Manchester United could take a big step towards qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages with a positive result away to Real Sociedad tonight (19:45 GMT, live on ITV 1).
United top Group A with seven points from two wins and one draw, a point clear of Bayer Leverkusen in second. Shakhtar Donetsk are third on four points, while Real Sociedad prop up the group having yet to gain a point.
United emerged as 1-0 victors in the match between these teams at Old Trafford thanks to an early own goal from Sociedad central defender Inigo Martinez. Wayne Rooney was United’s most impressive player, at the heart of all of their best moves, while Shinji Kagawa produced a display of great promise in tandem with the England forward.
David Moyes’ (pictured) men did not have everything their own way, though, with Sociedad creating some presentable opportunities and striking the crossbar through an excellent free kick from Antoine Griezmann. Moyes will have been slightly concerned about his side’s inability to take control and close down the game once ahead.
Despite those worries, the result did kick off a run of four consecutive victories in all competitions that was continued on Saturday with a 3-1 win away to Fulham. United’s front pair of Rooney and Robin Van Persie was the difference between the sides, with each producing a goal and an assist.
Moyes praised their interplay in post-match interviews, but he will know that he cannot rely solely on the ability of his two front players to carry United through the season. Last season, Rooney and Van Persie accounted for 44% of United’s league goals. Ten matches into this season, they have contributed 65% of United’s total.
The Red Devils had 20 different scorers in the Premier League last season, the highest number of any team, and Moyes will be aware of the need to get more goals from his rotating cast of wingers and from central midfield and defensive areas, in order to share the load and make his team less predictable.
Michael Carrick missed the victory over Fulham with an achilles injury and is doubtful for tonight, as are Johnny Evans, Rafael and Tom Cleverly, who were all taken off injured at half-time on Saturday. Danny Welbeck will definitely miss out due to a knee injury, while Darren Fletcher’s chronic bowel problem continues to sideline him.
Real Sociedad will feel aggrieved to be pointless three matches into their first Champions League campaign since 2004. They had the better of the play but left too many spaces at the back in losing 2-0 at home to Shakhtar, succumbed to an injury time defeat away to Bayer Leverkusen and could feasibly have taken a point away to United.
New coach Jagoba Arrasate was assistant to Philippe Montanier last season, but it looked like the transition was going to be far from smooth when Sociedad recorded just one victory in their first eight Primera Division matches. They lacked the same ingenuity and attacking verve that had taken them to a fourth place finish last season.
Things have started to click in recent weeks and Sociedad now find themselves within touching distance of the top four following a run of three victories and one draw in their last four league matches. The most recent victory came on Saturday, a 5-0 thrashing of Osasuna in which three of the five goals were scored from the set-piece deliveries of Ruben Pardo.
In open play, it is the pace and flair of the likes of Antoine Griezmann and former Arsenal forward Carlos Vela that cause problems for opposition defences, with Sociedad capable of playing some lovely football in the final third. Griezmann has seven goals to his credit so far this season and has scored in each of their last four league matches.
Sociedad will be without Dani Estrada, Diego Ifran and Esteban Granero for the visit of United, with the latter sidelined until next year after suffering a serious knee injury in the club’s Champions League defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk in mid-September.
Real Sociedad vs Man Utd Betting Tips Verdict
The fixture between these sides two weeks ago was the first time they had ever met in official competition. United have made a habit of drawing away to Spanish sides in Europe, having come away with a tie from four of their last five trips to the country.
Sociedad certainly carry enough of an offensive threat to trouble the United defence, particularly if their midfield are able to manoeuvre the ball into the final third with the pace and accuracy they are capable of. With Rooney and Van Persie, United also carry a significant menace in forward areas and both defences are likely to get a good workout.
The home side have been unlucky in their Champions League campaign to date and desperately need a victory here to keep their slim chances of qualifying for the knockout stages intact. United would be relatively content with a draw and that seems the most likely outcome.
- Back the draw at best odds of 5/2 with BetVictor or Bet365.
- Back both teams to score @ 5/6 with BetVictor (Update: The price has shortened since we first advised this and the best betting odds are now 8/11 with BetVictor, Bet365 or Unibet).