Manchester United, holding a comfortable 4-0 lead going into the second leg of their UEFA Europa League Round of 32 tie with Real Sociedad, could well rotate their squad with a Premier League clash with Chelsea on the horizon.
United are 4-0 up on the tie, and holding the away goal advantage, after a Bruno Fernandes brace and goals from Marcus Rashford and Daniel James saw the Red Devils secure a strong win in the first leg in Turin a week ago.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed his squad will be “more or less the same” as the one that saw off Newcastle United on Sunday evening.
With a comfortable lead, it could be a chance for United to rest the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, with Shola Shoretire and Amad Diallo waiting in the wings for full debuts – Solskjaer affirmed in his pre-match press conference that they will be in the squad.
19-year-old Northern Ireland international, Ethan Galbraith, has also been added to the Europa League squad after some impressive outings for Neil Wood’s U23 side.
However, the quartet of Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay have all been ruled out.
David Silva and Adnan Januzaj return to Manchester and are likely to start for the visitors, while the Basque club could be missing up to four players with injuries, including Joseba Zaldúa.
Manchester United: Henderson; Williams, Bailly, Maguire, Alex Telles; Matic, Fred; Amad, Mata, James; Greenwood.
Real Sociedad: Remiro; Gorosabel, Zubeldia, Normand, Monreal; Januzaj, Silva, Illarramendi, Merino, Oyarzabal; Isak.
Manchester United are unbeaten in their last five outings, though two of those were draws, against Everton and West Bromwich Albion, respectively. Indeed, United picked up a crucial win in Turin against Sociedad last week to give them a four-goal cushion in this week’s reverse leg. They also saw off Newcastle on Sunday evening in a 3-1 victory, despite a dull first half.
Real Sociedad, however, have lost one in their last five – that defeat coming in last week’s first leg. Swedish forward, Alexander Isak, scored a hat-trick at the weekend in a 4-0 defeat over Alaves – where United youngster, Facundo Pellistri, is currently on loan. Sociedad had won two and drawn one prior to last week’s first leg.
Ones to watch
James is on a superb run of form for United, with the Welshman making the most of limited opportunities this season. He was dominating in last week’s first leg, capping a brilliant performance with a neat goal, tucked through the keeper’s legs.
Daniel James’ last 3 games:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) February 21, 2021
⚽️ vs. Southampton
⚽️🅰️ vs. Real Sociedad
⚽️ vs. Newcastle United
Impact. 🏴 pic.twitter.com/1KoHBVPxwk
When playing against a high back-line, such as against Sociedad and previously Leeds United, James has been a dynamic winger with a indefatigable attitude, and could well replicate such a performance under the Old Trafford lights.
The young Swedish striker joined Sociedad in 2019, and is currently enjoying a tremendous season, with twelve goals and two assists in 20 La Liga outings so far this year; sitting joint-fifth on the top scorers’ list.
Of course, United romped home to a 4-0 thumping in Turin last week, with a phenomenal performance from Bruno Fernandes, coupled with goals from Marcus Rashford and Daniel James.
How to watch on TV
BT Sport 1 will be showing the game live, with kick-off set for 20:00 BST. You can also follow the action on the BT Sport app, for existing customers.
View from the dugout
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke in his pre-mach press conference about the importance of fitness, especially when the squad is fighting on three fronts this season:
“For me, the fitter you are, the more you can do. The best teams have the physicality, technicality and the mentality. Marcus is exceptional, Dan is exceptional with his pace. We found a way of finding space in behind him, but they are very technically good. When you have David Silva out there you have to focus for 90 minutes.”