Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists he would not have risked Paul Pogba on an artificial surface even if he was fit to face AZ in the Europa League.
France international Pogba suffered an ankle injury in August and only returned to action in the EFL Cup tie with Rochdale last week.
He featured in Monday’s 1-1 Premier League draw with Arsenal at Old Trafford, though was not among the travelling squad ahead of Thursday’s European fixture as his ankle “requires a period of further rest”.
But even if he was able to play, Solskjaer does not think he would have picked the World Cup winner, as United – who won their Europa League opener against Astana 1-0 – travel to the home of ADO Den Haag after a section of AZ’s stadium roof collapsed last month.
The change of location means United will play on artificial turf at the Kyocera Stadium.
“He needs further treatment and rest on his ankle,” Solskjaer told reporters when asked about Pogba’s absence. “I probably wouldn’t risk him on astro turf anyway, even if he was available for this game. He needs a bit of a rest.”
Solskjaer expressed his surprise at the choice of venue by AZ, while also criticising the condition of the surface.
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“Well I’m surprised they’ve chosen to play on this pitch when I look at it, I’m used to these pitches in Norway, it’s not the best I’ve seen,” he said.
“It’s one of the worst ones I’ve seen for a long while, we’ve all got standards back home in Norway and they are all modern and new but it’s safe, I’m not saying that [it isn’t safe], it’s just not the newest.
“It seems like it’s been used a lot. With my knees, I’ve not really enjoyed astro turf anyway, but these young boys are OK.
“I’m surprised that in this climate [in the Netherlands] you have to use astro turf. It’s OK if you live in the North Pole more or less. You can’t play in March or December on grass, but I’m surprised.
“You can’t force the Norwegian teams to have natural grass, so I don’t think it’s possible [to ban the surfaces], but if I was running a club here I wouldn’t have astro if you have the chance for natural grass.”
Injury-hit United have again named a youthful squad, with Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Brandon Williams and James Garner all included.
United’s young side struggled to take their chances against Astana and Solskjaer is hoping they can be more clinical this time around.
“They [AZ] are a young team as well, by the way, and an exciting team, and one or two of ours will get another chance to impress,” Solskjaer added.
“They all want to be part of a long future here. We will have a mixture of experience and youth.
“Football is about scoring goals. No one wants to miss chances. For us, it’s about grasping the moments and realising we’ve got [experienced] players here playing with these young boys.
“I just hope they’re ready to run, run in behind and finish the chances.”
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