Real Sociedad players

Andy Mitten previews United v Real Sociedad

Wednesday 24 February 2021 12:00

Real Sociedad will want to respond at Old Trafford on Thursday, after a first-leg result which shocked the press back home in Spain.

That’s the view of Spanish football expert – and Manchester United fan – Andy Mitten, who has been following the fortunes of the Basque outfit in La Liga this term.

United comfortably saw off Imanol Alguacil’s side 4-0 in Turin to take a huge leap towards the Europa League’s round-of-16 and compound what was a poor week for Spanish clubs in Europe.

And Mitten believes the team from San Sebastian played into our hands at the Allianz Stadium.

“It was a shock result,” Andy admits. “When the draw was made, Real Sociedad, or La Real, as they’re often referred to, were top of La Liga. The form did dip but it had picked up ahead of the game in Turin and, given United’s pretty poor record against Spanish teams playing away from Old Trafford, I don’t think anyone expected a 4-0 scoreline.

90 in 20: Real Sociedad 0 United 4 Video

90 in 20: Real Sociedad 0 United 4

Watch the extended highlights of Thursday’s magnificent win in Turin…

“I read the Spanish press the day after the game and the reaction was ‘blown away’. The ratings given to Real Sociedad players were pretty low and I think there was surprise and also a bit of worry.

“Barcelona had been beaten at home 4-1 [by Paris Saint-Germain], Sevilla had been beaten at home by Borussia Dortmund, so the first three games in [European competition] for three flagship clubs last week were all home defeats. I say home because the game was in Turin for Real Sociedad, so it absolutely didn’t feel like home.

“While Ole Gunnar [Solskjaer] mentioned it wasn’t a 4-0 game, United clearly took their chances. I think the way Real Sociedad played suited United perfectly. They’re a team that likes to have the ball, likes to press high and with the superior technical ability of the United players, it was a pretty devastating scoreline.”

This will be only La Real’s second competitive visit to Old Trafford, and first for almost eight years, after a Champions League group-stage tie in the autumn of 2013.

While no Real Sociedad players remain from that encounter – a 1-0 win settled by an early Inigo Martinez goal – Mitten thinks the current vintage will be seeking to leave a mark at one of the continent’s grandest arenas, as a way of making up for last week’s reverse.

“The players want to play in your Old Traffords, your Bernabeus and your Camp Nous,” Mitten continued. “It absolutely holds appeal. It’s not the same without fans but it’s still a beautiful red cavity with 76,000 seats. It’s something that they will be telling their grandchildren about, with an asterisk because of the circumstances.

“They need to save face, but they also need to qualify for Europe next season. The league is really important for them, and they had a good win at the weekend, 4-0 ironically, against Alaves, when Facundo Pellistri played his first minutes, on loan from Manchester United.

“But another 4-0 defeat would be pretty damning, so they’ve got to save face. I think their professional pride has got to show that they didn’t do themselves justice. They maybe deserved a bit of luck which they didn’t get in Turin.”

Ole provides clues to Thursday's line-up


The boss is asked whether Shola Shoretire and Amad will play in the Europa League tie against Real Sociedad.

With United facing Chelsea less than three days after this fixture, the talk is all about where Solskjaer will rotate his side.

That makes Thursday’s game a hard one to call, according to Mitten, especially as the Basque club have their own battle to remain in La Liga’s European places, after slipping down the table in recent months, and they take on reigning champions Real Madrid on Monday.

“I don’t think any of [the Real Sociedad players] expect to go through, at all,” Mitten adds.

“Maybe United will field some players who need minutes, rather than the absolute strongest team. It’s a really difficult one to predict because a) the team United will play [is uncertain] and b) what will the Basques do themselves?

Januzaj: I still watch every United game


Real Sociedad's Adnan Januzaj has spoken to UEFA ahead of Thursday's Europa League reunion.

“They’ve got important league games coming up. They’re sixth in the table. They’ve fallen away from being first and they need that top six finish because Real Betis, who are managed by [former Manchester City and West Ham boss] Manuel Pellegrini, they’re really in-form. They want that Europa League place.

“Real Sociedad are well-funded and have got a beautiful stadium. It’s a huge shame United fans were not able to go there but at least we went in 2013.

“Champions League [qualification] is something that happens to them once in a generation, but the Europa League is something that they’re expected to reach.

“They’ve got a brilliant youth system and they’ve brought players in like David Silva not because they wanted to give him a swansong but because they wanted to push towards the Champions League. The league domestically is really important to them.”

Keep up to date with the latest news ahead of the United v Real Sociedad fixture, as Solskjaer addresses the press at 13:30 GMT.