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Manchester United advanced to the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday.
A 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad puts Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side through to the next round on a 4-0 aggregate.
United withstood some early pressure from La Reales but, in the end, came away with a relatively comfortable draw.
As you might expect, Real Sociedad was the desperate side early on while United was content to hang back.
The Reds dodged a bullet in the 12th minute after Daniel James needlessly clipped Andoni Gorosabel in the United penalty area.
Mikel Oyarzabel stepped up to the spot and, with a hop and a skip, fired his shot way over Dean Henderson’s bar.
Minutes later, Victor Lindelof saved a goal when Oyarzabel placed a great cross towards the six-yard box near Alexander Isak. Lindelof did well to get a touch and clear it out for a corner.
After 20 minutes of unrest, United started to settle into the game.
Alex Remiro efficiently handled a long-range effort on the edge of the Sociedad box by Anthony Martial.
Some great movement by United on the right-wing a couple of minutes later as Mason Greenwood found Fred all alone. The Brazilian squared it to the onrushing Bruno Fernandes, whose effort crashed against the bar.
Nothing too much into the rest of the half as United’s defence contained La Reales with ease.
Early in the second half, La Reales were unfortunate not to take the lead.
A lovely free-kick by former United midfielder Adnan Januzaj in the 50th minute was nodded across the box by substitute Ander Barrenetxea towards Modibo Sagan. His header in the centre of the box struck the woodwork.
The Reds thought they had a breakthrough in the 64th minute.
An Alex Telles corner fell to Axel Tuanzebe, who headed home what he thought was his first goal for the senior side in his 32nd appearance.
Unfortunately, a VAR check ruled Lindelof fouled Jon Bautista in the build-up, and the goal got ruled out.
From there, it was smooth sailing for Solskjaer’s side.
Anthony Martial came close with a long-range effort in the 67th minute, while Dean Henderson made a nice save off Martin Merquelanz with five minutes to go.
Man of the Match
He didn’t produce the highlight-reel goals we’re used to seeing, but Bruno Fernandes was a force in the United midfield once again.
Despite only playing one half, he was imaginative, had some pinpoint passing and controlled the game’s pace after his side withstood some early pressure.
He was unfortunate not to score when his shot off a nice build-up, struck the bar.
Business as usual
Advancing beyond the round of 32 in this competition is just another day at the Red Devils office.
United has now progressed from all five of their last 32 ties in the Europa League.
Tonight’s draw increases their unbeaten run at Old Trafford in this competition to 15 consecutive games.
Conversely, Real Sociedad has now been eliminated from their round of 32 ties in this competition both times. The other happened in 2017-18 against Red Bull Salzburg.
They’re now winless in all four fixtures against the Reds.
As impressive as the numbers are for Bruno Fernandes, his stats could be even better if not for some bad luck.
The Portuguese midfielder has hit the woodwork more times (11) in all competitions than any other Premier League player since the beginning of February 2020.
In a lineup that changes game by game because of the demanding schedule, the one mainstay for United has been Marcus Rashford.
The Man United striker is the first Premier League player this season to make his 40 appearances in all competitions.
Youngsters Amad Diallo and Shola Shoretire have a ways to go to match the appearances of Rashford, but they’re starting to get some action.
At 17 years and 23 days, Shoretire became the youngest Reds player to appear for the club in a European competition.
Diallo played almost 30 minutes in his second appearance for the side in this competition.
Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal will carry an unfortunate distinction with him following tonight’s match.
The club’s second-leading goalscorer became the first visiting player to miss a penalty at Old Trafford since Leighton Baines missed one for Everton in a Premier League match in 2014.
Following the match, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he thought his team settled in nicely after some early scares.
“When you’re 4-0 up, sometimes it’s hard to get going, and we needed the wakeup call of the penalty, and after that, I felt we took over the first half; the second half was slower”.
Man United are one of three English sides in the last 16 of this competition.
Their next potential opponents include Ajax, Arsenal, AC Milan, Dinamo Zagreb, Dynamo Kyiv, Granada, Molde, Olympiakos, Rangers, Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk, Slavia Prague, Tottenham, Villareal, and Young Boys.
The draw takes place tomorrow at noon GMT from Nyon, Switzerland.
The round of 16 matches will take place on consecutive Thursdays, March 11 and 18.
Man United return to Premier League action on Sunday when they battle Chelsea from Stamford Bridge at 4:30 pm. (JSL).