Match Recap Intro
Manchester United vs Real Sociedad end 0-0 on Thursday, letting Manchester United cruise through to the Europa League Round of 16. After thrashing the Spanish side 4-0 in the first leg, Ole’s men simply had to avoid conceding the same amount of goals to secure qualification. A good, defensive display coupled with occasional attacking threats helped United qualify for the next round.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rotated the squad a bit, considering the ease of the fixture and also the upcoming games. Dean Henderson was the goalkeeper today. The center back pairing included Lindelof and Bailly. Wan-Bissaka played as RWB much to everyone’s surprise, and Alex Telles returned to the LWB position. Fred and Matic were the holding midfielders as stand-in captain Bruno, Greenwood, and James led the attack alongside Martial. The bench consisted of Williams, Maguire, Rashford, Tuanzebe, Amad, Shoretire, and three goalkeepers.
Real Sociedad started the game with high intensity, looking to nick an early goal and apply pressure on United. However, United’s defense were excellent in their marking and movement denying Sociedad any shot at goal. On the other end, Bailly played an excellent pass over-the-top for Bruno but the midfielder’s shot was comfortably saved. Seconds later, James fouled Sociedad’s Gorosabel in the box prompting a penalty. An early goal would’ve given Sociedad a ray of hope and United a big headache. Fortunately for United, Oyarzabal’s hopped penalty went well wide of the goal and kept the scores level. Although Sociedad were trying extremely hard to find a goal, United’s midfielders and center-backs gave them no chance whatsoever. Furthermore, James and Greenwood’s defensive work rate ensured that there were always sufficient numbers behind the ball.
Anthony Martial had a great turn and shoot in the 22nd minute, but his shot was saved by Sociedad’s goalkeeper. Shortly after, Bruno Fernandes hit the bar from distance after Sociedad’s keeper was caught in no-man’s land. Daniel James also drew a save from the Sociedad shot-stopper in the 35th minute. United looked more threatening as the half wore on, and a fifth goal would guarantee qualification to the next round. At half time, both sides looked evenly matched but Sociedad had a mountain to climb, while United just had to avoid a calamity.
The second half started similar to the first- with a high-pressure game from Sociedad. Ole used his subs early bringing on Brandon Williams, Tuanzebe, and Rashford to replace Wan-Bissaka, Fred, and Bruno respectively. A bit strange decision there as Amad and Shoretire could probably have been better options for a dead-rubber game such as this. Rashford got in on the action right away as his swerving freekick went marginally wide of the far post. On the other end, Sociedad hit the bar after a set piece situation but that is the closest they got during the entire game.
United controlled possession and played the ball around smartly and patiently- killing time as Sociedad slowly resigned to their fate. Amad came on in the 59th minute to replace Dan James on the right-wing. Shortly after, Axel Tuanzebe headed the ball into the goal after a corner prompting some celebration from United players. Unfortunately, a senseless VAR overturn chalked the goal off due to a foul committed by Lindelof.
The final 20 minutes of the game were slow but crucial. United’s midfield and backline sustained pressure from Sociedad and kept them out quite successfully. Dean Henderson commanded the players very well as his audible directions reverberated around Old Trafford. 17-year-old Shola Shoretire became the youngest United player in a European game after coming on in the 78th minute. Plenty of promising talent is coming out of the U-23 squad. Many fans also await the inclusion of Hannibal Mejbri. The final few minutes of the game gave Amad and Shoretire the chance to stretch their legs but neither got any clear-cut chances to make an impact.
Manchester United vs Real Sociedad Full-Time Thoughts
At full-time, a joyous United team celebrated a calm and collected victory. I will say something that many others are thinking. If only we could have done this against Paris or Leipzig we would be in different shoes. Coming up- The Europa League Round of 16 Draw on Friday, and then a matchup against resurgent Chelsea on Sunday. As the Premier League trophy looks more and more improbable, the Red Devils may look elsewhere to satisfy their trophy desire.