Following a disappointing result against Southampton in a display that was a microcosm of Manchester United’s start to the season so far, David Moyes’ side has the opportunity to bounce back versus Real Sociedad in the Champions League.
Qualification to the knock-out phase of the most coveted trophy in European club football has been no mean feat in recent seasons but United have started the group stages well, producing their best display of the season so far against Bayer Leverkusen before coming away from Ukraine with a hard-fought draw.
Real Sociedad, who currently lie at the bottom of Group A after consecutive defeats to Shakhtar and Bayer Leverkusen, are the opponents in a match where a win could see United take a step closer to qualification for the knock-outs.
The two sides have experienced similar starts to their domestic campaigns. United’s poor start has been well documented but Sociedad have also struggled since Philip Montanier’s departure over the summer. Former assistant manager Jagoba Arreste has since taken over the helm at the San Sebastian and won for the first time in eight games against Valencia at the weekend.
Nemanja Vidic missed the draw against Southampton at the weekend with a calf problem and the 32-year-old skipper missed training today along with Rio Ferdinand, so both are unlikely to feature. Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck both sat out training but Moyes indicated that the pair have an outside chance to play.
For Sociedad, captain Xabi Prieto returned versus Valencia at the weekend but Estaban Granero, a loan signing from QPR, is out until after the new year with a knee injury. Former Arsenal forward Carlos Vela, who found the net against Bayer Leverkusen in the last round of fixtures, is expected to lead the line.
This is the first meeting between the two clubs but it is difficult to see anything but a United victory in this fixture with Sociedad struggling both domestically and in Europe. A win would leave United on seven points from the opening three fixtures and just a win away from the magic ten points which is widely acknowledged as the total required to progress to the last 16.
The Basque outfit may find some encouragement in United’s poor record at Old Trafford over the past two seasons and a run of no clean sheets in nine games in the Champions League may hint at a soft underbelly which could be exploited.
But Sociedad are winless in eight games in the competition and Rooney and co. should have too much fire power for the Spaniards, whom United face again in two weeks time.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Real Sociedad
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