Manchester United -v- Real Sociedad
UEFA Europa League
Old Trafford, Manchester
Thursday 25 February 2021, KO 20:00 GMT
Referee: Lawrence Visser Assistants: Thibaud Nijssen, Rien Vanyzere
Fourth Official: Allard Lindhout
VAR: Kevin Blom Assistant VAR: Jochem Kamphuis
Manchester United face Real Sociedad at Old Trafford in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg on Thursday evening and will be seeking to confirm their place in Friday’s draw for the round of 16 stage of the competition. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be happy with his side after their last two matches, both wins; 4-0 over the Spanish side in the first leg of the round of 32 and a 3-1 victory over Newcastle United in the Premier League with seven goals scored and one conceded in the last two matches. This came after draws against Everton (3-3) and West Bromwich Albion (1-1). United will need to continue to grind out results and the matches will become tougher as February turns into March with Chelsea and Manchester City in the next three league matches.
This season has not exactly gone to plan for Solskjaer but there is a clear direction that the club are heading in. On Sunday ahead of the Newcastle match, United had scored 241 goals in 128 matches, which has now turned into 244 goals in 129 matches. Jose Mourinho’s United managed to score 244 goals in 144 matches, so Solskjaer’s side have bettered Mourinho’s side’s goalscoring in 15 fewer matches which sees them scoring on average 1.89 goals per match statistically. Granted, United have conceded ten more goals in fewer matches than Mourinho but inn my opinion, they are playing a more exciting brand of football with little of Mourinho’s ‘park the bus’ football, which is a positive. It will take time but United are on the right road to success now.
Manchester United: WWDWDW
Newcastle United 3-1 W, Real Sociedad 4-0 W, West Bromwich Albion 1-1 D, West Ham United 1-0 W, Everton 3-3 D, Southampton 9-0 W
Real Sociedad: WLWWDL
Deportivo Alaves 4-0 W, Manchester United 4-0 L, Getafe CF 1-0 W, Cádiz CF 4-1 W, Villarreal CF 1-1 D, Real Betis 3-1 L
Top Scorers: 22 goals for Bruno Fernandes with Marcus Rashford scoring 18 – Alexander Isak has 12 goals after his recent hat-trick with Mikel Ouarzabal scoring ten times this season.
Manchester United Goals: 22 – Bruno Fernandes, 18 – Marcus Rashford, 7 – Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, 5 – Daniel James, 4 – Mason Greenwood, Paul Pogba, 2 – Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, Own Goal, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 1 – Victor Lindelof, Donny van de Beek
United are undefeated in their last six matches with four wins and two draws. Solskjaer’s side have scored 21 goals, conceded five and kept three clean sheets. Bruno Fernandes scored his 22nd goal of the season against Newcastle United with Marcus Rashford scoring his 18th goal in the same match. Daniel James also scored his fifth goal of the season in that match, scoring his fourth against Real Sociedad last week. This match could see United field a side that lacks experience playing together with the 4-0 scoreline in the first leg, which should see some of the fringe players at the club get some more game time. United should have enough strength in the side to get the result they need to put themselves into Friday’s round of 16 draw.
Real Sociedad Goals: 12 – Alexander Isak, 10 – Mikel Oyarzabal, 7 – Portu, 4 – Willian José, 2 – Ander Barrenetxea, Jon Bautista, Adnan Januzaj, Roberto López, Nacho Monreal, 1 – Own Goal, Mikel Merino, David Silva
Real Sociedad have lost two matches in their last six, winning three and also drawing another. They have scored a total of 11 goals and conceding nine goals in the same six matches. The defeat to United last week is the biggest they have had in those six matches and resulted in them beat Deportivo Alves 4-0 in La Liga at the weekend, a match which saw United loanee Facundo Pellistri make an appearance. The Spanish side still sit fifth in La Liga 14 points from leaders Atletico Madrid, who top the league by three points having a game inn hand over second-placed Real Madrid. The Spanish side may arrive at the Theatre of Dreams thinking about overcoming a 4-0 defeat in the first leg but it seems unlikely that they could do that.
Team News: Amad Diallo and Shola Shoretire continue to be involved in United’s squad with five players out of action through injury and other issues. Real Sociedad will be missing three players, two through injury and one through suspension.
Phil Jones (knee) and Paul Pogba (thigh) have both been ruled out of featuring for United for the foreseeable future. Pogba has been training recently but is not considered fit enough to feature for United in this match. Edinson Cavani, Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay also look set to remain on the sidelines for this fixture, presumably being saved for the weekend’s Premier League clash with Chelsea, which is the bigger match of the two. Hannibal Mejbri might have been a player considered with United’s midfield depleted at this time, but he too is injured for about a month. Amad Diallo and Shola Shoretire will both be involved in this match but Solskjaer has not given any indication as to whether they will start or be on the bench.
Luca Sangalli (knee) will be out of action until at least December. Aritz Elustondo was injured in the warmup in the first leg despite being named on the team sheet. He did not feature against Deportivo Alaves at the weekend so could miss the return leg of this fixture. Robin Le Normand replaced Elustondo but he will miss this match through suspension. Adnan Januzaj could feature against his former club for the second time. He came off the bench at the weekend, so could be fit to start. David Silva, formerly of Manchester City could feature against United once more. The Basque side may be 4-0 down but with the fact that United might name a weakened side, plus the injuries, there could be a chance for them to get back into the tie.
Predicted Starting XI: Amad Diallo, Ethan Galbraith and Shola Shoretire to have some involvement against Real Sociedad at Old Trafford on Thursday evening?
Solskjaer has Jones, Pogba, Cavani, Van de Beek and McTominay on the sidelines and will need to think about Sunday’s clash with Chelsea, who are in better form under the management of Thomas Tuchel than they were under Frank Lampard. United could field a team capable of getting a good result and rest a number of key players for Sunday, which at this stage would be a win/win scenario. Dean Henderson should start inn goal with Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe, Eric Bailly and Alex Telles all starting in defence, Fred and Ethan Galbraith could start in a two-man midfield with Adam Diallo, Juan Mata and Daniel James playing in the three behind the striker, which for this match should be Mason Greenwood. Obviously, there will be talent on the bench.
Match Prediction: Three meetings between United and Real Sociedad with United winning twice and drawing once, continuing their unbeaten run against the Spanish side. Can United win again, maintaining their record?
United and Real Sociedad have met three times in the history of both clubs. The first two meetings happened in the UEFA Champions League during the 2013/14 season whilst David Moyes was managing the club. The meetings happened in the group stages of the competition with United winning the first meeting 1-0, which was played at Old Trafford with the only goal of the game scored by Iñigo Martínez’s own goal. The second group stage match was a 0-0 draw played at the Estadio Anoeta. In the first match, only three players remain at the club; David De Gea and Phil Jones are the only players still at the club and Michael Carrick, who is now on the coaching staff. Jones and De Gea also featured in the second match between the two clubs.
United are undefeated against the Spanish side, winning two matches and drawing the other, scoring one goal and keeping two clean sheets. Real Sociedad have lost just eight competitive matches this season, five in La Liga, one in the Copa del Rey and two in the Europa League. United have lost eight matches this season; four in the Premier League, one in the Carabao Cup and three in the Champions League. Both teams are flying high in their relevant leagues this season, with United in second place and Real Sociedad in fifth also both teams are still in cup competitions; Copa del Rey and the Emirates FA Cup, also featuring in the knockout stages of European competition. United beat the Spanish side 4-0 last week and will be looking to win again.
Manchester United 3-0 Real Sociedad
Written by John Walker