstan champions.

United lifted the trophy when they last played in the competition in 2016-17, when manager Jose Mourinho’s side bulldozed their way through to the final with an experienced squad.

The inclusion of Greenwood is most eye-catching, having been confirmed as a starter after four substitute appearances this season.

“He is still very young, Mason, but he’s maturing,” Manchester United manager Solskjaer said. “He’s developed so much in the last six months since I came in.

“I remember the kid who just wanted to play with mates in the Under-18s. And now he’s knocking on a door, he’s ready to play these games.

“For me, he has been in the Under-21s with England, he’s tasting it more and more. And his appetite for football must be growing.

“I just don’t want to put too much pressure on him, apart from go out there and enjoy yourself.

“Work hard, close down because when the ball lands in your feet I know you’re going to score anyway. I know you’ll make the right finish. Keeper might make a fantastic save but he’s one of the best finishers I’ve seen.

“It’s just that enjoyment, express yourself, go out at Old Trafford because there’ll be 11 Astana players living the dream tomorrow.

“It must be one of the biggest games of their careers for some of these players, but I want it to be a memorable one for our players as well and Mason is one of them.”

Solskjaer intends to change tack as his side embark on their Europa League journey as the manager focuses on the youth at his disposal.

“It’s a process and for these, we trust them,” the United boss said.

“It’s for them to grow as players but also human beings – that responsibility of being robust enough to go out at Old Trafford.

“It’s not just about enjoying yourself because you’ve got to get results.

“And if you don’t throw them in you don’t know what you’ve got so, for me, I don’t see this as any other way of doing this because I’ve always done this wherever I’ve been.

Manchester United’s Axel Tuanzebe is also in contention to face Astana (Martin Rickett/PA)

“I’ve not been too many places but that’s my belief as a coach that you have to give them a chance, an opportunity.

“Especially forward players. They’ll win you games. Defenders it’s a shift, find a way to win a game and keep them out.”

Solskjaer confirmed academy graduate Axel Tuanzebe, 21, will be in the line-up against Astana, 28 months since last starting a match for United at Old Trafford.

A knock sees Daniel James join Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw on the sidelines, with Fred coming into midfield and back-up goalkeeper Sergio Romero getting the nod ahead of David De Gea.

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David De Gea and the other best Man United goalkeepers of all time

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David De Gea has signed a new four-year contract at Manchester United which will keep him at the club until 2023.

The Spaniard moved to Old Trafford from Atletico Madrid in 2011, meaning this new deal will see the goalkeeper bring up a decade at United.

To mark this, PA has taken a look at the five best shot-stoppers to ever don the gloves for the Old Trafford club.

HARRY GREGG

Often referred to as the ‘Hero of Munich’ for his role in rescuing survivors of the air disaster, Gregg was also a phenomenal goalkeeper for United and Northern Ireland.

Gregg helped pull survivors from the wreckage of the crash at Munich Airport in 1958 which killed 23 people including eight United players.

He pulled Sir Bobby Charlton out alive and the two of them are the last remaining players from that ‘Busby Babes’ squad.

Remarkably, Gregg returned to action within two weeks of the crash and just four months later he was voted best goalkeeper in the world for his performances during the World Cup in Sweden.

Harry Gregg (r) pulled Sir Bobby Charlton out of the Munich air wreckage in 1958.

Harry Gregg (r) pulled Sir Bobby Charlton out of the Munich air wreckage in 1958.

ALEX STEPNEY

Stepney arrived at Old Trafford in 1966 from Chelsea when Sir Matt Busby paid a then world-record fee for a goalkeeper of £55,000.

He went on to make 539 appearances, which is a record for a keeper at United. But the most famous of those games and the one which cemented Stepney’s place as a Red Devils icon was the European Cup final in 1968.

United beat Benfica that night at Wembley and they had Stepney to thank for sending the game to extra time as he produced a remarkable save to deny Eusebio with the game level at 1-1.

It was a save so good that Eusebio stood and applauded the man who had just denied him the winner. Stepney spent 12 years at Old Trafford, but that was the moment that defined his career.

PETER SCHMEICHEL

peter-schmeichel

The ‘Great Dane’ arrived at United in 1991 from Brondby and across the next eight years he cemented his place as arguably the greatest goalkeeper in Premier League history.

Schmeichel won five Premier League titles, three FA Cups, a League Cup and the Champions League during his time at United and was a crucial figure in their dominance during the 90s.

He played his last game for United in that 1999 Champions League final victory, ending on the highest note as the club clinched an unprecedented treble by beating Bayern Munich in Barcelona – a game in which he was captain in the absence of Roy Keane.

EDWIN VAN DER SAR

Van der Sar Terry

It says a lot about the greatness of Schmeichel that, for six years, United failed to replace him.

Despite a host of big-name keepers at Old Trafford, including Mark Bosnich and World Cup winner Fabien Barthez, the Dane left a hole Sir Alex Ferguson struggled to fill.

That changed in 2005 when Van Der Sar became the first signing of the Malcolm Glazer era at Old Trafford. Having established himself as one of the world’s best keepers at Ajax, Ferguson missed out on Van Der Sar in 1999 as the Dutchman chose Juventus.

But, having spent four seasons at Fulham, United finally got their man at the age of 34. He stayed at United for six hugely successful years which included four Premier League titles and the Champions League.

Van Der Sar saved Nicolas Anelka’s penalty in the shootout against Chelsea in the Champions League win in Moscow.

DAVID DE GEA

0313 David de Gea

After Van der Sar’s departure in 2011, the pressure was on Ferguson not to repeat the troubles they had replacing Schmeichel.

He took a gamble on a raw talent from Atletico Madrid. It initially looked a mistake, as De Gea made a number of high-profile errors which drew criticism from the likes of former United defender Gary Neville and resulted in him being dropped in favour of Anders Lindegaard.

But De Gea blossomed into one of United’s finest keepers. The Spaniard has now made over 360 appearances during his seven years at Old Trafford and has been the club’s most important player – particularly since Ferguson’s retirement.

He became the first keeper to win the Sir Matt Busby award for the club’s Player of the Year in 2013/14 and the first player to win it three years in a row for the next three seasons.

De Gea won it again for a fourth time in May 2018 and his new deal, after years of speculation linking him to Real Madrid, is fantastic news for United.

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