Manchester United booked their place in the last 16 of the Europa League after an uninspiring 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad at Old Trafford on Thursday.
With their progress to the next round all but secured after a thumping 4-0 first-leg win in Turin last week, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opted to start with Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw on the substitutes’ bench, while Dean Henderson replaced David de Gea in goal.
Mikel Oyarzabal should have taken advantage of a sluggish start from United, but his early penalty flew well over, while Bruno Fernandes and Daniel James went close for the hosts before the break.
Substitute Axel Tuanzebe saw an effort ruled out during an insipid second half, though it mattered little in the end as United booked their place in Friday’s last-16 draw with the minimum of fuss.
17 years and 23 days.
Shola Shoretire becomes the youngest-ever #MUFC player to feature in European competition.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) February 25, 2021
La Real were given a golden opportunity to take a 13th-minute lead when James clumsily brought down Andoni Gorosabel in the penalty area, but Oyarzabal blazed the resulting spot-kick over.
Only a superb touch from Victor Lindelof prevented Alexander Isak tapping home at the back post soon after, while Anthony Martial was denied by Alex Remiro at the other end as United belatedly woke from their slumber.
Fernandes then whipped a fine effort against the crossbar from 16 yards before Remiro pawed away James’ header shortly before half-time.
Rashford replaced Fernandes at the break and flashed a 30-yard free-kick past Remiro’s left-hand post soon after, while Modibo Sagnan headed against the crossbar for the LaLiga side.
Tuanzebe thought he had scored his first United goal shortly after the hour mark, but his powerful header was ruled out for a foul by Lindelof following a pitchside review by referee Lawrence Visser.
Shola Shoretire became United’s youngest ever player in European competition at the age of 17 years and 23 days when introduced with 14 minutes remaining as the Red Devils stretched their unbeaten home run in the Europa League to 15 games.
What does it mean? Lacklustre United stumble through
While United’s place in the next round was pretty much secured by last week’s drubbing, that is no excuse for their dismal display in this second leg.
This was the perfect opportunity for Martial and Mason Greenwood to rediscover their scoring touch and fringe players like James, Alex Telles and Nemanja Matic to impress Solskjaer. Simply, they failed.
Fernandes the only bright spark
He only played 45 minutes, but no player on the pitch had more shots (three) and played more key passes (two) than Fernandes. A prime example of why Solskjaer rarely rests his star man.
La Real rue Oyarzabal’s early miss
Things could have turned out differently for the visitors had Oyarzabal not fluffed his lines from 12 yards.
His wayward spot-kick meant he became the first visiting player to fail to score a penalty against United in European competition at Old Trafford since Roma’s Daniele De Rossi in April 2008.
2014 – Mikel Oyarzabal is the first visiting player to fail to score a penalty attempt at Old Trafford against Man Utd in any competition since Leighton Baines for Everton in October 2014 in the Premier League. Wayward. #UEL pic.twitter.com/d4YJ0NIKpL
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 25, 2021
Key Opta Facts:
– Man United have progressed from all five of their last-32 ties in the Europa League (also 2011-12, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2019-20).
– Sociedad have been eliminated from both of their last-32 ties in the Europa League, also exiting the competition at this stage back in 2017-18 versus Salzburg.
– The LaLiga side are now winless in their four matches with United across all competitions (D2 L2), failing to score in each clash.
– Rashford became the first Premier League player to feature in 40 matches in all competitions this season.
– Fernandes has hit the woodwork more times in all competitions than any other Premier League player since the start of February 2020 (11).
United travel to Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday, while La Real take on champions Real Madrid in LaLiga a day later.