David Silva in action for Real Sociedad

Your guide to our Europa League opponents

Monday 14 December 2020 15:12

Manchester United have been drawn to play Real Sociedad in the Europa League last 32.

We've faced the side from northern Spain twice before, but not for seven years, and it's been all change at the Basque club since then.

Real Sociedad currently lead La Liga and have compiled one of their best squads since they last won the Spanish top division, way back in 1982.

Here's everything you need to know about the team they call La Real...

The last time we hosted Sociedad Video

The last time we hosted Sociedad

Real Sociedad have only played at Old Trafford once before - check out the best bits from that encounter...

Formed in 1909, in the Basque city of San Sebastian, Real Sociedad have been a regular fixture in La Liga for much of their history, having been a founder member in 1929. Much of their success came in the 1980s, when they won the top-flight title in consecutive seasons and claimed a Copa Del Rey in 1987. They made it to the semi-finals of the old European Cup in 1983, losing to Hamburg. Although the club has never quite hit the same heights since, they finished second to Real Madrid in 2002/03 and fourth ten years later, qualifying for the Champions League on both occasions. United played La Real twice in the 2013/14 Champions League group stages, winning 1-0 at home thanks to an early Inigo Martinez own goal and drawing 0-0 at the Anoeta Stadium against a team featuring the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Claudio Bravo.

With traditional giants Real Madrid and Barcelona struggling for consistency, Real Sociedad are one of a number of clubs to have taken advantage, and they currently sit top of La Liga on goal difference from Atletico Madrid. The Basque club have won seven, drawn five and lost one of their 13 matches so far and, aided by the attacking potency of Mikel Oyarzabal and Portu, they are the league's top scorers, with 23 goals. La Real are also looking good at the back, conceding only six times - and never more than once in a game.

It's been a slightly different story in Europe, with Real drawn in a tough Europa League group with Napoli, AZ Alkmaar and Rijeka. With minutes remaining of their final Group F match, Real were losing 1-0 to Napoli and heading out, only for Willian Jose to strike. As it turned out, they would have qualified anyway as AZ lost to Rijeka late on in Croatia, but ultimately Txuri-urdinak (The Whites and Blues) were left unseeded after finishing second, and will now face United.

David Silva and Mikel Oyarzabal.

Real Sociedad have a number of recognisable names in their ranks, not least former Red Adnan Januzaj and ex-Manchester City talisman David Silva, who has arguably been La Liga's best player this season after ending his decade-long spell in England. The Basque outfit also boast Nacho Monreal, formerly of Arsenal, and erstwhile Newcastle midfielder Mikel Merino, but 16 of their squad have come through the club's academy - the most in the Spanish top flight. Captain Oyarzabal, who has netted seven goals in all competitions this season and won La Liga's Player of the Month for October, is among them, while Portu and Alexander Isak are shrewd recent signings who have proved dangerous in attack.

Classic Match: Januzaj v Sunderland Video

Classic Match: Januzaj v Sunderland

The Europa League draw has paired us with Real Sociedad and Adnan Januzaj, who scored twice on his full United debut...

Real Sociedad's trust in their youth setup is perhaps understandable when you consider boss Imanol Alguacil spent almost a decade working with the club's various academy sides before being promoted to the first-team job on Boxing Day 2018. La Real were struggling towards the bottom of the top-flight when Alguacil took charge, but aided by the goals of Oyarzabal and Willian Jose they soon pulled clear from trouble and ended up finishing ninth. Last season, the club got off to a much quicker start and flirted with the top four for much of the campaign, before coming sixth and qualifying for this competition. Real also made it to the final of the Copa Del Rey, to take on arch rivals Athletic Bilbao - an event which is yet to happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic and both clubs not wanting to play it behind closed doors.

The revamped Anoeta was finished in 2019.

Although it's unclear whether supporters will be able to attend the game, Real Sociedad's Anoeta Stadium - known as the Reale Arena for sponsorship purposes - will look different to the last time the Reds visited. Back then, the pitch was surrounded by an athletics track, which had always been unpopular with home fans due to the perceived distance from the players and resulting lack of atmosphere. Renovation to get rid of the track and increase the capacity of the stadium started in 2017 and was completed in the autumn of last year, with the new record attendance of 36,370 being set in the Basque derby with Athletic in February 2020.