Manchester United were held to a tame goalless draw by AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League on Thursday at the Cars Jeans Stadion in the Hague.
The early possession was dominated by the away side, but AZ looked sharp each time they burst forward. The Red Devils showed some early defensive frailties and Arne Slot's men capitalised, but Myron Boadu's headed finish in the tenth minute was ruled out for offside.
The home side grew in confidence and David de Gea was soon called upon, but he was up to the task. The remainder of the first half was played at a fairly pedestrian pace, with Mason Greenwood coming the closest for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.
The second period began in similar fashion, with the Red Devils looking to dictate the tempo of the game. However, they continued to struggle to create any real chances and instead, it was AZ who looked the more likely to break the deadlock. Owen Wijndal's long-range strike was well kept out again by De Gea, but the home side continued to probe.
With ten minutes remaining, United were denied what appeared to be a stonewall penalty and despite the best efforts of both teams to find a winner, it was not forthcoming.
Here's the breakdown of the game.
Key Talking Point
United's recent problems have become well-documented, with Monday's drab 1-1 draw with Arsenal the latest setback. However, Solskjaer would have seen this match as a chance to get a positive result and increase the confidence levels within the squad.
All the talk just prior to kick-off was how the Red Devils would cope with the playing surface. The artificial pitch had been described as 'carpet on concrete', and this was clear to see with the ball racing away from Solskjaer's players on countless occasions. Nonetheless, once again, the passing was slow, sloppy and uninventive.
AZ Alkmaar have the best defence in the Eredivisie this season, reinforcing the need for creativity and direct running. However, the Red Devils played right into their hands with the Dutch side stealing the ball on countless occasions before carving open a frail United defence. It was not the result the Old Trafford side would have been hoping for, and it will only have increased the pressure on the whole club.
Starting XI: De Gea (7); Dalot (6), Lindelof (6), Rojo (5), Williams (6); Matic (4), Fred (4); Mata (5), Gomes (6), James (7*); Greenwood (5).
Substitutes: Rashford (6), Lingard (5), McTominay (6).
STAR PLAYER - It was yet another uninspiring display from Solskjaer's side, with not many players doing much to get the away fans excited. However, along with Brandon Williams, Daniel James looked bright and typically menacing. His speed caused problems throughout the match and although he only lasted 63 minutes, James was at the heart of any positive moment for the Red Devils.
The Welshman latched onto a loose ball in the first half, before looking up and picking out Greenwood with an inch-perfect cross. The 21-year-old has proven to be United's brightest spark this season, and while he didn't have anything to show for his performance against AZ, this was the case once again on Thursday.
James yet again the only one making anything happen. Greenwood should done better. #MUFC— ED WOODWARD & GLAZERS OUT! (@ALii_NaQvii) October 3, 2019
Manchester United next return to Premier League on Sunday, as they travel to take on a struggling Newcastle United.
AZ Alkmaar, similarly, return to league action on Sunday when they take on Willem II, hoping to pick up three points in a bid to keep up with Ajax and PSV.