Already eliminated after four defeats Astana will hope to give their fans something to shout as they host Manchester United side whose place in the round of 32 is already secure and who have yet to concede a goal in this season’s competition.
Article top media content
Already eliminated from the UEFA Europa League after defeats in their first four Group L encounters, Astana will hope to give their fans something to shout about in the club's final home fixture of 2019 as they host a Manchester United side whose place in the round of 32 is already secure and who have yet to concede a goal in this season's competition.
• Astana lost their first two fixtures by a one-goal margin – away to United (0-1) and at home to Partizan (1-2) – but were overrun in both matches against AZ Alkmaar, succumbing to their heaviest away (0-6) and home (0-5) defeats in Europe. By contrast, the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League winners have made light work of the section, dropping points only in a 0-0 draw away to AZ before they did the double over Partizan (1-0 a, 3-0 h).
• While United are already through to the knockout phase with two games to spare, they will clinch top spot if they win at Astana and AZ, who are two points behind them, fail to do likewise at home to Partizan.
• On Matchday 1, United's first UEFA encounter against opposition from Kazakhstan – and Astana's first against a club from England – proved tighter than expected as the Old Trafford crowd had to wait until the 73rd minute before teenager Mason Greenwood scored the only goal of the game.
• Astana collected their fifth straight domestic title in 2018 while also playing no fewer than 16 European matches in that calendar year, the last six in the UEFA Europa League group stage, where they finished third in their section with eight points. This season they again came through four summer qualifying ties, the first a defeat by CFR Cluj in the UEFA Champions League, before eventually squeezing past BATE Borisov in the UEFA Europa League play-offs (3-0 h, 0-2 a).
• Astana's maiden UEFA Europa League group campaign in 2016/17 ended unsuccessfully with five points, but they doubled that number the following season to finish second in their section and qualify for a first ever crack at springtime European football. The extended campaign lasted just two matches, Sporting CP overcoming them 6-4 on aggregate in the round of 32.
• Astana won all four of their home qualifiers this summer, scoring 13 goals and conceding two, and have emerged victorious from nine of their last 13 European games in Kazakhstan, losing the other four. Their home record in the UEFA Europa League group stage is W4 D3 L4, with defeats in each of the last three.
• The three-time champions of Europe finished sixth in the 2018/19 Premier League, which meant direct access to the UEFA Europa League. They were quarter-finalists in last season's UEFA Champions League, going out to Barcelona after a remarkable round of 16 second-leg comeback against Paris Saint-Germain (0-2 h, 3-1 a).
• United have appeared in three previous UEFA Europa League campaigns, but this is only their second group stage start, the previous one three seasons ago having ended in outright victory under manager José Mourinho against Ajax in Stockholm. The Manchester giants exited in the round of 16 on their other two participations.
• The Red Devils' away record in 13 UEFA Europa League fixtures is W5 D3 L5, with no defeats in the past seven (W4 D3). Indeed, United are now undefeated home and away in 15 UEFA Europa League matches (W11 D4), keeping clean sheets in 11 of those, including the last five, and conceding just four goals over that stretch.
Links and trivia
• United midfielder Scott McTominay was a member of the Scotland side defeated 3-0 by Kazakhstan in Astana in the teams' opening UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier. Yevgeny Postnikov and Roman Murtazayev started for the home side, with Serikzhan Muzhikov coming on as a substitute.
• Astana made it six domestic championship titles in succession on 3 November as they won 1-0 at Tobol while rivals Kairat went down 5-0 at Irtysh. They ended the season with 69 points from their 33 matches, one ahead of runners-up Kairat.
• Manchester United are one of three former UEFA Europa League winners in this season's group stage, along with Porto and Sevilla.
• United are the only team yet to concede a goal in this season's group stage. Indeed, the Red Devils have kept clean sheets in their last five UEFA Europa League matches, equalling the competition record previously set by Arsenal, Napoli, Salzburg and Villarreal.
• United's run of 15 games without defeat in the UEFA Europa League proper is second only to that of domestic rivals Chelsea, who made it 18 matches unbeaten with their victory over Arsenal in last season’s final.
• United striker Anthony Martial's next appearance in UEFA club competition will be his 50th. The Frenchman has scored nine European goals, including one on each of the last two matchdays against Partizan.
• A free-scoring Ukrainian striker, Roman Hryhorchuk has made his name as a coach in eastern Europe, starting out in Latvia, where he won three league titles and two domestic cups during a four-year spell with Ventspils. He went on to coach Chornomorets Odesa in his homeland and Azerbaijan's Gabala for similar periods, overseeing UEFA Europa League group stage campaigns for both, before replacing Stanimir Stoilov at Kazakh champions Astana in June 2018. He missed the latter weeks of last year's league title win for personal reasons but has overseen the 2019 triumph from start to finish.
• A former Old Trafford favourite, whose legendary status at the club was confirmed with his added-time winner in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final against Bayern München, Ole Gunnar Solskjær returned to Manchester United as interim manager in December 2018, replacing Mourinho, before securing the position on a permanent basis the following March. A former Norwegian international striker renowned for his predatory goalscoring, he won six Premier League titles as a United player and established his reputation as a coach in his homeland with Molde.