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Goal-shy United face stern European test at solid Alkmaar

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Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on September 30, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

Manchester United’s misfiring attack will face another test of its goalscoring credentials when they travel to AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League on Thursday, days after spluttering to a drab draw with Arsenal.

United coach and former striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer watched in frustration as his side squandered opportunities to kill off the Gunners when a goal up on Monday, only for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to pounce and snatch a point with his only real chance of the game.

“We go 1-0 up and then we don’t get the second goal that we want to get. That’s the learning now for this time,” he said after a 1-1 draw that left his side 10th in the Premier League.

“Be more cynical, clinical. There are so many games we have been 1-0 up.”

Since their 4-0 thrashing of Chelsea on the opening day of the Premier League campaign, Solskjaer’s struggling side have failed to score more than once in any match, and they will likely find Alkmaar a tough nut to crack.

Thursday’s clash, being played in The Hague after the roof at Alkmaar’s home ground the AFAS Stadion collapsed last month, will also provide an indication as to who will top Group L, with solid Alkmaar flying high in the Netherlands.

Alkmaar is third in the Eredivisie, just a point behind leaders Ajax and PSV Eindhoven — who take on Rosenborg in Group D — thanks in large part to a defense that has let in just three goals in eight league matches since the start of the campaign.

They also came away with a creditable draw at Partizan Belgrade last time out, while group leaders United huffed and puffed before squeezing past Astana.

Solskjaer also has a burgeoning injury crisis on his hands, with ESPN reporting that Paul Pogba aggravated an ankle injury at Old Trafford and could be left out of the short trip to the Netherlands.

Should he be ruled out, the World Cup winner would join forward Anthony Martial and defenders Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw as either doubts or confirmed absences.

In Rotterdam, two former European champions will face off when Group G leaders Porto travel to Rotterdam to take on Feyenoord, who will be looking to bounce back from their opening-day defeat at Rangers.

Fixtures (all times GMT, 1900 unless otherwise stated)

Group A

Sevilla (ESP) v APOEL Nicosia (CYP)

Dudelange (LUX) v Qarabag (AZE)

Group B

Malmo (SWE) v FC Copenhagen (DEN)

Lugano (SUI) v Dynamo Kiev (UKR)

Group C

Trabzonspor (TUR) v Basel (SUI)

Krasnodar (RUS) v Getafe (ESP)

Group D

Sporting Lisbon (POR) v LASK Linz (AUT)

Rosenborg (NOR) v PSV Eindhoven (NED)

Group E

Celtic (SCO) v CFR Cluj (ROU)

Lazio (ITA) v Rennes (FRA)

Group F

Arsenal (ENG) v Standard Liege (BEL)

Vitoria Guimaraes (POR) v Eintracht Frankfurt (GER)

Group G

Young Boys (SUI) v Rangers (SCO) (1655)

Feyenoord (NED) v Porto (POR) (1655)

Group H

CSKA Moscow (RUS) v Espanyol (ESP) (1655)

Ferencvaros (HUN) v Ludogorets (BUL) (1655)

Group I

Saint-Etienne (FRA) v Wolfsburg (GER) (1655)

Olexandriya (UKR) v Gent (BEL) (1655)

Group J

Istanbul Basaksehir (TUR) v Borussia Moechengladbach (GER) (1655)

Wolfsberg (AUT) v Roma (ITA) (1655)

Group K

Besiktas (TUR) v Wolves (ENG) (1655)

Sporting Braga (POR) v Slovan Bratislava (SVK) (1655)

Group L

At Nur-Sultan

Astana (KAZ) v Partizan Belgrade (SRB) (1450)

At Den Haag

AZ Alkmaar (NED) v Manchester United (ENG) (1655)


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