Manchester United beat Real Sociedad 1-0 in Spain on Thursday night. However, the Red Devils needed to win the match by at least two goals to finish atop Europa League Group E. The narrow defeat give the hosts the top spot of group standings on goal difference.
This means that United will have to play an extra knockout round phase in the competition. The extra round involves Champions League third-place teams as well. As group winners, Sociedad can slide straight to the round of 16 phase.
The Spanish side entered the match on Thursday with a plethora of injury issues. Sociedad were without key players such as David Silva, Mikel Oyarzabal, Umar Sadiq, Momo Cho and Takefusa Kubo. Nevertheless, the LaLiga side put in a valiant effort to remain in first place of their group.
Manchester United defeat Real Sociedad
Rising teenage star Alejandro Garnacho put United ahead inside 17th minutes to give the club hope. The Argentine made a brilliant run down the flank and put the ball past Alex Remiro with authority. While the early lead should have given the Red Devils a boost, they could not quite get things going moving forward.
Despite just needing to not lose by two goals, Sociedad was on the front foot for much of the match. In fact, the hosts outshot United 13 to four on the night. The Garnacho goal was the team’s only shot on goal for the entire game.
Sociedad, on the other hand, had a few chances to level the scoreline. United goalkeeper David de Gea made a massive double save just before the halftime break. The first save was solid, but the second, made with the keeper’s head, was the highlight.
Manager Erik ten Hag was desperate for some opportunities at goal heading into the final stages. The Dutchman even put central defender Harry Maguire up front as a makeshift center forward for the final quarter of an hour of the match.
The result means that United could potentially face other big clubs to get to the round of 16. Potential opponents finishing third in the Champions League are elite. Barcelona, Juventus, Sevilla, Bayer Leverkusen, RB Salzburg, Ronaldo’s former club Sporting and ten Hag’s former employer Ajax are the potential opponents.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Pressinphoto