Manchester United are already guaranteed to advance to the next round of the Europa League after taking four wins from five so far.
But the new competition rules include a mandatory tie against Champions League dropouts for all second-place teams. And the Red Devils hope to avoid that.
The only possible way is to defeat Real Sociedad in Thursday’s final group game in San Sebastian and United need to win by two clear goals to guarantee top spot and direct entry to the round of 16.
United’s European ambitions
The two teams had met in the first group stage match of the season which United ended up losing 0-1 thanks to a controversial penalty decision.
Takefusa Kubo, David Silva, Ander Barrenetxea, Momo Cho, Aihen Muñoz, Mikel Oyarzabal and Umar Sadiq are ruled out for Real Sociedad against Manchester United on Thursday. #MUFC [MU]
— mufcmpb (@mufcMPB) November 1, 2022
And the 20-time English champions have been given a huge boost by the timely return of Anthony Martial. The French striker has been plagued by injuries that have limited him to just three Premier League appearances and just one Europa League cameo appearance.
But the 26-year-old has been prolific when in form, scoring three times while assisting two. And he could make the difference with United needing goals on Thursday.
The return of Harry Maguire and Donny van de Beek from injury could help Erik ten Hag change his pack if needed and the Dutch manager hopes Victor Lindelof and Antony will be back fit for the contest.
“I think they will recover, but I can’t tell you anything else,” the former Ajax coach had said on Sunday. “We have to see what develops in the next few days and how they progress, but I hope that when we go to Spain, everyone will be on board.”
And that is not the only good news ahead of the competition. La Real have now lost twice in a row in La Liga and have dropped to fifth place in the standings.
Real Sociedad there for the taking
They will have to field a weakened team on Thursday with quite a few stars out through injury. United’s media team listed the absentees ahead of the crucial match.
Takefusa Kubo was the main torment when the two teams last met at Old Trafford, but the Japanese winger will miss with a dislocated shoulder.
Former Manchester City star David Silva will also miss out, while Ander Barrenetxea, Momo Cho, Aihen Muñoz, Mikel Oyarzabal and Umar Sadiq are ruled out.
Ten Hag plans to field a strong squad and hopes the team he chooses can get the job done and avoid further match congestion in an already packed season.
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