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Greenwood brace sends rampant United through as group winners

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Mason Greenwood of Manchester United celebrates scoring their fourth goal during the UEFA Europa League group L match between Manchester United and AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford on December 12, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom

Image credit: Getty Images

ByDaniel Harris
12/12/2019 at 20:48 | Updated 12/12/2019 at 22:18

Europa League Group L, Old Trafford – Manchester United 4 (Young 53’, Greenwood 58’, 64’, Mata (P) 61’) AZ Alkmaar 0

A magnificent second-half performance from United, featuring four goals in ten and a half second-half minutes, devastated AZ and took them through to the last 32 as group winners. They’ll be seeded in Monday’s draw, while AZ, who qualify too, will not.

The first half was a drab affair, AZ dominating possession but failing to create much. United, meanwhile were slow of movement and thought, waiting for something to happen rather than making something happen.

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Ashley Young of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Europa League group L match between Manchester United and AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford on December 12, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom

Image credit: Getty Images

But they exploded after the break, fine play from Andreas Pereira, Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata allowing Ashley Young to finish emphatically. After which Mason Greenwood simply took over, two sensationally natural finishes coming either side of a penalty converted by Mata which he also won.

The game more or less petered out after that, both sides slightly shocked by what had happened. United are improving fast, and though this season’s field is unusually strong, no side will relish playing them when the competition resumes.

TALKING POINT

Mason Greenwood is ready. It looked the case earlier in the season and now it is certain: Greenwood is ready for United’s first XI, and will only improve by playing in it. But their front three functions well when Anthony Martial can be bothered; will he find consistency, and if he doesn’t will he lose his place?

Mason Greenwood of Manchester United celebrates scoring their second goal during the UEFA Europa League group L match between Manchester United and AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford on December 12, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom

Image credit: Getty Images

MAN OF THE MATCH

Mason Greenwood (Manchester United) His finishing is as natural as anything this correspondent has ever seen. He is dynamite off either foot, almost always gets off a shot, and almost always on target.

Mason Greenwood of Manchester United celebrates scoring their second goal during the UEFA Europa League group L match between Manchester United and AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford on December 12, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom

Image credit: Getty Images

PLAYER RATINGS

Manchester United: Romero 6, Young 7, Maguire 6, Tuanzebe 6, Williams 7, Garner 7, Matic 6, Mata 7, Greenwood 9, Martial 6, Pereira 7. Subs: Chong 6, Jones 6, Laird 6.

AZ: Bizot 6, Svensson 6, CLasie 5, Wutyens 5, Wijndal 6, Midtsjo 6, Stengs 7, Koopmeiners 6, Sugawara 6, De Wit 5, Idrissi 6. Subs: Druijf 6, Vlaar 6, Ouwejan 6.

KEY MOMENTS

53’ - WHAT A GOAL! Manchester United 1-0 AZ (Young) Who saw that coming?! Pereira finds space down the left and buys a yard but then finds himself right up facing the corner flag. So he flicks behind his own leg, turns, and scoots along the by-line before exchanging passes with Mata and cutting back for Matic, just inside the box. He then slides a gorgeous oblique pass to Mata, who throws up feet so the ball runs under them then crosses low for Martial. He can't quite reach it, but Young is following up from the other side and he smacks an outswing high into the roof of the net from a tight angle.

58’ - GOAL! Manchester United 2-0 AZ (Greenwood) THE BOY IS A NATURAL! IT IS RRRIDICULOUS! Garner closes Midtsjo down as he runs across the face of his own box and fouls him, but the ref says nothing, the ball breaks to Greenwood, and he takes a touch then deposits a left-footed scudder into the bottom corner.

61’ - Greenwood, I don't even know. Williams slides the ball into his path, a lovely first touch takes it away from Clasie ... who chops him down. Penalty!

62’ - GOAL! Manchester United 3-0 AZ (Mata pen) Mata whips his penalty into the right side-netting, a third of the way up, and that's three goals in nine minutes! What the hell is going on?!

Juan Mata of Manchester United celebrates scoring their third goalduring the UEFA Europa League group L match between Manchester United and AZ Alkmaar at Old Trafford on December 12, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom.

Image credit: Getty Images

64’ - GOAL! Manchester United 4-0 AZ (Greenwood) OH MY DAYS! Another lovely goal! Mata slides another good, straight pass into Mata, who moves to Greenwood. He steps into the box, the defender has no clue which way he's going because he knows both his feet are divine ... so he goes inside, shapes to shoot into the far, and instead pulls into the near. That finish is pure Solskjaer, using the defender as a screen to unsight the goalie, and United now have four goals in 11 minutes!

KEY STAT

Mason Greenwood is the youngest player to score twice for United in a major European competition, aged 18 years and 72 days.

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FootballEuropa LeagueManchester UnitedAZ
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