Manchester United’s Under-19s secured a priceless and impressive win away to Group A leaders Real Sociedad on Tuesday, as James Wilson and Joe Rothwell both struck on incisive attacks for Nicky Butt’s side in San Sebastian.
It wasn’t wholly a smash-and-grab job against the talented and technical Basque youngsters, but both goals came via breakaway attacks and served to highlight this United side’s invaluable education on the European stage.
After previously recording a win and two defeats, Butt sought a sense of intent from his young players and he got it right from the first whistle as Wilson went on one of his surging runs straight from the kick-off and fired a shot wide.
In style, shape and confidence on the ball United, with Rothwell and James Weir sat deep in midfield and Andreas Pereira pulling the strings further forward, produced a performance that suggested continental knowhow has been gained and applied so far in the inaugural UEFA Youth League.
After just 11 minutes, United took a deserved lead. Sam Byrne raced down the right after good possession play from United and whipped in a cross to the far post, which Wilson steered home in mid-flight to score his fourth goal in this competition this season.
The home side gradually edged their way back into the contest and when United keeper Joel Castro Pereira unwittingly tipped a speculative shot onto the crossbar, it gave La Real no.9 Unai Manso a glorious opportunity to head in the equaliser. Pereira then recovered and pulled off a stunning reaction save to maintain United’s advantage.
Real Sociedad were in the ascendancy and continued to press United, and in the 32nd minute the home side had a goal disallowed as Martin Merquelanz’s shot was saved by Pereira and then Odei Arrieta slid in to force the ball over the line. In doing so he clearly fouled Pereira and thankfully the officials spotted it.