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Dublin: 15°C Thursday 29 October 2020


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Hello everyone, you’re very welcome along to our coverage of this evening’s Europa League clash between AZ Alkmaar and Manchester United.

While we all get caught up with Storm Lorenzo on these isles, adverse weather is also having a big, annoying impact on the world of professional football too. The horror!

Tonight’s game won’t be played at AZ’s own ground — the AFAS Stadio — due to some dreadful storm damage which saw the stadium’s roof collapse back in August. Thankfully a game wasn’t being played at the time and no-one was hurt.

So instead, Man United will have to deal with the artificial surface offered by Kyocera Stadium, which belongs to neighbours ADO Den Haag. Let’s face it, no-one likes an astro turf pitch unless it’s a mediocre Monday night game of five-a-side. But AZ have had to suck it up over the last couple of months as the AFAS Stadio continues to be repaired.

az-alkmaar-v-manchester-united-uefa-europa-league-group-l-cars-jeans-stadion Source: Joe Giddens

They are currently third in the Eredivisie with six wins from their opening eight games. This is the first time these two sides have ever met, and the statistics (kind of) shine in Man United’s favour tonight — AZ have won just two of their 12 games against English opposition.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be hoping to get back on track after a very, very mediocre start to the season. After Monday’s 1-1 draw at home to Arsenal, United sit 10th in the Premier League with just two wins from seven.

Will the Europa League offer some respite tonight? United beat FC Astana in their opening fixture two weeks ago thanks to a well-taken Mason Greenwood finish, but it was far from a complete performance to inspire confidence.

Stick with us, kick-off in The Hague is coming up at 5.55pm

Let’s get started with the team news…

TEAM NEWS: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is without Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Aaron Wan-Bissaka through injury. He makes eight changes from Monday night’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal.

Out go Young, Maguire, Tuanzebe, Pogba, McTominay, Pereira, Lingard and Rashford.

In come Dalot, Rojo, Williams, Fred, Matic, Mata, Gomes and Greenwood.

AZ Alkmaar: Bizot; Sugawara, Vlaar, Wuytens, Wijndal; Midtsjoe, de Wit, Koopmeiners; Stengs, Boadu, Idrissi.

Substitutes: Chatzidiakos, Ouwejan, Druijf, Aboukhlal, Clasie, de Boer, Reijnders.

Man United: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Rojo, Williams; Fred, Matic; Mata, Gomes, James; Greenwood.

Substitutes: Maguire, Rashford, Lingard, Romero, Tuanzebe, McTominay, Chong.

Ole Gunnar Solskajer has raised some concerns about the artificial playing surface speaking ahead of tonight’s group stage match. 

”It’s one of the worst ones I’ve seen for a long while,” he said, not mincing his words about Den Haag’s Cars Jeans Stadium.

“It’s safe, it’s just not the newest.  The grass is just on the floor, it’s on the carpet, more or less.

“I don’t think they’ve pulled the grass up – you do that loads when you have astroturf, so you get the grass to stand and be more bouncy. It seems like it’s been used a lot.” 

az-alkmaar-v-manchester-united-uefa-europa-league-group-l-cars-jeans-stadion Source: Joe Giddens

There are a grand total of 24 games to enjoy in the Europa League tonight. Man United, Celtic, AS Roma, Wolves, Sevilla and Arsenal are all in action. Matt Doherty starts for Wolves away to Besiktas, while Ireland U19 international Conor Noß has also made the bench for Borussia Mönchengladbach against Istanbul Başakşehir.

AZ manager Arne Slot is expecting a big test tonight. “Manchester United is one of the biggest clubs in the world,” he said.

“Two years ago they won the Europa League. We have a lot of respect for them.

“In any case, we will enter the field without fear. We realise that we are good. We are going to see how the relationship is. At least we are full of confidence.”

Is it just me or does Mr Slot have an uncanny resemblance to Dutch darts sensation Michael van Gerwen?

Anyway, five minutes to go before kick-off in The Hague!

netherlands-pec-zwolle-vs-psv Source: SIPA USA/PA Images


KICK-OFF: We’re underway at The Cars Jeans Stadion for the first half!


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Manchester United taking control early on here. Daniel James with a nice piece of interplay along the left wing, but he loses control of the ball and Yukinari Sugawara manages to clear.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

James again instrumental in attack. He tries to feed a through ball into the path of Brandon Williams running behind enemy lines, but the pass gets away from the 19-year-old, petering out for a goal-kick for Marco Bizot.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Dani de Wit finds some time and space in midfield down the other end. He looks up and tries to pick out striker Myron Boadu making a dangerous run in behind. But Victor Lindelöf gets out in front to steal possession.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Not the best start out there from either side, you have to admit. The game has a very pedestrian feel to it after 10 minutes. Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s men are seeing plenty of the ball, but chances at goal have been few and far between so far.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Owen Wijndal with a brilliant cross into the box seeking danger, but Marcos Rojo does really well to read the danger, get down low and head the ball out wide for a corner kick. A firs proper attack by the hosts.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

AZ have the ball in the back of David de Gea’s not, but it’s not going to count. The resulting corner from Rojo’s headed clearance bounced and bobbled inside the box before Myron Boadu tucked it away. But the linesman raises his flag and the striker is found to be offside.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

More chances for the hosts. Ron Vlaar provides a neat pass towards Yukinari Sugawara, who’s low cross is deflected wide for a corner kick. The cross is cleared into the path of Oussama Idrissi, who’s long-distance strike earns another corner.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

It comes to nothing as Marcos Rojo rises highest to clear. But it’s been a lot more promising from AZ these last few minutes. A handful of chances as Manchester United start to get pinned back in their own half.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

The camera pans to the crowd and who’s watching on from above, only Louis van Gaal of course. The 68-year-old managed both these sides. Who’s he supporting tonight, I wonder.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Owen Wijndal is doing really well attacking from that righthand side. He delivers another dangerous cross into the box and Marcos Rojo is called upon once again to head clear. AZ have been on top these last 10 minutes or so.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Oussama Idrissi with a lovely drop of the shoulder after another decent attack from the hosts. He tries to twist and turn Rojo just inside the box, and eventually his cross is blocked away.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

It’s like a finely balanced game of chess out there. A poor quality game of chess, mind you. Both sides enjoying spells of possession at a time, but there is no real attacking threat or penetration at either end. A relatively quiet opening half an hour for De Gea and Bizot in goals.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

A bit better from United. Diogo Dalot gets forward on the right and feeds the ball wide towards Daniel James. He tries to take on his man but is outmuscled by Owen Wijndal, who defends well.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Close! Man United almost take the lead. James gets to the byline and sends a dangerous cross directly to the feet of Mason Greenwood. He fires a low, right-footed effort towards goal, but Ron Vlaar throws himself in the way with an excellent block.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

AZ fly down the other end and nearly go ahead. Myron Boadu flashes a low headed on target, but David de Gea reads it well and gets his hands to it off his line. Boadu was slightly off balance there, but did well to recover and carve out a chance.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Very good attack from Manchester United. There was a neat exchange of passes between Matic and Mata on the edge of the box, before Dalot took over with an overlapping run. He fizzed the ball across to Angel Gomes, however his shot was blocked down.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

A bit more energy and attacking flair as we near the end of the half. It’s been a fairly even contest, you have to say. Decent chances at both ends, but no real big saves have been demanded of either goalkeeper thus far.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

A couple of minutes to go before the interval. A half-chance for AZ as a low through ball tries to meet the run of Boadu inside the box. Victor Lindelöf races out, though, retraining possession with a commanding interception.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Yukinari Sugawara with a brilliant individual run from defence into attack. He cuts inside, twisting and turning trying to create an opening for a strike at goal. He finally let’s fly on his left boot, but the ball is blocked away. Sugawara claims handball, but the referee waves play on.

Flag 45Mins


The referee blows his whistle and we’re halfway there.

Not a lot to boast about from that opening 45 minutes. It’s been a pretty slow, dull affair between two sides which have nullified one another successfully.

Ole Gunnar Solskajer will want a bit more attacking flair after the break. Mason Greenwood has been very isolated, with United having just three shots — none of which properly tested goalkeeper Marco Bizot.

AZ have been decent, enjoying occasional spells on top. They have had slightly more possession, but haven’t created a huge number of clear-cut chances for Myron Boadu and Oussama Idrissi up top. Owen Wijndal has been their star man bombing forward from right-back.

More action to come in a bit!

Flag 46Mins

Second-half: We’re back underway for another 45 minutes!


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Early shouts for an AZ penalty, claiming Diogo Dalot handled the ball inside the box. It came about after a deep cross into the box by Calvin Stengs, but the referee is not interested and waves play on.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Another half-chance for the hosts, who have made a promising start to the second half straight away. A long ball punted forward is almost met by the run of Myron Boadu, but David de Gea comes from his line and gathers.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Close! Yukinari Sugawara opens up his body and sends a brilliant cross right into the box. All it needs is the slightest of touches, but Dani de Wit can’t get his foot to the ball right in front of goal. Millimetres away from making contact.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

More appeals for a penalty from the home supporters. A cross into the box is deflected onto the arm of Brandon Williams, but the referee waves play on. The teenager didn’t seem to know a lot about it and you couldn’t make any argument that it was intentional.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Williams working really hard down that left flank. He bursts past Calvin Stengs easily, before sprinting through midfield. He releases the ball, but United are happy to just recycle possession. In fairness to Williams there, he did seem very motivated to carve out an attack. His team-mates beg to differ, though.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Yukinari Sugawara attacks again down the right wing. He comes up against Williams in a one-on-one and the United youngster manages to slide the ball away for a corner kick. Very good defending from Williams there.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

A first substitution of the evening for the visitors. Marcus Rashford comes on to replace Daniel James up front. The Welsh winger had a decent spell in the first half trying to create attacking opportunities, but he has drifted out of the game since the interval.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

It’s hard to butter this game up at the moment, it has unfortunately been a disappointing, frustrating watch. You could argue that is hasn’t been a bad performance from Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s men — it’s just the level that they’re at this season. Would they have taken a point before kick-off? Quite possibly so.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

A good spell from AZ now. Ron Vlaar and Stijn Wuytens are very comfortable in possession, spraying the ball left and right while maintaining a high line. United really being pressed back at the moment under pressure.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Save! David de Gea is called into action all of a sudden. Owen Wijndal once again joins the attack, finding time and space just outside the box. He lets fly with a stinging, left-footed effort, causing the Spanish goalkeeper to leap across with a fine, athletic stop.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Very, very close to a breakthrough for AZ there. The ball is chested down into the path of Oussama Idrissi just outside the box. The winger fires a curling effort towards the bottom corner. It looks destined to find the back of the net, but it curls narrowly wide for a goal-kick.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

The hosts are completely on top now. Calvin Stengs delivers a dangerous cross right into the mixer. He was trying to pick out Oussama Idrissi, but the ball spins away for another goal-kick. All it needed was a touch.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Massive shouts for a Manchester United penalty after a counter-attack. Marcus Rashford flicks the ball back inside the box, sending his marker flying. Stijn Wuytens tried to nick the ball away, but only succeeded in tackling Rashford. It looked like a penalty, but the referee says no.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

A third and final switch of the evening. Juan Mata is brought off and on comes Scott McTominay for the final few minutes plus stoppage times. A decent chance presents itself as United earn a free, but Rashford curls it over the bar. A poor effort, really.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Close! Some good work by McTominay straight away sets Jesse Lingard up for a shot at goal. Lingard makes an excellent connection aiming for the top corner. It’s a bullet of a strike, but it flies just wide. Almost a late winner.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

Lovely passage of passing play between Fredrik Midtsjoe and Calvin Stengs down the right wing. It’s an energetic, direct attack full of promise, but AZ lose the run of themselves and concede possession. United hanging on at the moment.


AZ Alkmaar 0-0 Man United

AZ pushing for a late winner here, enjoying the lion’s share of possession and flooding men forward. Solskajer’s men look content to take a point right now with just stoppage time to go. There will be three minutes added on.



The referee blows his whistle and it’s all over in The Hague.

It was by no means a thriller, but Manchester United to come away with a point against AZ Alkmaar.

Positives are few and far between. Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s men did do well to keep a clean sheet, but also failed to produce a single shot on target throughout the 90 minutes.

AZ had their spells on top and had a number of decent chances after the break which forced David de Gea into action.

Four points from their opening two games is not a bad return for United, mind. They now go second in Group L behind Partizan on goal difference, next up facing a trip to Belgrade on 24 October.

Thanks a million for joining us this evening — you can read our full match report here. Bye!

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About the author:

Aaron Gallagher


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