Manchester United blitz AZ Alkmaar with four goals in 11 second-half minutes to win Europa League Group L

Luke Edwards
Manchester United scored four goals in 11 second half minutes to put the game beyond AZ Alkmaar - AFP

Perhaps Manchester United really have turned a page under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. This felt like the start of a new chapter, with a twist in the plot. After so long fearing this destined to end in disappointment and failure, perhaps there will be the happy ending everyone craved when he was appointed.

For months, United have been stuck in the same old plot, a tiresome narrative, with all the same failings, pitfalls and character flaws. An inconsistent team stuck in a cycle of mediocrity, excellent one week, dreadful the next.

For 45 minutes, United were the same ponderous and predictable team we have seen too often under Solskjaer, as AZ Alkmaar passed and moved, cutting and slicing through defence and midfield with ease. The visitors should have been in front at half time.

“There wasn't any cups flying at half time,” Solskjaer said. “We just had to get the troops together and get back to what we're good at, more aggressive, urgency without the ball more composure. We were too slow, too rash, just giving the ball away.”

United were superb in the second half, thrilling and impossible to contain. They were bright and inventive, full of flair and vision, destroying the Dutch team in a stunning burst of play that brought four goals in the space of just 11 minutes. It was the football equivalent of Blitzkrieg, quick, decisive and deadly.

Alkmaar did not know what had hit them as Ashley Young’s thunderous finish was followed by two goals from their 18-year-old forward Mason Greenwood and a penalty from Juan Mata. It was stunning and neither should it be dismissed because it came in the Europa League against a team from Holland.

Alkmaar are second in the Eredivisie, three points behind Ajax. They are the only Dutch team good enough to prevent last season’s Champions League semi-finalists winning the league for a second successive year and they have a miserly defence. But they were destroyed by this young United team when they had appeared to be in control of the game at the break.

Solskjaer had picked a strong team, wary of exposing too many young players to such high calibre opposition, but they were still out played for 45 minutes. Alkmaar, roared on by a sold out away section, were far more threatening, Yukinari Sugawara spinning sharply on the edge of the area to force a save from Sergio Romero.

United responded, Andreas Pereira charging into the area, where his low shot was gathered at the second attempt by Marco Bizot. It was a rare piece of cohesive offensive play and Alkmaar grew bolder, pushing higher up the pitch, trapping United in their own half as Oussama Idrissi forced another save from Romero before Jordi Clasie fired wide.

United were cumbersome in contrast, losing possession too easily or hitting hopeful through balls for Anthony Martial to chase in the hope he would win the foot race.

Juan Mata put his side 3-0 up with a penalty Credit: REUTERS

At least United did not concede. AZ were crisper, but not clinical. Dani De Wit should have done better than scoop a first time shot over moments after Idrissi’s cross curled narrowly wide of the far post.

A draw would have been enough for United to win the group, but they needed to show something that changed perceptions, not reinforced them.

The spark came from Greenwood, whose dribble to the byline was followed by a pass to Martial that should have been converted. The teenager was close to unplayable after that.

“I’ve probably said it all before,” said Solskjaer, “There is nothing new, that's what he does, it’s just natural for him.”

It lifted the mood and when Pereira somehow wriggled out of the corner, despite initially facing the corner flag with two defenders around him, a one-two with Mata parted the Alkmaar defence. Mata could not hit the target, but when his shot rolled across the goal, Young arrived at speed to thump into the roof of the net. It was a far more difficult finish than he made it look.

It opened the floodgates, Greenwood converting clinically as his reputation continues to soar and Mata scoring from the spot after the youngster had brought down inside the area.


FULL TIME - Manchester United 4 AZ Alkmaar 0

Poor first half, brilliant second. Four goals in 11 second half minutes, two brilliant finishes from Mason Greenwood. United top the group. A fine performance overall. 


90+1 mins - Manchester United 4 AZ Alkmaar 0

Nothing much to see here now. Greenwood MOTM surely. Just the two minutes of added time. 


Greenwood's second


87 mins - Manchester United 4 AZ Alkmaar 0

Alkmaar still giving it a go but this game ended a long time ago. United going into the Europa League knockout stages as group winners and one of the top seeds. Not a brilliant first half performance but they have more than done the job in the second. 


83 mins - Manchester United 4 AZ Alkmaar 0

Chong breaks through the middle on the counter after a fine pass from Brandon Williams. He's fouled cynically, though, by Koopmeiners who picks up a booking. Think Solskjaer can be pleased with his youthful side today. Hasn't had to use many of his superstars and Greenwood, Williams and Garner have all had decent games. Ashley Young, too. 


Blistering is a good way to describe it

Greenwood scored two and was fouled for the other, bringing about the penalty. Alkmaar were arguably the better side in the first half but were simply blown away. 


80 mins - Manchester United 4 AZ Alkmaar 0

United's youngsters have been good tonight. Williams bursts through on the left wing but is fouled by the AZ skipper, who barged into him, sending him to the turf. A free kick in a good position, though. Pereira curls one into a dangerous area but Ron Vlaar glances it away from Chong and out for a corner. 


77 mins - Manchester United 4 AZ Alkmaar 0

It's fair to say that AZ look a bit stunned. Not surprised. Stengs, who has had a few good moments, curls one in from 25 yards away. It's hit well but Romero tips it over the bar. Good shoot, good save. 


Good day for Greenwood

 He's not a bad finisher, this lad. 


73 mins - Manchester United 4 AZ Alkmaar 0

United still threatening and starting to enjoy this. Pereira and Mata linking up well on the left. It comes to nothing, though as the flag goes up for offside. This second-half performance looks like capping a very good week for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. His side were not without issues in the first half but it's a very fresh faced team and in the second half they started playing with freedom and reaping the rewards for it. 


69 mins - Manchester United 4 AZ Alkmaar 0

Just as Man United have scored four in 10, Wolves have scored four in 12! Jota with a hat-trick. Unsurprisingly, United looking a bit more comfortable since their second-half blitz. 


68 mins - Manchester United 4 AZ Alkmaar 0

18-year-old Ethan Laird comes on for Ashley Young. Phil Jones on for Harry Maguire. Chong came on for Anthony Martial amongst all the action, too. 


Goal! Manchester United 4 AZ Alkmaar 0

And another!  Matic finds Greenwood on the right corner of the box, he takes a couple of steps to the left and fires in another low and quick shot past Bizot! Great finish, his fourth goal in this competition. It wasn't long ago that I was saying United should be reasonably happy with a 0-0 draw. Now it's four zip...

Mason Greenwood bagged his second goal of the game with another emphatic strike Credit: PA


Goal! Manchester United 3 AZ Alkmaar 0

Mata calmly but firmly curls it into the side netting with his left foot, keeper guesses correctly but has no chance of getting there. This game got away from AZ very quickly...

Juan Mata puts away a penalty for Manchester United Credit: Getty Images



After being put through by Williams, Greenwood is fouled, as clear as day, in the box and the ref awards a penalty straight away. Mata to take. 


Goal! Man United 2 AZ Alkmaar 0 - Mason Greenwood

Tight, quick and neat. Mason Greenwood picks up the ball after an interception from Garner, he takes one touch from 22 yards out and fires it into the far corner across the ground past Bizot! Hard and fast. The AZ players are protesting to the ref that Garner fouled in the build up to that...and he did. But no VAR here and the goal stands. Great goal whatever. Fifth of the season for him now and United are strolling, from nowhere. 

Mason Greenwood celebrates scoring United's second goal of the game Credit: PA


55 mins - Man United 0 AZ Alkmaar 0

Old Trafford in better voice. United comfortably topping the group as it stands and playing with a bit more intent now. Alkmaar not offering much threat at the moment. 


Goal! Man United 1 AZ Alkmaar 0 - Ashley Young

It's a well worked the end! Pereira muscles arund a couple of AZ defenders, pulls it back to Matic, who finds Mata with a pin-point pass that takes out a few defenders ..he squares it across the face of the goal but nobody is there until Young, ten yards to the right of the goal picks up the ball and blasts it in to the roof of the net from an acute angle! 

Ashley Young celebrates Man United's first goal Credit: AFP


51 mins - Man United 0 AZ Alkmaar 0

Nearly! Mason Greenwood link up, Greenwood with a couple of stepovers in the box, sends one across the box to unmarked Martial who takes a touch and then blasts it over. Leaning back on the half volley. Would have been a good goal but that was poor from the Frenchman. 


49 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

AZ have started the second half the better team. Much like the first half. Would United take a 0-0 draw here? No. But it might not be a terrible result, as strange as that sounds. 


47 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

Should that have been 1-0 AZ? I think it should. Idrissi on the left making the most of a ton of space, sidefoots a cross and finds Stengs who does not make a good enough connection to beat Romero. The keeper saves fairly comfortably. Should have done a bit better than that i.e. the back of the net....


SECOND HALF - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

We are underway again at Old Trafford. Both sides unchanged. United will top the group at the moment as it stands but they need a bit more urgency in the second half. 


HALF TIME - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

No goals in 135 minutes between these two sides. A couple of half chances in the first half but pretty average from both there. It did erupt into a game worth watching towards the end of the first 45, though. 


43 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

 On balance a pretty even first half. AZ should be fairly happy but United have come back into the game and have caused AZ a few problems. Still, they are finding it hard to get in behind and create real chances. 


41 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

AZ opening United up here. Svennson links up with the midfield, fires a low shot across and De Wit just about gets onto the end of it but it goes out for a goal kick. Stengs then follows it up with a shot from 20 yards out but he drags it well wide. United looking a bit wobbly now. 


39 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

AZ's turn to counter attack again with Idrissi in space. The game has just about come to life but it has been far from a classic encounter. Not too much threat from either side so far. 


36 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

A bit scrappy the last few minutes. Since I slagged Young off he has been the best player on the pitch. 


33 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

Another United attack ends in a corner - Maguire glances a header down and it's comfortably saved. Never any power on it. The home side ending the first half the better side. 


32 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

Best move of the game from United. Or either side. Young, Mata and Greenwood link up on the counter but again Mata's shot is poor and blocked. United the best side of the last 10 minutes after not really being in the game. 


30 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

 First third done. Pretty solid stuff from AZ so far. No real chances for either side, though. Not proper ones, anyway. 


29 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

Pereira takes the free kick 30 yards out but it doesn't get further than 10 yards - straight into the wall. 


27 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

United getting back into this now and finally with a bit of threat. Sugawara accidentally puts Martial through but Clasie drags him down before he can get close to goal. It's a clear and cynical foul and the first booking of the game. Much better. 


27 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

Oooh! That's what Ashley Young does! He floats a ball up to Greenwood, who runs onto it on the right side of the box, heads back to Mata in space on the edge of the box...the Spaniard slices his shot miles wide with his left foot. Nice move, poor finish. 

Ashley Young in action Credit: Manchester United


25 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

25 minutes gone and United have had to chase the ball an awful lot. Without much threat on the counter. It's a much-changed side but still. Greenwood is fouled by Wijndal on the half-way line and United get a free kick. Their best passage of play the last few minutes as they have actually managed to hold onto the ball. Lots of sideways passes, not much forward movement, though. 


22 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

I do wonder what Ashley Young brings to this United side. Regularly. It's his ninth season at Old Trafford and he doesn't start every game but it's a surprise to see him start any, really. 


20 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

AZ with plenty of the possession in the early stages, United not seeming too fussed at getting hold of the ball but they are inviting pressure. 


18 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

This has all the hallmarks of a typical Man United performance in Europe of the past seven or eight years. Nervy to start off with, shaky at the back and with a quiet crowd. They often settle into it but it has been an unconvincing first 18 minutes so far. 


15 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

United's tactic seems to be the ball over the top for Martial. It hasn't been very productive so far. Alkmaar playing with composure and intent at the moment. Some quick and accurate passing has opened up the United defence on a couple of occasions. Tuanzebe has been solid at the back so far, seeing off the danger as he does again here but conceding a corner. 


13 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

Idrissi again creating an opening on the left. It ends with a shot being fired into Ashley Young's face and he's down for a minute or so but seems to be okay. United not really in this at the moment. 

Nemanja Matic Credit: Manchester United


12 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

Idrissi continues to get joy against Ashley Young on the left. Think it'll be an area - and player - they target. 


9 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

Alkmaar looking the more threatening at the moment. Idrissi beats a couple of players on the left wing and moves across to try and curl one towards goal with his right boot. Again, safely at Romero but a nice moment for the visitors, who have been the better team so far. United have been a bit sloppy in the opening exchanges. 


8 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

United playing themselves into a bit of trouble in and around their own box. It's messy and it nearly costs them. I say United, I mean Ashley Young, who faffs around with it in his own box, turning and getting himself into all sorts of bother. 


5 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

Pereira collects the ball just in his own half, runs quickly down the left flank through the Alkmaar defence and gets to a shooting opportunity in the's hit hard but Bizot makes a save to put it out for a corner at the near post. 


3 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

Sugawara gets the ball on the edge of the United area, turns and fires a half-volley first time. Nice move but it's fairly tamely hit and straight at Romero. 


2 mins - Man United 0 - AZ Alkmaar 0

50 Man United appearances for Sergio Romero tonight. Arguably his best performances have come in this competition, winning it back in 2017.  Not an entirely full Old Trafford tonight. 


Kick off! Man United 0 AZ Alkmaar 0

They're off at Old Trafford. A couple of minutes late kicking off, though. Not sure why. 


It's actually been going sort of okay-ish for United recently

Since losing to Newcastle in early October they have lost just two games. Some dodgy draws in there, though. 


Will United need to call on this man tonight?

OGS will hope not, especially with Everton ahead at the weekend. Sure, they beat Tottenham and City in a week but beating the struggling teams like Everton should be a given. It hasn't been. 

Marcus Rashford is in fine form Credit: Manchester United


AZ Alkmaaaaaaar in sloooow mooootion

Why? Not sure.  


Nine changes for OGS tonight

 It's like that Mogwai album, Young Team. 


Current Group L standings


AZ Alkmaar starting XI

Bizot, Wijndal, Wuytens, Clasie, Svensson, Koopmeiners, Stengs, Midtsjo, Idrissi, Sugawara, De Wit

Subs: De Boer, Vlaar, Ouwejan, Druijf, Aboukhlal, Reijnders, Kramer


Manchester United starting XI

Romero, Young, Tuanzebe, Maguire, Williams, Matic, Garner, Pereira, Mata, Martial, Greenwood

Subs: Grant, Jones, Laird, Fred, McTominay, Chong, Rashford


Good evening all

And welcome to our coverage for Manchester United vs AZ Alkmaar, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side needing a point to guarantee first place in Group L. It has arguably been his best week in charge of United, beating both Tottenham and Manchester City in the Premier League with Marcus Rashford in particularly fine form in both games. 

His side have already qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League but Solskjaer spoke yesterday that adding consistency is the area where his team need to improve. 

“Inside, we've always had belief what we're doing is the right thing,” said Solskjaer, who looks to be putting out a young starting XI against AZ Alkmaar. 

“The wins over Spurs and City might change perception outside, but results you can't [always] control that. It could've been two draws, or 4-0 wins, that's the nature, sometimes you've got the [fine] margins. Results are the proof in the end, but inside we've always believed what we're doing.

“It’s ups and downs, but we are on the right track. I see these boys every single day in training with the attitude and skills and quality they've got, I'm not worried. Of course, consistency is the key, it's vital if you're going to win trophies and this young team need to learn how to put performances on when they don’t feel like it.

“It doesn't happen that you feel great every time you walk onto the pitch. We've had some games where we've not been able to perform as we'd like and that's a learning curve.

“The young boys will improve with that in the coming years and over the rest of the season. We've come through a sticky patch and it’s looking brighter now.”

Other good news for United is that Paul Pogba has been back in training but unfortunately he won't be returning to action just yet. Solskjaer said that the France international - who he called one of the best players in the world - would hopefully be back before the end of the year.