A Bruno Fernandes brace and a goal a piece from Marcus Rashford and Daniel James gave Manchester United an emphatic win in the 1st leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie against Real Sociedad on Thursday night. The Red Devils made an ideal return to the competition, registering their first win in their last ten games against Spanish opposition.
Fernandes was prolific once again as he put United ahead in the first half with a close range finish in Sociedad's penalty area, which was assisted by Rashford's scooped ball through the lines of the defence. The Portuguese international was as composed as ever to slot the ball past Alex Remiro, punishing the Spanish outfit's defensive error.
United would go in at half time with a slender lead, but Fernandes soon added his second in the 57th minute after side footing the ball home following a VAR review.
Sociedad had chances of their own, coming close with Adnan Januzaj and Alexander Isak in the opening exchanges, but they failed to trouble the backline of United to stamp a foothold in the contest.
Rashford grabbed United's third after a blistering counter attack with Dean Henderson and Fred both involved in the build-up play. James ended the game in style as he drove infield before finishing calmly, squeezing a shot through the legs of Remiro.
Amad Diallo also made his mark as he given his debut off the bench. The 18 year old was a welcome introduction, coming on for Mason Greenwood in the 83rd minute.
United look to finish the business at Old Trafford next Thursday
After United's disappointing Champions League campaign, all eyes turned to their Europa League journey, and they didn't disappoint. With a professional performance away from home, United will look to complete the job in Manchester next week. From minute one the Red Devils looked in control, with Sociedad not bringing much to the table in terms of chance creation all game even if they did look dangerous in snippets.
United came into this clash off the back of some inconsistent showings in the Premier League, with two draws in their last two league games. Putting this behind them, they were brilliant in Italy, more or less sealing their passage to the last 16 at the first time of asking.
They could have been out of sight in the first half as Rashford and Scott McTominay both missed good chances. To be fair, Sociedad were a long way from their best, and they will now need to pull off a massive upset to progress in the competition. The attacking force of United was on show for all to see once again, and there were quality performances all over the pitch against a solid Sociedad side who are currently 5th place in La Liga.
Man United had 13 shots on goal during the game compared to Sociedad's 8, with ten of shots on target versus Sociedad's two. The possession count for United was much lower, though, as they only had 40% of the ball. The total pass count for the Red Devils was 346 to Sociedad's 507, with United also having the lower passing accuracy of 82% compared to the hosts 86%.
The statistics tell us the hosts lacked end product on the night and were punished by a brilliant Red Devils side who were prolific on the counter. United have started their UEFA Europa league campaign in style, and they'll now look to build momentum and consistency in the coming fixtures.
Bruno Fernandes continues to impress
The best player by a country mile for United on the night, the Portuguese midfielder continues to raise eyebrows amongst the best in the game. His statistics do all the talking, as Fernandes has now been involved in 51 goals for United, scoring 32 and assisting 19 to make up the total. He's just been an absolute revelation for the Red Devils since signing from Sporting Lisbon.
Fernandes had a 100% dribble success rate against Sociedad, registering a passing accuracy of 81% as well. He made three tackles, created three chances overall with three shots on target. His two goals meant he has surpassed Paul Scholes' record of 20 goals for a United midfielder in a season set back in 2002/03, with Fernandes now up to 21 already.
Fernandes has scored the most Europa League goals since the beginning of last season. Fernandes' total amount of goal involvements is staggering, as he's only had two less than Lionel Messi's 53 since February of 2020. Only Robert Lewandowski has more goal involvements in that time, with 67.
The star player has scored nine goals in all European competitions for United since his European debut for the club in February of 2020. Only Inter Milan's Romelu Lukaku has netted more across all players in the Europa League and Champions League with 11 in total. Over the last four seasons he has 96 goals and 72 assists in 195 games, proving his status as a world class athlete among many.
United are a force upfront with Solskjaer satisfied with the manner of the victory
United now have the last 16 in their sights after pretty much putting Sociedad out of their misery in the first leg. As a result, Solskjaer was in happy spirits after what he had witnessed on Thursday night.
"We knew the goals were going to count, so its worth taking a risk and going forward. We scored some good goals and played some nice football. We deserved to win but maybe not by four goals. On a night like this when we find spaces we can be a dangerous team.