Manchester United took a huge step towards qualifying for the Round of 16 as goals from Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, and Daniel James saw them claim a 4-0 win over Real Sociedad in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League knockout tie on Thursday.
The game, which was played in Turin at Juventus’ Allianz Stadium, had a frantic opening few minutes that saw both sides come close to scoring early. But it was the ‘away side’ that settled into a rhythm first and took the lead through Fernandes in the 27th minute.
Despite missing chances to put the game out of their opponents’ reach in the first half, Manchester United doubled their lead in the 57th minute as Fernandes doubled his tally. Rashford added the third seven minutes later.
A below-par Sociedad side had opportunities to mount a comeback, but were unable to make the most of them. They paid for their profligacy late on, as James put the finishing touches on a fine performance with Manchester United’s fourth in the 90th minute.
The result leaves Real Sociedad with a mountain to climb in the return leg at Old Trafford in a week’s time. Manchester United, on the other hand, will be glad to have an opportunity to rest and rotate with Premier League games against Chelsea and Manchester City coming up soon after.
On that note, here are Manchester United’s player ratings from their well-deserved 4-0 win over Real Sociedad.
Dean Henderson: 7/10
The young Englishman impressed yet again with a clean sheet after an assured display. He made the necessary saves when called upon and displayed excellent communication with his defenders - a feature of his play that was highlighted in the empty stadium.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: 5/10
The Manchester United right-back was able to put an early booking for an extremely clumsy tackle behind him. He locked up the right flank with a solid display both offensively and defensively.
Eric Bailly: 6/10
While he was not as assured as his central defensive partner, Bailly put in a typically all-action display and used his pace and physicality to make a series of important defensive interceptions.
Harry Maguire: 7/10
Grew into the game after a shaky start and turned in a commanding defensive performance. He regularly stepped in with important tackles and interceptions to halt Real Sociedad attacks.
Alex Telles: 6/10
While he was a constant threat going forward and asked questions of Sociedad with his excellent delivery, Telles was given a tough time defensively by United old boy Adnan Januzaj. He had to rely on his colleagues to bail him out on occasion.
The defensive half of United’s midfield duo, Fred was content to sit back and keep opposition attacks at bay with a series of well-timed tackles. However, the Brazilian also found the time to showcase his playmaking skills, putting Rashford through on goal for Manchester United’s third with a precise pass.
Scott McTominay: 7/10
Shook off a pre-match injury scare to take his place in the starting lineup and was a dominant presence in midfield. He carried the ball forward with great intent and kept the play moving along at all times.
Injury troubles did finally catch up with McTominay as he went off for Matic on the hour mark.
Daniel James: 7/10
Struggled to get into the game at first, but never stopped running. He was rewarded for his efforts with a late goal that put his side virtually out of reach after the first leg itself.
Bruno Fernandes: 8/10
As has often been the case since his arrival at Manchester United, the Portuguese was the difference between the two sides with two well-taken goals that highlighted his extremely influential display.
Marcus Rashford: 7/10
Unbelievable as it may seem to question the performance of a player who registered a goal and an assist in addition to playing the key pass for yet another goal, Rashford was let down by his decision making in key areas on several occasions. He could have put the game beyond doubt in the first half itself.
While he showed his undoubted ability to produce moments of quality, his tendency to hold on to the ball for too long and not put away clear-cut chances has proved to be a cause for frustration of late.
Mason Greenwood: 5/10
Leading the line for United from the start, the youngster struggled to get involved in the attacking play. But he did manage to show some nice touches and link up well with his fellow attackers.
Manchester United Substitutes:
Nemanja Matic: 6/10
Replaced McTominay on the hour mark and slotted seamlessly into the Manchester United midfield, using his experience to help his side see the game out.
Anthony Martial: 6/10
The Frenchman looked bright after coming on in the second half. He showed some clever touches and made intelligent runs as Manchester United kept up their search for goals.
Juan Mata: 5/10
Came on in the final few minutes as Solskjaer opted to give his attackers a rest, but only had time for just a few of his trademark clever passes.
Amad Diallo: 5/10
A first look at the exciting young winger signed in the January transfer window. He made his maiden appearance for Manchester United in the late stages of the game and showed off a few fancy flicks and tricks. But Diallo did not have the time to make a telling contribution.