Manchester United’s 2022/23 Europa League campaign begins on Thursday, with a Group E clash against Spanish side Real Sociedad at Old Trafford.
The Reds were runners-up to Villarreal the last time we were involved in this competition and we will hopefully go one further under Erik ten Hag this time around.
With the World Cup starting in Qatar in November, this is the first of six group games to be played in the space of eight weeks
United are still waiting for positive news on the fitness of Anthony Martial, who has missed our last three games with the Achilles problem he picked up in the win over Liverpool, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been absent recently with a knock. Thursday could provide Ten Hag with a good opportunity to rotate his side, with 10 Reds having started each of our last four games during the last fortnight.
Spanish media are reporting that Real Sociedad center-back Robin Le Normand will miss the game: the French center-back is struggling with a metatarsal injury. He would be a significant absentee for Imanol Alguacil’s side, as he has played the full 90 minutes in each of their four league games so far this season. Vice-captain Mikel Oyarzabal is still recovering from the ACL injury he picked up in March, but Umar Sadiq, the replacement for Newcastle United signing Alexander Isak, scored on his debut at the weekend.
The Nigeran international equalized after Alvaro Morata gave the visitors Atletico Madrid an early lead in the eventual 1-1 draw.
United will be looking to continue our recent Premier League momentum, with wins over Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester City and Arsenal over the last fortnight taking us from the bottom of the table to fifth, and three points off the top. Games with Crystal Palace, Sheriff, and Leeds United follow hot on the heels of this encounter, ahead of the September international break.
La Real have played fewer games this term, with the La Liga season just four fixtures old. The Basque club have won both of their away outings, against Cadiz and Elche, by a single goal. Their fixtures at the Reale Arena have seen them lose 4-1 to Barcelona, having taken the lead, and draw with Atletico.
United and La Real can look back upon four previous head-to-heads, with the first two coming in the Champions League during the 2013/14 season. Inigo Martinez’s early own goal was enough to give the Reds victory in the Old Trafford game, while United survived a Marouane Fellaini red card to secure a goalless draw in San Sebastian, on the way to progressing from the group.
Two seasons ago, we faced the Basque outfit in the Europa League round of 32. Due to Covid restrictions, the ‘away’ leg was played at the Juventus Stadium in Turin and we ran out 4-0 winners, with Bruno Fernandes scoring twice and Marcus Rashford and Daniel James also finding the net. The return leg in M16 finished 0-0.