Manchester United got the job done comfortably in the 2nd leg of their knockout tie against Spain’s Real Sociedad, playing out a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in Manchester.
Manchester United needed to just avoid defeat by 4 goals to guarantee safe passage into the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League after an outstanding first leg that saw them dominate and beat the Basque side 4-0 last week.
United got the job done but the game was pretty entertaining nonetheless with Sociedad having nothing to lose and doing their best to get a result to keep their heads held high.
The club from San Sebastian had a golden opportunity to do that after Daniel James conceded an unnecessary penalty early on in the first half after just 13 minutes. However, captain Mikel Oyarzabal’s penalty went high and wide to keep the scores level at 0-0.
Real Sociedad were the better team for most of the first half but towards to end of the half, United starting asserting their dominance by holding onto possession and being extremely patient in attack.
Bruno Fernandes came extremely close to opening the scoring with a delightful strike that thudded off the crossbar and out. The buildup to the chance was wonderful to watch and Manchester United deserved a goal for that play that involved Mason Greenwood and Fred as well.
Manchester United made 3 substitutions before the start of the second half to rest its players before the big league match against Chelsea on Sunday. As their 4-0 aggregate lead seemed certainly safe, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer felt confident that his players would get the job done.
Marcus Rashford came on for Bruno Fernandes, Brandon Williams for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Axel Tuanzebe was brought on for Fred who was on a yellow card.
Rashford has featured in every single Manchester United game this season and Solskjaer will be hoping that the England star can stay fit and keep this form going.
He almost opened the scoring with an incredible swerving strike that caught Real Sociedad goalkeeper Alex Remiro wrongfooted and glued to his spot, lucky only to see it go just wide of the post.
Real Sociedad also had their own moments in the game with defender Modibo Sagnan hitting the crossbar with his headed effort that he should have hit the target with.
Amad Diallo and Shola Shoretire came on for Daniel James and Mason Greenwood, respectively as both featured for the first time at Old Trafford with the first team. Shoretire became the second-youngest ever Manchester United player to play in a European competition.
Axel Tuanzebe thought he had scored his first goal for his boyhood club with a stellar header after connecting on a perfect cross from Alex Telles’ corner kick but the referee called a foul on Victor Lindelof who had risen to head the ball but ended up kneeing Jon Bautista in the face unintentionally.
Anthony Martial came close to scoring as well and Sociedad’s first effort on target came in the 85th minute from a Martin Merquelanz shot that was comfortably dealt with by goalkeeper Dean Henderson.
Manchester United waltzed through to the last 16 of the Europa League and are joined by Rangers and Arsenal.
Leicester City faced a shock defeat against Slavia Prague, losing 2-0 at the King Power Stadium in Leicester.
The Foxes managed to secure a 0-0 draw in Prague when they travelled to the Czech Republic for the first leg, in the driver’s seat to qualify, however, Brendan Rodgers’ side failed to turn up at home.
Lukas Provod and Abdallah Sima found the back of the net for the Czech side in the 2nd half to send the Foxes out of the competition. Rodgers has still not made it to the last 16 of the European competition, failing to do so with Liverpool and Celtic as well.
This may prove to be a blessing in disguise as the race for the top 4 spots in the Premier League heats up and there will be a lesser load of midweek games now. Leicester currently sits in 3rd, level on points with 2nd placed Manchester United and they will hope that come the end of the season, they will have a Champions League spot unlike last year where they just missed out by being edged by Chelsea and United.
Here are the confirmed teams that have qualified for the Last 16 of the Europa League.
- Tottenham Hotspur (England)
- Ajax (Netherlands)
- Granada (Spain)
- Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)
- Rangers (Scotland)
- Arsenal (England)
- Molde (Norway)
- Villarreal (Spain)
- Slavia Prague (Czech Republic)
- AC Milan (Italy)
- Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)
- Manchester United (England)
- AS Roma (Italy)
- BSC Young Boys (Switzerland)
- Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia)
- Olympiacos (Greece)