Real Sociedad 0 Manchester Utd 4
Manchester United dazzled in the second half to surely kill this last-32 tie off. Real Sociedad simply had no answer for the pace and ruthlessness embodied by the irrepressible Bruno Fernandes, who scored twice – once in each half – as Ole Gunnar Solskjær's side made a fine return to winning ways after three consecutive draws.
The Spaniards are at Old Trafford on Thursday for the return leg but there is almost certainly no way back for them. United will hope this win can reignite a season that had stuttered, and will now host Newcastle on Sunday with their confidence sky-high.
The absence of the injured Edinson Cavani meant Mason Greenwood was brought in to lead the line, one of five changes from the 1-1 draw at West Brom. As this is a cup competition Dean Henderson replaced David de Gea in goal, with Dan James, Alex Telles and Eric Bailly the other changes. Real Sociedad, unbeaten in seven games and fifth in La Liga, were unchanged from the weekend win over Getafe so Adnan Januzaj, once of United, and David Silva, who enjoyed a sparkling decade at Manchester City, were both in what was manager Imanol Alguacil's strongest team.
A hectic start presaged a frantic half in which it might have been 2-1 to Sociedad, who were forced to host this "home" leg at Juventus Stadium due to Covid, inside the first two minutes. United slumbered in both boxes. First, Januzaj was allowed to shoot but did not trouble Henderson. Seconds later, Marcus Rashford went in on Álex Remiro but his attempted finish was driven straight at the goalkeeper. While United rued the missed chance, Januzaj again nearly hurt his former team. His pass slipped past the sleepy Bailly, Alexander Isak picked up the ball and let fly at Henderson, who saved.
There was an openness about the contest that was great for the neutral but not for either manager. From the left Januzaj hit in a corner and United’s shaky rearguard was true to type. The ball was allowed to go to ground before Maguire eventually hooked clear.
If this was a concern for Solskjær, Alguacil felt the same when a slick Fernandes flick had Scott McTominay driving in from the right. The midfielder unloaded at Remiro but Sociedad survived. It seemed a matter of when, not if, the Spaniards would be breached, though. The contest’s finest move next had Telles releasing Fernandes down the left channel. His tap to Rashford was pinpoint but, once more, the forward could only find Remiro. Fernandes steered the rebound towards goal but Robin Le Normand headed out.
Although Rashford’s radar was awry, he remained a menace. A burst upfield had Remiro rushing forth and hoofing clear. Then, he became provider: McTominay fed the 23-year-old, whose chip was cutely allowed to bounce by Fernandes. This took out Remiro and two defenders and, after steadying himself, he finished to register his 51st goal involvement since signing 12 months ago.
It is not, though, news that United are accomplished going forward. The problem is in defence, and each time Sociedad came at them chaos felt near. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Telles and Bailly were constantly caught out of position, as when Isak drilled in a cross and none of them were near Nacho Monreal. It took an attacker – Greenwood – to be on hand and close the door.
United’s task for the second half, then, was to be more clinical and stop Sociedad higher up the field when they attacked. The latter part of the demand was not managed well enough, with a flying Maguire block needed to stop Isak having a close-range chance to equalise.
That opportunity suggested the pattern would continue regardless of what Solskjær had told his charges at the interval. Soon after, Mikel Oyarzabal picked out Silva, whose mis-kick saved United. But then the visitors grabbed a second. Rashford rolled a pass in from the left and Fernandes, ever quick-brained, again dummied, the ball hit James, and the Portuguese fired home his second goal.
United’s third came when Fred split Sociedad’s defence with a pass that Rashford sprinted on to, and this time he slotted home expertly. At the close James added United’s fourth, as a satisfying night ended with teenage talent Amad Diallo having been given a seven -minute cameo for his debut. - Guardian