Manchester United are already guaranteed to progress to the next round of the Europa League having picked up four wins out of five so far.
But the new competition rules include a mandatory knockout tie against Champions League dropouts for all second-placed teams. And the Red Devils will be hoping to avoid that.
The only way possible is to defeat Real Sociedad in Thursday’s final group game at San Sebastian and United need to win by two clear goals to guarantee top spot and direct entry into the Round of 16.
United’s Europa ambitions
The two teams had met in the first group game of the season which United ended up losing 0-1 thanks to a controversial penalty decision.
Takefusa Kubo, David Silva, Ander Barrenetxea, Momo Cho, Aihen Munoz, Mikel Oyarzabal and Umar Sadiq are all ruled out for Real Sociedad against Manchester United on Thursday. #MUFC [MU]
— mufcmpb (@mufcMPB) November 1, 2022
And the 20-time English champions have been handed a major boost with the timely return for Anthony Martial. The French forward has been plagued by injuries which has limited him to only three Premier League appearances and only one Europa League cameo.
But the 26-year-old has been prolific when fit, scoring thrice already while assisting two. And he could prove to the difference with United needing goals on Thursday.
Harry Maguire and Donny van de Beek‘s return from injury could help Erik ten Hag shuffle his pack if required and the Dutch boss will be hoping to get Victor Lindelof and Antony back fit for the contest.
“I think they will recover but I can’t tell you any more,” the former Ajax boss had said on Sunday. “We have to see what develops in the coming days and how they progress but I hope, when we go to Spain, everyone is on board.”
And that is not the only good news ahead of the contest. La Real have now lost twice on the bounce in La Liga and have slipped to fifth in the standings.
Real Sociedad there for the taking
They will have to field a weakened side on Thursday with quite a few stars missing out through injury. The United media team listed the absentees ahead of the crucial encounter.
Takefusa Kubo was the main tormentor when the two sides had last met at Old Trafford but the Japanese winger will miss out due to a dislocated shoulder.
Former Manchester City star David Silva will also miss out while Ander Barrenetxea, Momo Cho, Aihen Munoz, Mikel Oyarzabal and Umar Sadiq have all been ruled out.
Ten Hag will be planning to put out a strong side and hoping that the team he picks can get the job done and avoid further fixture congestion in an already jam-packed season.
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