Manchester United will be aiming to cruise through to the next phase of the UEFA Europa League when they take on Real Sociedad on Thursday night.
Manchester United will be looking to ensure that there are no mishaps when they host Real Sociedad at Old Trafford in the second leg of their 2020/21 UEFA Europa League Round of 32 contest on Thursday.
The first leg saw Manchester United play the La Liga side out of the park, winning 4-0 to all but secure a place in the Last-16 stages and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will now be aiming to get the job done without any hiccups. The Red Devils prepared in an ideal manner for the contest, beating Newcastle United 3-1 at home in the Premier League on Sunday.
Real Sociedad, meanwhile, having suffered a disappointing defeat to Manchester United, bounced back in style, thrashing Alaves 4-0 at home in La Liga, led by a brilliant hat-trick from Alexander Isak. And Imanol Alguacil’s side will be hoping to put up a similar display at Old Trafford on Thursday night and look to cause an unlikely upset.
Ahead of their latest meeting in the second leg of the Europa League Round of 32 contest, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed that the injured quartet of Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Edinson Cavani and Donny van de Beek will not be available for selection, while promising youngster Hannibal Mejbri is also out with an injury.
With a huge Premier League game against Chelsea coming up at the weekend, Solskjaer is likely to make rotations to his starting lineup. This should see Dean Henderson coming into the starting XI at the expense of David de Gea, as the debate as to who should be the Manchester United first-choice continues to rage on.
Brandon Williams could be in line for a rare start at right-back while Alex Telles, who had a good game in the first leg should replace Luke Shaw at left-back. His deliveries from the flank can be a cause of concern for the visitors on Thursday. Eric Bailly and captain Harry Maguire should form the centre-back partnership.
Given the lack of options in midfield, there is no looking past the duo of Fred and Nemanja Matic in the central midfield region for Manchester United against Real Sociedad.
Wholesale changes in the attacking unit are on the cards as Bruno Fernandes could make way for Juan Mata as the playmaker for Manchester United. The width from the flanks ought to come from Daniel James, who has scored in his last two games while Amad Diallo could be set for his much-awaited first start as well.
Following Anthony Martial’s underwhelming outing against Newcastle, Mason Greenwood is the likeliest to start in the centre-forward role. Fellow academy man, Shole Shoretire, could get some minutes from the bench once again.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Henderson; Williams, Bailly, Maguire, Telles; Fred, Matic; Diallo, Mata, James; Greenwood
Ahead of the trip to Manchester, manager Imanol Alguacil will be sweating over the availability of Aritz Elustondo, who had to be withdrawn from the starting lineup just prior to kick-off in the first leg with an injury. In addition, Luca Sangalli remains sidelined while Robin Le Normand misses out due to suspension.
There is unlikely to be any change in shape made by La Real manager with the Spanish outfit likely to set out in a 4-1-4-1 formation in front of goalkeeper Alex Remiro.
— Real Sociedad (@RealSociedadEN) February 24, 2021
Andoni Gorosabel and Nacho Monreal ought to be the two full-backs who will look to push forward during the attacking phases. With Elustondo a doubt and Le Normand suspended, Modibo Sagnan could be in line for a start at centre-back alongside Igor Zubeldia.
The responsibility of shielding the backline from the Manchester United midfielders will fall on the shoulders of Real Sociedad captain Asier Illarramendi. Mikel Merino will provide him with support, but will also look to join in the attacks when his team are in possession.
The creative onus, meanwhile, will be on veteran playmaker David Silva, who will be returning to Manchester for the first time since leaving United’s neighbours Manchester City last summer.
It will be a memorable occasion for former Manchester United starlet Adnan Januzaj, who is set to start on the right flank while Mikel Oyarzabal is the undisputed starter out on the left side. There is no looking past weekend’s hat-trick hero Alexander Isak, who has been linked with Barcelona recently, for the centre-forward role.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Remiro; Gorosabel, Zubeldia, Sagnan, Monreal; Illarramendi; Januzaj, Silva, Merino, Oyarzabal; Isak
- Manchester United are undefeated in 22 of their last 24 matches in the Europa League.
- Real Sociedad are winless in their three matches against Manchester United across all competitions (D1 L2). They have failed to score a goal in any of those games.
- Since losing to Athletic Bilbao in 2011/12, Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 14 home matches in the UEFA Europa League (W12 D2).
- Real Sociedad star David Silva has won six times on his previous eight visits to Old Trafford in all competitions (D2). The veteran Spaniard has scored three goals and set up two more in this run.
- Heading into Thursday’s game, both Manchester United and Real Sociedad have won three of their last five matches across all competitions each.
Player to Watch
— ً (@AmadXtra) February 18, 2021
There has been a lot of excitement surrounding the teenager who arrived at Manchester United in January, even though a deal to sign him had been agreed in the summer transfer window itself. Having come in last month, Diallo has already made a huge impression for Manchester United’s reserve team, prompting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to fast track him into the first-team.
Diallo made his debut in the first leg against Real Sociedad and even though he played for less than fifteen minutes, it was a bright cameo from the winger, as he completed three dribbles, showing some neat footwork. With there being a chance of him starting on Thursday, there will be a lot of eyes on Diallo when he walks out as a Manchester United player for the first time at Old Trafford.
Manchester United 1-1 Real Sociedad
Real Sociedad, despite losing the first leg by a heavy margin, had shown in the opening stages of that game that they can be a threat. And their confidence will be boosted by the impressive victory over Alaves in La Liga. Furthermore, with Manchester United likely to make wholesale changes, it could play into the visitors’ hand as well.
The Red Devils have played plenty of games this season wherein they have conceded first and then make a comeback. And that is likely to be the case once again on Thursday night, with The Hard Tackle predicting this one to end as a scoring draw, taking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men through to the Round of 16.