Own goal the difference for Man United against Sociedad
Inigo Martinez hit his own net after just two minutes at Old Trafford
Manchester United players celebrate the early winner against Real Sociedad at Old Trafford. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Manchester United 1 Real Sociedad 0: The scoreline may not have been as convincing as David Moyes would have liked but this was a much brighter Manchester United performance and a valuable three points. Wayne Rooney was lively and involved in almost everything, Shinji Kagawa slotted in with typical neatness, even if he was indecisive in front of goal, and at times United went forward with something like the verve of old.
The only nagging doubt is that better quality opposition will make more of their chances. Real Sociedad certainly had opportunities here and for the second match in a row Moyes was concerned at his team’s inability to put a game to bed.
The Manchester United manager was criticised for defensive substitutions after the draw against Southampton and he has begun to field questions about Javier Hernandez’s future at the club in addition to Kagawa’s, so he gave both of them a start.
With Robin van Persie rested to recover from minor injuries Hernandez partnered Rooney up front while Kagawa took over on the left from Adnan Januzaj, though with Ryan Giggs partnering Michael Carrick in central midfield Moyes still seemed to be hedging his bets.
What Moyes and United wanted most was an early boost, something to settle the nerves, and they got it so early it was almost comical. Less than two minutes had elapsed when Rooney turned Markel Bergara inside out in the penalty area in what was United’s first attack, calmly making room for a shot that rebounded from an upright straight into the path of Inigo Martinez, arriving on the scene to help out Bergara but succeeding only in prodding the ball into his own goal.
United could have had a second goal after another 10 minutes when Claudio Bravo made the first save of the game, stopping a Rooney shot on the line after Rafael da Silva had crossed from the right.
Rooney was too high with a somewhat ambitious overhead effort from Antonio Valencia’s cross midway through the first half, before Hernandez beat Bravo with a header only to be correctly recalled for offside.
David de Gea did well in the form of a one-handed save to keep out a Haris Seferovic shot, after the referee had allowed play to continue when the United defence was expecting a free-kick for what looked like a foul on Giggs. In the event United were a shade lucky still to be leading at half-time, for De Gea knew little about a terrific free-kick from Antoine Griezmann at the end of the first half that thumped against his crossbar from the edge of the area.
When Kagawa joined Rafael in the referee’s book just before the interval the home fans grumbled because the official took his time in producing a card.
United survived a scare at the start of the second half when Seferovic made inroads down the right and Jonny Evans produced a clearance that could have resulted in an own-goal, before United went straight down the pitch and Phil Jones was denied by a combination of goalkeeper and far post from Kagawa’s left-wing cross.
In a game in which the woodwork was rattled on a regular basis, Alberto de la Bella almost caught De Gea with a shot that grazed the bar at one end and Valencia struck the base of the post at the other. Valencia sensibly tried to make sure with his next opportunity, unselfishly squaring for what looked certain to be a Kagawa goal, yet the chance went begging when the midfielder took a touch instead of shooting first time.
By the time Rooney blazed over from a good position United were unquestionably making life hard for themselves in failing to take advantage of some ordinary defending.
They ought to have made the game safe when Rooney and Ashley Young failed to profit from a two-on-one situation four minutes from time and again when Giggs sent Kagawa away but, though wastefulness can never be a virtue, Moyes can probably put up with it in return for three points and the knowledge that Van Persie will soon be back.