Manchester United will take on Real Sociedad tonight knowing that a win in San Sebastian would put them on pole-position to clinch qualification to the round of 16, as United enter tonight’s match only three points away from the 10-point tally that is normally considered crucial to progress to the second stage of the competition.
In the first half at least, Saturday’s win against Fulham showed glimpses of the ruthless and clinical United of yesteryear and having won the last four matches in all competitions and having extended their unbeaten run to seven games, David Moyes wants to continue such a positive run ahead of Sunday’s clash against Arsenal at Old Trafford.
Sociedad, however, are a much improved side from the one that lost 1-0 at Old Trafford last month, having picked up seven points in their last three league games, when they have also found the net 10 times. The Basques know that a fourth straight defeat in Group A would rule them out of the race for a Europa League spot and are determined to cause an upset.
“A lot has been said about this transition period [between the games] but Manchester United are still very powerful,” said Real Sociedad’s manager Jagoba Arrasate . “They have been struggling a bit in the Premier League but they are coming back now.
“They are the champions. It is the same squad. They have a lot of potential and they are still a great team. But we have played better in our last two games and we can play better than we did at Old Trafford. We have nothing to fear and if we play our cards right, we can give them a scare.”
United, who have traveled to San Sebastian without the injured Jonny Evans and Rafael are likely to field a similar starting XI to the one that won at Fulham, with Marouane Fellaini expected to partner Tom Cleverley in midfield, while Chris Smalling should replace Rafael at right-back.
Despite Moyes’ lack of experience in the Champions League, United have looked solid in the first three games in Europe this season but traveled to San Sebastian on the back of a dismal record against Spanish clubs. The Reds have won only eight of their last 35 European games against Spanish opposition and have scored only three goals in the last six games in Spain. David Moyes insisted that the approach United have adopted in Europe this season, doesn’t differ from the way they’ve gone about their business in the Premier League.
“I don’t think there is anything which we’ve done differently, everything we’re doing in this Champions League [campaign] we’re doing in the Premier League as well,” said the United manager.
“But the players are used to it [Europe], hey are experienced at this level and that helps – we have got experienced players who are used to the Champions League, they are showing it in the games and I hope that continues.”
Having secured back-to-back league wins for the first time in his United career, it’s time for Moyes to celebrate his first win away from home in Europe.
Come on Reds!
Real Sociedad Bravo; C Martinez, Mikel Gonzalez, I Martinez, De La Bella; Zurutuza, Bergara, Prieto; Vela, Griezmann; Agirretxe.
Manchester United De Gea; Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Cleverley, Fellaini; Valencia, Rooney, Januzaj; van Persie.
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