Manchester United will return to Europa League action on Thursday evening as they bid to win the competition for the second time since they won it back in 2017. The Red Devils are taking on Spanish giants Real Sociedad with the tie being played in Italy due to covid restrictions in the country of Spain.
United come into the round of 32 after being knocked out of the group stages of the Champions League. A 3-2 loss to RB Leipzig on the final matchday coupled with defeats against Istanbul Basaksehir and Paris Saint-Germain meant with three wins and three defeats we finished outside the top two spots.
United fans could have pointed the blame for the Champions League exit squarely at the hands of Paul Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola. He had claimed the midfielder’s career at the club was over hours before the clash against RB Leipzig.
This exit saw us go on an impressive run in the Premier League but in recent weeks our form has been patchy. We have only won two of the last six games in all competitions and only one in five in the Premier League.
The Red Devils come into the round of 32 tie having drawn 1-1 against West Brom in the league at the weekend. It was thanks to a Bruno Fernandes sublime strike that saw us shared the spoils after Mbaye Diagne giving the Baggies a shock lead after two minutes.
If the United return to form, we will definitely be one of the favourites to lift the Europa League trophy come the end of the season. The last time the two teams met was back in the 2013/14 Champions League as we ran out 1-0 winners at Old Trafford before drawing 0-0 at the Anoeta Stadium.
Real Sociedad hopes of being La Liga title contenders have all but evaporated. They have started to pick up form recently as they head into this tie against United. There was back to back victories against Cadiz and Getafe. Before these wins, they had only won two of the last 17 in all competitions.
In the Europa League, Real Sociedad did manage to get through the group stages despite some inconsistency form. They only won two games before drawing the last three matches in the competition, which meant they had nine points. Real Sociedad finished second in the group two points behind Napoli and a point ahead of AZ Alkmaar.
As we reach the knockout stages, out of those teams left Real Sociedad have scored the least amount of goals. They have only scored five goals, however, they have only conceded four at the other end of the pitch.
Real Sociedad vs Manchester United Match Details
Teams: Real Sociedad vs Manchester United
Date: February 18th, 2020 (Thursday)
KO Time: 17:55 GMT
Competition: UEFA Europa League
Stadium: Allianz Stadium
Referee: Sandro Schärer
Managers: Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Imanol Alguacil
Manchester United Team News
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær revealed in the press conference that Edinson Cavani and Donny Van De Beek will not make the trip to Italy due to muscle injuries. Scott McTominay and Anthony Martial will be assessed before the game. Paul Pogba still remains on the sidelines and is not expected to back until March.
Ole said of Pogba, “Paul is recovering well. e’s starting the treatment but it will still be a few weeks. He won’t be playing in February, that’s for sure, it’s still a few weeks before we see Paul definitely.”
Real Sociedad vs Manchester United Pre-Match Press Conference
During the pre-match press conference, Ole was asked how good are we going to have to be to beat Sociedad. He said, “You’ve got to be very good against Sociedad. As I said when the draw was made, it’s probably the hardest you could pick from our unseeded group. They were top of La Liga for a while, now they’re still in the hunt for the Champions League for next year. They have got some top players, some very experienced players and some very good ones. So we have to play at a high level to get a good result, of course we do because the Spanish league is also a quality one.”
Mason Greenwood who joined Ole in the press conference was asked what does it mean to have the backing of a club like Manchester United having signed a new contract. He said, “Yeah, 100 per cent. I feel like I’m getting back up to my stride from last season. Having been there from the age of seven, that thought will always be in the team when I play. Hopefully I can get back to the standards of last season and I’m working hard in training every day with all the coaches.”
He was asked how difficult or not has he found it to cope with the increased attention after his fine form last season. He said, “It’s a challenge. I feel when you play in the first season, not many of the players know what you’re going to do. Sometimes they analyse your performances, but in the second season you need to have a few more tricks up your sleeve and do as much as you can.”
Real Sociedad Team News
For our opponents, they will be without Luca Sangalli and Miguel Angel Moya who remained sidelined through injury. This could see Robin Le Normand come into the centre of the defence. Mikel Oyarzabal who returned from injury to play 79 minutes against Getafe is expected to feature from the start against United. We will be coming up against a familiar face in former player Adnan Januzaj. He is yet to score in the Europa League and may find his place under threat from Portu.
Manchester United form (all competitions): LDWDWD
Real Sociedad Europa League form: WLWDDD
Real Sociedad form (all competitions): WDLDWW
- Manchester United and Real Sociedad have only met twice previously, doing so in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League group stage – Man Utd won 1-0 at Old Trafford, while it was a goalless draw in Spain. (source: Opta)
- United have a perfect record in their previous four games of the last 32, knocking out Ajax, Midtjylland, Saint Étienne, and Club Brugge. (source: UEFA)
- United are the only former UEFA Europa League winners competing in this season’s round of 32. (source: UEFA)
- United are also one of six former European Cup winners in this season’s UEFA Europa League knockout phase, the others being Ajax, Benfica, Crvena Zvezda, AC Milan and PSV Eindhoven. (source: UEFA)
- Manchester United are winless in their last nine matches against Spanish opposition (D3 L6, GF 5 GA 13). Their last win was away to Celta Vigo in 2017, courtesy of a Marcus Rashford freekick.
Real Sociedad vs Manchester United
Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Bailly, Telles; Fred, McTominay; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford, and Martial
United’s form has been patchy recently in the Premier League. The tie against Real Sociedad will give us the opportunity to focus on a different competition. Our defence still has its frailties and so Sociedad will want to exploit this. With the match being played in a neutral venue we may adopt a different approach and employ an attack-minded play to give us the best chance to advance in the next round.
Real Sociedad 1-1 Manchester United