Manchester United needed a victory with two clear goals against Real Sociedad in their Europa League final group game but they ended up securing only a 1-0 victory on Thursday.
And the result means United finish second in their group and will now have to navigate another precarious knockout tie against one of the Champions League dropouts to make the subsequent round.
Alejandro Garnacho had scored in the first half but the lack of options at Erik ten Hag’s disposal meant the Red Devils could not increase their advantage and ended up finishing second in their group.
United play true to history
Erik ten Hag tried his best to secure the outright two goal victory but he was severely handicapped due to the injury-enforced absence of Anthony Martial, Antony and Jadon Sancho.
While the result will be disappointing no doubt, it was not expected considering the history of United. The 20-time English champions are not exactly known for making it easy for themselves.
84' – Harry Maguire is playing up front with Cristiano Ronaldo
— utdreport (@utdreport) November 3, 2022
And the result should not come as too much of a surprise for fans. The result means United will need to navigate an extra round against one of Europe’s elite clubs next.
If the Reds hold the ambition of going all the way in the secondary European competition, the next round should not come as too much of a surprise considering the history of the club.
On Thursday, something that sorely stuck out was the lack of attacking power at the Dutch manager’s disposal and he had to resort to an unorthodox formation which included Harry Maguire as an auxiliary striker.
No attacking subs at EtH’s disposal
Cristiano Ronaldo huffed and puffed but could not score, though he did provide the assist for Garnacho’s opener. Marcus Rashford came on as a substitute but could not too much of a difference.
The likes of Barcelona, Juventus and Ajax might be United’s opponents in the next round but that should not be too much of a worry if the goal was to win the competition.
What should worry Ten Hag more than the result was the lack of options and judging by reports, the club are most likely to not entertain requests of strengthening the side in the winter transfer window.
The biggest worry at this stage is not whether the club can beat one of Europe’s elite clubs but more whether the squad is good enough to handle yet another round of games considering the jam-packed calendar.
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