Manchester United travelled to the San Sebastian in Spain to face a Real Sociedad side desperately in need of points after three straight defeats and needed a win to have any chance of avoiding a group stage exit.
United on the other hand stood to almost certainly advance with a win and manager David Moyes was hoping for the three points. What transpired in Spain however was a largely flat performance.
United did not have the best of records against Spanish opposition away from home, having only won two of 21 matches and the omens were always against them. Sociedad entered this match on the back of a 5-0 thumping of Osasuna and their manager had spoken of wanting his side to get in the faces of United and take the game to them. The opening 10 minutes though was the exact opposite of what he had hoped for.
David Moyes’ men started the match better and more purposefully, Antonio Valencia and Wayne Rooney having good early touches.
Chicharito was buzzing upfront by himself and looked lively together with Patrice Evra and Shinji Kagawa on the left. Socieded almost looked like they were just waiting to concede first like the sonic-speed own goal at Old Trafford 13 days earlier. United however flattered to deceive.
Michael Carrick was clearly missed in the middle of the park. Marouane Fellaini had a decent game but never really made any forays forward with his passing. Ryan Giggs, who partnered the Belgian at the heart of United’s midfield, tried to link the defence to Wayne Rooney but the Englishman was not his usual bustling self. United’s number 10 was uncharacteristically
off colour and looked disinterested for large parts of the game.
He did occasionally play the odd pass but rarely threatened in the final third and was passively quiet in San Sebastian. This in turn limited the supply to Chicharito upfront and consequently the Red Devils failed to create much. The Mexican did miss an open goal early in the second half when the lively Kagawa threaded him through only to compound his frustration before Moyes mad two brilliant, Fergie-esque substitutions.
The Scot withdrew the ineffective Rooney and Hernandez for Van Persie and Young and the two substitutes combined almost instantly to almost put United ahead. Young’s inviting cross evaded Giggs in the box only for Van Persie to direct an effort against the post. The Dutchman went close again after cutting in from the left and firing just wide before the most
controversial moment of the match.
Ashley Young, who’s conduct has been questioned both last season and already this term over diving, went down again too easily to earn his side a penalty in the 66th minute. His managers, both past and present, have been vocal in their desire for their players to be honest but that cry seems to have fallen on deaf ears as far as
the Englishman is concerned. Another example of dishonesty will surely have fans squirming and open up Young to further criticism.
It did not matter though because Van Persie struck the post and the opportunity was missed. Ashley Young is sure to be on the receiving end of fan and manger backlash after his theatrical tumble at the San Sebastian in what is quickly becoming a tarnishing trademark of his. Defensively United were not that troubled but it is only because Sociedad did not threaten them enough. De Gea mad some good saves but they were few and far between. Smalling, who normally has a torrid time at right back was ok for most of the match, an indication of just how inept the Spanish side were going forward.
One positive that can be taken from this game is the performance of Shinji Kgawa. The Japanese was at the forefront of most of the positive play going forward and he created opportunities for Hernandez and Van Persie. He once again showed exactly hat he can offer when he is played in his favoured number 10 position after the removal of Wayne Rooney. He was brilliant when he played behind Van Persie and Moyes were served some more food for
thought ahead of Sunday’s block-buster against league leaders Arsenal.
Fellaini was later sent off for a second bookable offence and this does not aid his quest in trying to win over still skeptical United fans. All in all, United are still on course for qualification after the stalemate in the group’s other game and with no defeat in Europe yet, Moyes seems to be ticking all the right boxes in continental competition. However, he must be wary of Arsenal’s impending visit on Sunday after this underwhelming performance.
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