Manchester United 0-1 Real Sociedad: 5 Talking Points as Cristiano Ronaldo disappoints in controversial defeat | UEFA Europa League 2022-23

Manchester United v Real Sociedad: Group E - UEFA Europa League
Manchester United v Real Sociedad: Group E - UEFA Europa League

Manchester United were beaten 1-0 by Real Sociedad in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday, September 8.

United dropped down to the Europa League, having qualified for the Champions League for two consecutive years prior to that. With several new personnel at the club, they were hoping to start their campaign with a win. The Red Devils will look to win this competition to ensure their return to Europe's top competition.

Sociedad, on the other hand, qualified for the UEL for the third-straight year by virtue of their final position in La Liga. However, having lost Alexander Isak to Newcastle United over the summer, they were a slightly weaker side than in previous editions. It was bound to be a gripping encounter.

Here's how Manchester United line up for tonight's #UEL opener against Real Sociedad

Manchester United made a good start to the game, passing the ball around confidently in the first half. Casemiro, Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire all started the game as Erik ten Hag made several changes to his side. Real Sociedad, too, did not back down from the challenge that Old Trafford poses. They created some intricate moves of their own in the opening stages.

The hosts registered four shots with just one on target in the first half as they failed to trouble the scorekeeper. The visitors made two attempts but failed to hit the target altogether. It was an evenly-matched first period as the hosts kept 54% possession. Ronaldo appeared to have put the hosts ahead after 35 minutes, but his goal was rightly ruled out for offside.

Manchester United looked slightly stronger going forward as they played most of their game in the middle and attacking thirds. However, neither side managed to get on the scoresheet as they went into the break deadlocked at 0-0.

Goalless at half-time.#MUFC || #UEL

Erik ten Hag made two changes at half-time, bringing Bruno Fernades and Lisandro Martinez into the fray in a bid to take the lead. The former nearly made an immediate impact, playing a delightful pass into Ronaldo's path who almost scored within seconds of the restart. Manchester United continued pushing men forward.

Ronaldo continued to misfire as he blazed another effort well over goal a few minutes later. However, there was drama soon after as Real Sociedad were awarded a penalty. David Silva attempted a shot that struck Martinez on the knee and bounced up to hit his arm. Despite a VAR review, the referee awarded the penalty much to Manchester United's surprise.

Brais Mendez stepped up and scored to put Real Sociedad ahead in the 59th minute. Ten Hag made a few substitution to try and alter the course of the game but most of Manchester United's players had a slow day in front of goal.

Real Sociedad held on to secure their first-ever competitive win over English opposition. That said, let's take a look at the five major talking points from the game.

#5. Cristiano Ronaldo had an off-night in front of goal

Ronaldo had a challenging night in front of goal as he failed to get on the scoresheet despite several attempts. He appeared to have given Manchester United the lead in the first half but saw his goal ruled out for offside.

Ronaldo attempted four shots, with none on target. Two of his attempts missed the target while the other two were blocked. The Portuguese has been a shell of himself in front of goal this year as he also missed one big chance to score.

#4. Manchester United were unlucky for the penalty decision

Lisandro Martinez came on for the second period in a bid to help his side stay compact at the back and play long balls in behind Real Sociedad. However, he was booked and penalized for a handball just 12 minutes after coming on.

This “handball” resulted a pen and a yellow card for Lisandro Martínez 🤷‍♂️

Replays clearly showed the ball hitting his leg and then bouncing up towards his arm. VAR intervened in the situation and made the decision on behalf of the referee, which was quiestionable.

#3. Despite a few exits, Real Sociedad look competitive

Alexander Isak decided to switch sunny Spain for a new challenge with Newcastle United in England as he left Sociedad over the summer. Youngsters Takefusa Kubo and Umar Sadiq started as the visitors' forwards but were often outmuscled by Manchester United defenders.

Alexander Sorloth was brought on at half-time and he gave United's backline a tough time with his physical play. David Silva haunted the Old Trafford faithful yet again as his shot resulted in the penalty for his side.

#2. United could pair Ronaldo with a quicker, mobile striker

As most saw today, Ronaldo often struggled receiving the ball with his back to goal and then turning. Bruno Fernandes' introduction in the second half resulted in his best chance to score, but he looked a step slower than his usual self.

With age catching up to him, his effectiveness taking on opponents has taken a massive hit. Ronaldo is now much more effective attacking a loose ball and shooting, than he is contesting for it in duels. With a forward partner like Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial who could receive the deep passes, Ronaldo would have his goalscoring duties cut out for him.

#1. This defeat was in stark contrast to their win over Arsenal

Against Arsenal on Sunday, September 4, Manchester United had lesser of the ball but still took all the chances that came their way. They walked away with a 3-1 win in a game where their opponents dominated possession. Arsenal also played most of the game in United's half.

But tonight was the opposite of what they faced against the Gunners. This time around, Sociedad were the team sitting back and waiting for their moments, while United took the initiative.

Erik ten Hag will need to focus on preparing his players to control and win games where they have more of the ball. If not, they could suffer more such defeats.

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Edited by Arnav Kholkar
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