Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised his trio of debutants, Di’Shon Bernard, Ethan Laird and Dylan Levitt, after Thursday’s 2-1 UEFA Europa League defeat to Astana.
The teenaged trio all made their senior bows at the Astana Arena in Kazakhstan, where United fell to their first Europa League defeat of the season despite captain Jesse Lingard opening the scoring in the 10th minute.
Solskjaer put out a youthful side for the fixture with United already having booked their spot in the knockout rounds:
The Red Devils were dominant in the first half, but the game turned in seven second-half minutes when Dmitri Shomko netted the equaliser before an unfortunate own-goal from Bernard just after the hour.
Despite the result, Solskjaer said there were big positives to be taken from the performance of his inexperienced side, per Jack Wilkinson of Sky Sports:
“We’re disappointed with the end result but there are definitely positives. I thought we started the game fantastically, the boys took control of the game, and the response after they scored two was also good.
“I was disappointed with that 10-minute spell, you could feel pressure was coming but there were some fantastic performances by the three young lads who made their debut, all were excellent.“
The Norwegian urged Bernard to forget the own goal, adding:
“He was excellent. He defended well, some last-ditch clearances. Sometimes strikers miss chances and sometimes defenders score an own goal, that’s partly down to bad luck. He did really well, that’s why I want him to remember this game.”
AZ Alkmaar missed the opportunity to leapfrog United in Group L when they drew 2-2 against Partizan Belgrade.
As a result, United will advance to the last 32 as group winners if they avoid defeat against the Dutch side at Old Trafford on December 12.
United are back in action in the Premier League on Sunday when they host Aston Villa.
The Red Devils will be looking to get back to winning ways after the loss to Astana and last Sunday’s dramatic 3-3 draw against Sheffield United:
United have a superb record against Villa. They have not lost to them since 2009 and have beaten West Midlands side in each of their last six meetings at Old Trafford.