Real Sociedad v Man. United: UEFA Europa League background, form guide, previous meetings
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
United begin their bid to add their 2017 title in Spain against opponents whose squad contain several familiar faces.
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Two teams that experienced contrasting fortunes in dramatic group stage denouements go head to head in the Italian city of Turin as Real Sociedad take on Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League round of 32.
• There was joy at the conclusion of UEFA Europa League Group F for the Spanish club as an added-time equaliser at Napoli enabled them to clinch second place behind their Italian hosts at AZ Alkmaar's expense, whereas the English side lost their final two fixtures in UEFA Champions League Group H to finish third behind Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig. Both La Real and United concluded their group campaigns with nine points.
• The clubs have been paired together just once before, in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League group stage, United winning the first game 1-0 at Old Trafford with an early own goal and drawing 0-0 in San Sebastián a fortnight later. United went on to top the group undefeated, eventually reaching the quarter-finals, while Real Sociedad finished bottom with just the single point gained from that goalless draw.
• That was Real Sociedad's most recent meeting with English opposition, the only other one dating back to 1975 and a 9-1 aggregate defeat by Liverpool in the second round of the UEFA Cup – a competition the Merseysiders went on to win. The 6-0 defeat at Anfield remains the Spanish side's heaviest in European competition.
• United have won only three times in 25 away games against Spanish opposition (D11 L11), most recently in the semi-final first leg of the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League, when a Marcus Rashford free-kick earned a 1-0 victory at Celta Vigo. They are without a win, home or away, against Spanish opposition since that match, a run amounting to nine games (D3 L6), the last of which was their 2-1 defeat by Sevilla in Cologne in last season's UEFA Europa League semi-final, a game in which they had gone ahead with an early Bruno Fernandes penalty.
• United's record in two-legged knockout ties against Spanish clubs is W6 L9. They have been eliminated from European competition by Liga opposition in each of the last three seasons – by Sevilla in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League round of 16 (0-0 a, 1-2 h) and in last season's one-off UEFA Europa League semi-final, and Barcelona in the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals (0-1 h, 0-3 a).
• A sixth-placed finish in the 2019/20 Spanish Liga secured a return to European football for Real Sociedad after a two-season absence. Imanol Aguacil's team also reached the final of the Copa del Rey, against Athletic, but that all-Basque fixture has been postponed indefinitely.
• The San Sebastián club began this European campaign in the UEFA Europa League group stage and, as in their only previous appearance in the competition proper, in 2017/18, they qualified as runners-up, taking four points off both AZ (1-0 h, 0-0 a) and Rijeka (1-0 a, 2-2 h) and one off section winners Napoli (0-1 h, 1-1 a). Their tally of just five goals scored was the lowest of the 24 teams that came through the group stage.
• La Real's one previous appearance in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase, in 2017/18, proved brief as they were defeated 4-3 on aggregate in the round of 32 by Salzburg (2-2 h, 1-2 a).
• Real Sociedad recorded 12 successive home victories in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League before losing 1-3 against Zenit on Matchday 6 in 2017/18. However, they have now won just one of their last five home fixtures in the competition (D2 L2).
• Real Sociedad's one previous UEFA match in Turin was a 4-2 defeat by Juventus in the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League group stage. They have yet to win in three visits to Italy, although the Matchday 6 draw in Naples was the first time they managed to avoid defeat.
• United finished third in the Premier League last season, when they also lost three semi-finals – in the English League Cup, the FA Cup and the UEFA Europa League. Their league position enabled them to compete in the UEFA Champions League group stage for the 23rd time.
• Ole Gunnar Solskjær's team got off to a flier in Group H, beating Paris 2-1 away and Leipzig 5-0 at home, but they would lose three of their last four fixtures – 1-2 at İstanbul Başakşehir, 1-3 at home to Paris and 2-3 away to Leipzig – to drop down into third place.
• The Manchester giants have appeared in four previous UEFA Europa League knockout phases and have a perfect record in the round of 32, eliminating Ajax (2-0 a, 1-2 h) in 2011/12, Midtjylland (1-2 a, 5-1 h) in 2015/16, Saint-Étienne (3-0 h, 1-0 a) in 2016/17, and Club Brugge (1-1 a, 5-0 h) last season.
• United's away record in the UEFA Europa League is W6 D4 L6, the most recent encounter bringing their biggest win, 5-0 in Austria against LASK in last season's round of 16. They have lost just one of their last ten away fixtures in the competition (W5 D4) – 2-1 at Astana on Matchday 5 last season, when their qualification for the knockout phase had already been assured.
• United have played seven UEFA matches in Turin, all against Juventus. They lost the first four but have won the three most recent, including their one visit to the Juventus Stadium, in the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League group stage, when José Mourinho's side were 2-1 victors. United are unbeaten in their last five fixtures on Italian soil.
UEFA Europa League squad changes
• Real Sociedad
In: Carlos Fernández (Sevilla)
Out: Willian José (Wolves, loan)
• Manchester United
In: Nathan Bishop, Amad Diallo (Atalanta), Phil Jones
Out: Facundo Pellistri (Alavés, loan), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (Leverkusen), Jesse Lingard (West Ham, loan), Odion Ighalo (end of loan)
Links and trivia
• Belgian international Adnan Januzaj joined Real Sociedad from United in 2017 after coming through the Manchester club's academy. He scored five goals in 63 senior appearances for the Red Devils and also spent the 2016/17 season in England on loan at Sunderland.
• Januzaj scored the only goal of the game as Belgium beat England in the final group game at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Rashford and half-time substitute Harry Maguire were in the England side.
• Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba is familiar with the Juventus Stadium, having spent four years there as a Juventus player from 2012 to 2016.
• David Silva spent ten seasons at United's local rivals Manchester City before joining Real Sociedad last summer. The 125-cap former Spain midfielder won 11 major trophies with City, including four Premier League titles. Four of his 77 goals for the club – in 436 appearances – came in Manchester derbies.
• Nacho Monreal made 251 appearances in all competitions for Arsenal from 2013 to 2019, when he joined Real Sociedad, while Mikel Merino had a single season with Newcastle United in 2017/18, scoring once in 25 games.
• United have three players with Spanish Liga experience – David de Gea (Atlético de Madrid 2008–11), Eric Bailly (Espanyol 2013–15, Villarreal 2015–16) and Juan Mata (Real Madrid Castilla 2006/07, Valencia 2007–11).
• Merino and Mikel Oyarzabal are Spain team-mates of United goalkeeper De Gea.
• Real Sociedad forward Alexander Isak and United defender Victor Lindelöf are Swedish internationals.
• United are the only former UEFA Europa League winners competing in this season's round of 32.
• United are also one of six former European Cup winners in this season's UEFA Europa League knockout phase, the others being Ajax, Benfica, Crvena zvezda, AC Milan and PSV Eindhoven.