Manchester United smashed Real Sociedad by 4-0 in their Europa League R32 first leg in Turin on Thursday. A brace from Bruno Fernandes and goals from Rashford and Dan James gave United a comfortable first leg win. After a string of disappointing results, United needed a good win to regain confidence and Ole’s boys promptly delivered.
As expected, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rotated the squad keeping in mind injuries and fixture congestion. Dean Henderson made his second European start of the season. Maguire, Bailly, Wan-Bissaka, and Telles were the back four. Fred, McTominay, and Bruno were the midfielders behind Rashford, James, and Greenwood. The bench consisted of Matic, Martial, Shaw, Mata, Lindelof and new boys Amad and Shoretire.
United started the game slowly as they dealt with an early press from Sociedad. The Spanish side were pressing high and hoping to nick an early goal in. Bailly gifted possession to Sociedad in the opening minute. Luckily Januzaj’s shot whistled past the post. Within the opening 10 minutes, the game became very end to end as both sides carved out excellent chances to score but were denied by their respective goalkeepers. One such chance fell to Rashford who shot right at the keeper- he should’ve put that way. Minutes later Rashford had another chance after an excellent pass from Telles found Bruno. The midfielder’s squared pass set Rashford up for an easy finish but the Mancunian shot right at the keeper again.
It was in the 26th minute when United broke the deadlock through Bruno Fernandes. A long pass from Rashford caused utter confusion between the Sociedad defense and the ball fell to Bruno, who scored with ease. With United now leading, the English side looked more and more confident. As the Red Devils looked to find a second goal, they pressed high and tight trying to force an error from the opposition. Occasionally Sociedad tried a counter attack but United’s defense held firm, and were supported well by the midfielders and forwards. As Sociedad pushed further and further ahead, United knew that a good long pass could trigger a counter attack enabling them to double the lead. Marcus Rashford had a chance late in the first half but chose glory instead of the pass as the attack fizzled out. At Half Time, the game looked poised to go either way.
This may have been a good time to bring on a striker and initiate some good counter-attacking football. Perhaps worth giving Shoretire a shot since he is a natural striker and could help United increase the lead. 10 minutes into the second half, the Red Devils doubled the lead through their Portuguese magnifico. Yet another pass from Rashford was deflected into Bruno’s path by Dan James. Despite shouts for offside, Bruno calmly fired the ball into the net to make it 2-0 for Ole’s men. At this point, McTominay went off and was replaced by Nemanja Matic in the center of the park.
Shortly after, United displayed some fantastic counter-attacking football to make it 3-0. Henderson rolled the ball to Fred after a set piece situation. The Brazilian midfielder played a phenomenal pass into the final third where Rashford latched onto it and curled it into the far corner. An excellent finish from Rashford but an even better assist from Fred. Ole looked to the substitutes bench again in the 68th minute and brought on Martial to replace Rashford. Quite a confusing decision from the manager there as he could’ve easily used this opportunity to give Shoretire or Amad some playing time. Nevertheless, Martial hit the ground running and created some good chances for United as the game looked done and dusted in favor of United.
In the 83rd minute, Mata and Amad replaced Bruno and Greenwood. A much-awaited debut for Amad who has impressed with his form for the U-23 side. Amad looked sharp and pacey from the off providing outlets in the attack and ensuring support in defense. Although a goal for the new boy would’ve been great, it was Dan James who scored the fourth goal in the 90th minute and put the tie beyond Sociedad. A good looping pass from Bailly triggered a trademark Dan James run into the box, and the Welshman colly finished in the far corner to make it 4-0 for Ole’s boys. At Full-Time, United were beaming with joy as they found some much needed confidence going into another round of challenging fixtures.
A good win today for United who certainly had to work hard for it. Sociedad started off very well and United’s defense looked extremely shaky. Some bad giveaways and poor positioning gave Sociedad some chances but Dean Henderson’s heroics kept United in the hunt. The Red Devils were patient but direct in their playmaking today, and exploited Sociedad’s glaring weaknesses. When the ties were first announced, United were not expected to rout Sociedad but did so comfortably today. Bruno Fernandes looked head and shoulders above everyone on the pitch today with his goals and his orchestration of the game. Fred and McTominay did a good job as well, keeping Sociedad’s midfielders away from the ball. Alex Telles played excellently and created some fantastic chances for United’s attack.
United started off very slowly but grew into the game and went on to slice open the opponents. The team’s vision and passing were world-class but the finishing was poor. I am still confused by OGS’s decision-making around subs when he decided to bring on Martial to replace Rashford. United now host Newcastle on the weekend for a Premier League game before hosting Sociedad for the second leg of this encounter.