Saturday, October 1, 2022

Manchester United 0-1 Real Sociedad: Main Talking Points After United Open Their Europa League Campaign With A Controversial Defeat

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, UEFA Europa League 9 Sep 2022

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Although Manchester United might have been looking to lay down an early Europa League marker on Thursday night, the Premier League giants opened their Group E adventure with a 1-0 loss against Real Sociedad.

Despite opening their European campaign by enjoying four domestic victories on the spin, Erik ten Hag’s side would have been disappointed by a largely flat display at Old Trafford.

With Sociedad awarded a hugely controversial penalty just before the hour-mark, Brais Mendez’s strike from 12 yards clinched a famous win for the Spanish outfit.

Watching United crash back down to earth after their eye-catching Premier League purple patch, we have taken a look at the main talking points.

United’s fringe players fail to take their chance

Heading into Thursday’s Group E opener after picking up a stellar 3-1 victory at home against Arsenal, Manchester United certainly found the mood in their camp at the highest it has been in recent memory.

Skyrocketing their way up the Premier League table, it was expected by many around Old Trafford that ten Hag would take the chance to make some alterations here.

However, while the former Ajax boss might have recalled both Harry Maguire and five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, United’s fringe superstars failed to take their chance.

Along with handing blockbuster summer arrival Casemiro a full debut on Thursday, the decision to play Fred as a number 10 left plenty confused around the red half of Manchester.

With it appearing that Ronaldo would be on his way out of Old Trafford before the summer transfer window slammed shut, the Portuguese icon cut a frustrated figure and further questions will certainly be asked about the 37-year-old’s role going forward.

Likewise, with Maguire tumbling down ten Hag’s pecking order and with the duo of Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane seen to be the Dutchman’s number one partnership, the ex-Leicester defender failed to stake any real claim.

Sociedad end their English curse

While a 4-1 hammering at home against Barcelona on August 21st might be the only defeat that Sociedad had suffered from their opening four La Liga outings, it is fair to say that Thursday’s guests have struggled to find top gear since opening the 2022/23 campaign.

Nevertheless, making the trip to Old Trafford after snatching a point against Atletico last weekend, Imanol Alguacil would have been thrilled by his side’s gritty display on foreign soil.

Despite watching attacking talisman Alexander Isak making the move to Newcastle this summer in a deal that could be worth in the region of £60million, Sociedad showed a real resolve here.

Although there might be plenty of controversy surrounding the award of Mendez’s second-half penalty, Alguacil and his squad won’t care one bit.

Crashing out of last season’s Europa League at the round of 16 stage following a 4-0 aggregate defeat at the hands of Manchester United, Sociedad also ended their winless record against English opposition.

In fact, Thursday’s stunning 1-0 victory is the first time in seven attempts that the Basque Country-based outfit have collected an English scalp.

Diffrent competetion, same VAR controversy

While Manchester United might have put in a toothless display here, there is no doubt that Marco Di Bello’s decision to award Sociedad’s second-half penalty will steal plenty of headlines.

After last weekend’s Premier League fixtures were stained with more VAR controversy following incidents at both Stamford Bridge and St. James’ Park, it was very much the same story in Manchester.

Although the ball was clearly seen to have deflected off Lisandro Martinez’s thigh before ricocheting onto his arm, Di Bello’s controversial call was not overturned by VAR – something that left United’s camp furious.

However, while the Red Devils might be desperate to make an immediate return to winning ways following their Europa League blip, the former Premier League champions could have to wait a little while longer to get themselves back on the pitch.

With the death of Queen Elizabeth II announced prior to Thursday’s European fixtures, it is expected that all games across England will be postponed this weekend in a sign of respect.

Match Report:

Manchester United: De Gea, Dalot, Maguire, Lindelof, Malacia, Casemiro, Eriksen, Antony, Fred, Elanga, Ronaldo

Subs: Martinez, Fernandes, Sancho, McNeill, Ferreyra

Real Sociedad: Remiro, Gorosabel, Elustondo, Pacheco, Munoz, Zubimendi, Mendez, Merino, Silva, Kubo, Umar

Subs: Sorloth, Turrientes, Cho, Sola, Barrenetxea

Goals: Mendes (59′ pen)

Yellow Cards: Manchester United: De Gea, Fred – Real Sociedad: Turrientes, Munoz, Silva

Red Cards: N/A

Referee: Marco Di Bello


Tom Dunstan

Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan



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