Manchester United safely passed through to the next round of the Europa League after a damp squib of a second leg – but the job was done last week.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had discussed Bruno Fernandes’ selection before the game, intimating that it was done to keep the thought of higher intensity closer to the surface.
But that’s easier said than done in situations like United found themselves in – almost a game within a game, the tie effectively over so much as to make any genuine exertion on Sociedad’s part pointless but with the pride at stake – and still a potential victory at Old Trafford for the visitors to claim.
With nothing to lose, they went for it early on, and won a penalty as James was clumsy in the tackle. However, Oyarzabal fired his kick horribly wide into the Stretford end.
Oyarzabal then fired a cross across goal, requiring Lindelof to knock it wide.
Then United began to grow into the game a little more and had a couple of chances of their own – Martial doing well to get a shot away that the keeper saved, and then a minute or so later, Fred doing well to set up a chance for Fernandes. From 25 yards, the captain for the night hit the crossbar.
Fernandes was then creator, setting up a headed chance for James, but the effort was straight at the goalkeeper.
The second half was even more of a non-event than the first – Sociedad threatened with an early chance, but both teams made a whole number of changes, taking the entire sting out of the occasion.
Axel Tuanzebe thought he had scored, but the goal was ruled out for a foul by Lindelof.
The biggest takeaway from the night was Shola Shoretire breaking the club record for youngest European player. Perhaps there will be only the Shoretire family who remember this game at all.
For once people were wondering why Solskjaer only made four changes, and why in particular Fernandes and Wan-Bissaka were started when the tie was effectively won in Turin.
It seemed a fair point to make, and the manager’s assertion about wanting to maintain a level of urgency was a little concerning if what he was trying to say was that Fernandes was the only player to have provided it.
That’s sort of the issue and the advantage of games like this – to give others the chance to step up to the plate.
It’s always difficult for players to play in games like this and in a sense you ask only for a professional job with as little fuss as possible.