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Preview: Real Sociedad will be a big test for Manchester United in the Europa League; Diallo and Shoretire to feature?

Real Sociedad -v- Manchester United

UEFA Europa League

Juventus Stadium, Turin, Italy

Thursday 18 February 2021, KO 17:55 GMT

Referee: Sandro Schärer Assistants: Stephane De Almeida, Bekim Zogaj

Fourth Official: Lionel Tschudi

VAR: Paolo Valeri Assistant VAR: Fedayi San

Manchester United return to UEFA Europa League action when they face Real Sociedad at the Juventus Stadium in Turin in the round of 32 first leg on Thursday evening. United exited the group stages of the UEFA Champions League back in December, falling into the Europa League and face a tough test against the Spanish side, who sit fifth in the La Liga table this season, 16 points adrift of league leaders Atletico Madrid. United started well in the Champions League with victories over Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig but fell foul to Istanbul Basaksehir in the third match of the group. Weeks later, United beat the Turkish side in the second group match against them, falling foul to both PSG and Leipzig which saw them finish third in the group.

Real Sociedad started in the group stages of the Europa League this season, drawing Napoli, AZ Alkmaar and HNK Rijeka in the group. They beat Rijeka 1-0 in the first group stage match, and were beaten by 1-0 Napoli in the second. Then came a 1-0 win over AZ followed by three draws; one with AZ (0-0), Rijeka (2-2) and Napoli (1-1) which saw the Spanish side reach the round of 32 stage in the competition by finishing in second place in the group – two points behind Napoli who topped the group. It is not great that United are back in the Europa League again this season as the playing matches on a Thursday and a Sunday can upset the balance and United would be better qualifying for the Champions League by finishing in the top four of the Premier League.

Manchester United: DWDWDL

West Bromwich Albion 1-1 D, West Ham United 1-0 W, Everton 3-3 D, Southampton 9-0 W, Arsenal 0-0 D, Sheffield United 1-2 L

Real Sociedad: WWDLDW

Getafe CF 1-0 W, Cádiz CF 4-1 W, Villarreal CF1-1 D, Real Betis 3-1 L, Real Betis 2-2 D, Córdoba CF 2-0 W

Top Scorers: Bruno Fernandes has 19 goals for United this season with Real Sociedad’s top scorer, Mikel Oyarzabal having only ten goals to his name this season.

Manchester United Goals: 19 – Bruno Fernandes, 16 – Marcus Rashford, 7 – Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, 4 – Mason Greenwood, Paul Pogba, 3 – Daniel James, 2 – Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, Own Goal, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 1 – Victor Lindelof, Donny van de Beek

Real Sociedad Goals: 10 – Mikel Oyarzabal, 9 – Alexander Isak, 6 – Portu, 4 – Willian José, 2 – Ander Barrenetxea, Jon Bautista, Adnan Januzaj, Roberto López, Nacho Monreal, 1 – Own Goal, Mikel Merino, David Silva

Team News: Two players to miss the Europa League clash for United with just one player on the sidelines for Real Sociedad. United have added a 17-year-old wonderkid to their squad, which shows Solskjaer has different options.

Phil Jones (knee) and Paul Pogba (thigh) are the only players on the sidelines through injury at the moment. Solskjaer added 17-year-old Shola Shoretire to the Europa League squad in the run up to Thursday’s match, which will give the club another attack-minded player, should he be required. Amad Diallo has also been added to the squad after his transfer was completed last month. He has played twice for the U23’s this season, scoring three goals and three assists but missed a match through illness. Solskjaer will be without Edinson Cavani and Donny van de Beek for this match. They are not injured but have muscular problems, which would be better solved with them sitting out this match, to stop injuries happening which would become costly for United.

Luca Sangalli (knee) is the only Real Sociedad player on the sidelines through injury at this time, however, he is not currently named in the Europa League squad because of his injury which will see him out of action until at least December 2021. Willian José has been removed from the squad following his loan to Wolverhampton Wanderers for the remainder of the season and Carlos Fernández, who was brought in from Sevilla has been added to the squad. Adnan Januzaj could feature against his former club for the first time since leaving the club, finding some form at the club last season. David Silva, formerly of Manchester City could feature against United once more.

Predicted Starting XI: Mason Greenwood to lead the line for United, supported by Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Amad Diallo?

Solskjaer needs to make a few changes to his side and tweak a few more things to get United in the right direction. Anthony Martial’s form is terrible at this time and I feel he needs to do more in training to get himself out of the rut that he is in. In this instance, with Edinson Cavani not travelling to Turin, Mason Greenwood should lead the line for United, flanked by both Marcus Rashford on the left and Amad Diallo on the right. Bruno Fernandes should play in the number ten role with Fred and Scott McTominay in midfield pivot. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw keep their places in the fullback roles with Eric Bailly returning to partner Harry Maguire. Dean Henderson should start thins match based on David De Gea’s recent poor form.

Match Prediction: United and Real Sociedad have met before in the Champions League with United winning once and drawing once – undefeated against the Spanish side.

United and Real Sociedad have met twice in the history of both clubs. This 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 one match and drawing the other, scoring one goal and keeping two clean sheets. Real Sociedad have lost just seven competitive matches this season, five in La Liga, one in the Copa del Rey and one 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.

Real Sociedad 1-2 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

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copyright: JW

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