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Preview: Manchester United vs. Real Sociedad - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Europa League clash between Manchester United and Real Sociedad, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Barring a complete catastrophe, Manchester United will aim to ease into the last 16 of the Europa League when they welcome Real Sociedad to Old Trafford for the second leg of their last-32 battle.

The Red Devils are 4-0 up from last week's first leg and are expected to advance to the next round with minimal difficulty, even with a much-changed team.


Match preview

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts in the Europa League on February 18, 2021© Reuters

Manchester United finally appear to be heading in the right direction again after a turbulent few weeks, although they were certainly given a scare by Newcastle United in the early stages of their Premier League encounter on Sunday evening.

Despite an inspired performance from the relegation-threatened Magpies, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men struck through Marcus Rashford, Daniel James and of course, Bruno Fernandes, who wrapped up a 3-1 win for Man United with his 15th Premier League goal of the campaign.

Solskjaer's side are now unbeaten in seven across all competitions and have won five in that run, while they have failed to score only once in their last 11 matches at Old Trafford - a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City in the EFL Cup on January 6 - finding the back of the net at least three times in their last four on home soil.

Fernandes, Rashford and James were also the goalscorers in last Thursday's first leg with Real Sociedad, who were simply swept aside by the Red Devils as they put one foot firmly in the next round, so it would take a monumental collapse for Solskjaer's side to somehow be sent packing now.

United have not managed to string three wins together across all competitions since December, and even though a repeat of last week's 4-0 drubbing is highly unlikely given the raft of changes that Solskjaer is expected to make, a shell-shocked Sociedad will simply be playing for pride when they step out onto the Old Trafford turf.

Real Sociedad head coach Imanol Alguacil pictured in December 2020© Reuters

Sociedad were considered genuine contenders for the La Liga title in the first half of the season, but in a tale as old as time, they struggled to keep pace with the big guns while juggling domestic and European commitments.

Imanol Alguacil's men only just scraped by in their Europa League group, but unless the Spanish side can mirror Barcelona's famed Champions League comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the 2016-17 campaign, their continental dream will cease to exist for another season at least.

However, Sociedad recovered from their 4-0 thrashing at the hands of United at the weekend as they overcame Alaves by the same scoreline, with Barcelona-linked striker Alexander Isak registering a hat-trick - taking him up to 12 for the league campaign - and Portu also getting in on the act.

Repeating that feat at Old Trafford is a major ask for the visitors, although Isak has now made the net ripple nine times in his last six La Liga outings, and Sociedad have at least managed to win three games on the trot in the top flight before their journey to Manchester.

La Reales will likely be coming up against a weakened Man United team, so while it is not impossible for the Spanish side to produce a barnstorming comeback, Alguacil will simply want to see his side play with belief and valour before they take on Real Madrid in the league on Monday.

Manchester United Europa League form: W
Manchester United form (all competitions): WDWDWW

Real Sociedad Europa League form: LWDDDL
Real Sociedad form (all competitions): LDWWLW


Team News

Manchester United striker Edinson Cavani pictured on February 2, 2021© Reuters

Paul Pogba and Phil Jones are definitely out for Man United, and Solskjaer confirmed at his pre-match press conference that Scott McTominay, Edinson Cavani and Donny van de Beek will be unavailable for the second leg as they continue to nurse various injuries.

Solskjaer would not have been prepared to take any risks over the trio's fitness anyway - given that United have a seemingly unassailable lead - and the United manager could hand starts to Dean Henderson, Brandon Williams, Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata this week.

Harry Maguire is one yellow card away from a suspension so is likely to be granted a well-earned rest, allowing one or both of Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe to get a run-out in defence.

The hosting manager has confirmed that Amad Diallo and Shola Shoretire will both be in the squad for Thursday, but neither youngster is likely to start.

Sociedad have lost two defenders for the second leg as Robin Le Normand is banned for an accumulation of bookings, while Joseba Zaldua was taken off with a hamstring injury against the Red Devils.

The latter will be replaced at right-back by Andoni Gorosabel, while the void left by Le Normand's absence in the heart of defence should be filled by 21-year-old Modibo Sagnan.

Adnan Januzaj's reunion with Man United last week was a torrid affair for the Belgian winger, and with Portu scoring at the weekend, Januzaj is not a nailed-on starter against his former club.

Manchester United possible starting lineup:
Henderson; Williams, Tuanzebe, Bailly, Telles; Fred, Matic; James, Mata, Rashford; Greenwood

Real Sociedad possible starting lineup:
Remiro; Gorosabel, Zubeldia, Sagnan, Monreal; Zubimendi, Merino, Silva; Portu, Isak, Oyarzabal


SM words green background

We say: Manchester United 2-1 Real Sociedad

It would be foolish to expect another 4-0 drubbing in the second leg given the numerous changes expected on the hosts' end, and United need not go all out for a victory here, especially with Chelsea to come at the weekend. Sociedad have lost two more defenders ahead of this match to add to their growing list of absentees, and while this game should be a much tighter affair, Solskjaer's men should have no trouble advancing to the last 16.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a home win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home Win:curl


ID:436390:cQx:QQ:

How you voted: Man Utd vs Real Sociedad

Manchester United
84.7%
Draw
11.8%
Real Sociedad
3.5%
339
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FC Midtjylland's Manjrekar James in action with Atalanta's Amad Diallo in the Champions League on December 1, 2020
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TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City28205356193765
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd28159455322354
3Leicester CityLeicester28165748321653
4Chelsea27138642251747
5Everton2614483933646
6West Ham UnitedWest Ham2613674031945
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs27127843281543
8Liverpool28127947361143
9Aston Villa261241038271140
10Arsenal27115113528738
11Leeds UnitedLeeds26112134344-135
12Wolverhampton WanderersWolves2898112837-935
13Crystal Palace2898113044-1435
14Southampton2796123344-1133
15Burnley2879122036-1630
16Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2776142744-1727
17Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton27511112735-826
18Fulham28511122233-1126
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom2839162056-3618
20Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd2842221645-2914

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