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 top of Europa League Group E. The narrow defeat gave the hosts top spot in the group standings on goal difference.
This means that United will have to play an extra round of 16 stage in the competition. The additional round also involves the third-place teams from the Champions League. As group champions, Sociedad can slip straight into the round of 16 stage.
The Spanish team came into Thursday’s game with a host of injury problems. Sociedad were without key players like David Silva, Mikel Oyarzabal, Umar Sadiq, Momo Cho and Takefusa Kubo. However, the LaLiga team made a great effort to stay in first place in their group.
Manchester United defeat Real Sociedad
Rising teenage star Alejandro Garnacho put United ahead in the 17th minute to give the club hope. The Argentine made a brilliant run down the flank and outplayed Alex Remiro with authority. While the early lead should have given the Red Devils a boost, they couldn’t get things going.
Despite only needing not to lose by two goals, Sociedad were in front for much of the match. In fact, the hosts outscored United 13-4 on the night. Garnacho’s goal was the team’s only shot on goal throughout the match.
Sociedad, meanwhile, had a few chances to level the score. United goalkeeper David de Gea made a great double save just before the half-time break. The first save was solid, but the second, made with the goalkeeper’s head, was the highlight.
Coach Erik ten Hag was desperate for some scoring opportunities before the final stages. The Dutchman even put central defender Harry Maguire up front as an impromptu center forward during the final quarter of an hour of the match.
The result means United could potentially face other big clubs to reach the round of 16. Potential opponents who finish 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 possible opponents.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Pressinphoto