Match report: Manchester United 0-1 Real Sociedad (Europa League)
Brais Mendez’s controversial penalty condemned Manchester United to defeat against Real Sociedad in their first Europa League fixture of the season.
United’s Dutch manager also decided to name a changed centre-half partnership with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof taking the place of the dominant Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez who were named on the bench.
Anthony Elanga was preferred over Jadon Sancho, whilst Antony was also handed his United European debut after his impressive league debut last weekend.
In the end, an extremely controversial penalty separated the two sides, with Manchester United beginning their Europa League campaign with a defeat at Old Trafford.
After a minute's silence in memory of the late Queen Elizabeth II was impeccably observed at Old Trafford, Manchester United got their 2022/23 European campaign underway.
The early stages of the game were relatively uneventful with United creating a couple of half chances through Cristiano Ronaldo, but nothing that really troubled Alex Remiro in the Sociedad goal.
On the 22nd minute, United looked to have sparked into life with Anthony Elanga using his lightning pace to storm past Andoni Gorosabel, drive into the penalty area and square the ball for an unmarked Fred, but the Brazilian’s shot was blocked at the crucial moment by a Real Sociedad defender.
Two minutes later, Christian Eriksen played a sublime, defense carving pass to Cristiano Ronaldo inside the eighteen yard box, but the Portuguese forward’s touch let him down.
35 minutes into the contest, Manchester United fans inside Old Trafford erupted into celebration after Cristiano Ronaldo’s powerful header found the back of the net, but these scenes were halted by the assistant referee flag.
Although the game to this point had been largely uneventful, Manchester United were undeniably in control of proceedings, with the Red Devils confidently moving the ball around, all that was missing was the end product.
However, at the break, both sides were level and Manchester United continued their search for the deadlock breaker.
At half-time, in an attempt to freshen up his Manchester United side, Erik ten Hag elected to make two changes with Bruno Fernandes replacing Christian Eriksen and Diogo Dalot making way for Lisandro Martinez.
Seconds after the resumption of play, the newly introduced Fernandes crossed the ball for a perfectly positioned Cristiano Ronaldo, but CR7 headed wide his international teammate’s pinpoint cross.
Moments later, the Portuguese talisman fired a long-range effort just over the crossbar.
On the 53rd minute, Los Txuri-Urdin had their first real opportunity of the evening, with Takefusa Kubo whipping a dangerous cross towards Alexander Sorloth, but after out-jumping Lisandro Martinez the Norwegian striker headed just wide.
Moments later, Kubo and Sorloth would link up again, with the Norwegian looking certain to score if not for a brilliant piece of last-ditch defending from Lisandro Martinez.
On the 57th minute mark , Old Trafford fell silent as Real Sociedad were awarded a controversial penalty for a deflected handball by substitute Martinez.
Despite the United protestations, Brais Mendez dispatched the penalty to give Los Txuri-Urdin the lead.
This goal against the run of the play would force Manchester United into a more attacking frame of mind as they searched for a leveller.
Therefore, with 20 minutes left on the clock Ten Hag replaced Antony and Elanga with Jadon Sancho and youngster Alejandro Garnarcho, in an attempt to freshen up his attacking line.
Six minutes after these changes, Casemiro would force Alex Remiro into a low save with a long-range effort, United’s best chance since Real Sociedad opened the scoring.
With six minutes of regulation time remaining, Erik ten Hag would make his final roll of the dice with Tyrell Malacia being replaced by debutant Charlie McNeill.
Despite Manchester United’s last gasp efforts, they were forced to accept defeat in their opening Europa League fixture of the 2022/23 campaign.
Manchester United: David De Gea, Diogo Dalot (Lisandro Martinez - 45’), Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Tyrell Malacia (Charlie McNeill - 84’), Casemiro, Fred, Antony (Jadon Sancho - 71’), Christian Eriksen (Bruno Fernandes - 45’), Anthony Elanga (Alejandro Garnacho - 71’), Cristiano Ronaldo
Subs: Tom Heaton, Martin Dubravka, Raphael Varane, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Tyler Fredricson, Scott McTominay, Zidane Iqbal, Charlie McNeill
Real Sociedad: Alex Remiro, Andoni Gorosabel, Aritz Elustondo, Jon Pacheco, Aihen Munoz, Martin Zubimendi, Brais Mendez, Mikel Merino, David Silva (Momo Cho - 65’), Umar Sadiq (Alexander Sorloth -,45’) Takefusa Kubo (Ander Barrentxea - 77’)
Subs: Andoni Zubiaurre, Urko Gonzalez de Zarate, Alex Sola, Robert Navarro, Igor Zubeldia, Asier Illaramendi, Ander Guevara, Benat Turrientes, Jon Karrikaburu
Featured Image Credit: Manchester United
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