Four-midable Manchester United Batter Real Sociedad In First Leg
Thanks to goals from Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Daniel James, Manchester United have beaten Real Sociedad 4-0 away from home in their Europa League Round of 32 clash, and have all but punched their ticket to the next round.
After stuttering results in the Premier League of late, the Red Devils produced one of their best team performances of the season as they look to get their trophy chase back on track.
There was also a first-team debut for teenage sensation Amad Diallo, the new signing coming off the bench in the 83rd minute for a cameo appearance.
On a bright night for Manchester United there was one sour note, an injury to Scott McTominay that may see the Scotland international miss the upcoming fixture against Newcastle United.
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer felt like his team were back to their best after recent disappointments.
“We spoke about it before the game that we need to be back to ourselves. Not more direct but attack quicker, see where there is a chance and we knew it was an away game, even if it was at a neutral venue, we knew the goals were going to count more for us. So why not take a risk, go forward, risk some balls in behind? We knew they would have a high line and not have the same pace as Marcus and Dan so we targeted those spaces. We just wanted to be back to ourselves again. The last few weeks, I don’t know how you say it in English but it’s been staccato, stop start and we’ve not really performed. It was about finding ourselves, being positive, having courage and running until you have to come off.”
“Every team attacks you, they do have attacks, so it’s about finding the moments when you have space in behind, or if you have space in between, or if you have space around them. We feel that we are a work in progress, we are learning. The season has been a little bit inconsistent. We’ve not been able to win lately, but the little X-Factor, I feel we got back today. We played well, we were more clinical in front of goal, of course even though we had a few chances before we got the first one. Definitely, when we got the second one, the game opened up and we found ourselves in loads of space,” said Solskjaer.
Bruno Fernandes has made a massive impact since joining from Sporting Lisbon just over 12 months ago, and one wonders where United’s season would be without their talisman.
The Portuguese midfielder scored another two goals in his stellar season, earning further praise from his manager.
“We do create chances and he [Bruno] gets them. He’s good at finding spaces and his technical ability when it comes to chances is top class. Two very good goals. Bruno always wants to do the next thing correctly. He wants to do the next thing at the best of his ability and that is a very good attribute and quality to have. You never rest on your laurels. If he scores two, he wants three, if he gets an assist, he wants another one. He drives everyone on, of course, sometimes he drives too much and wants to do too much. Tonight, he played his position really well and was in the spaces we wanted him and we can see how efficient he is.”
After falling to Sevilla at the semi-final stage of last season’s Europa League competition, Solskjaer is hoping his team can take the next step and make it to the final this time around.
“We didn’t get anything back from last season’s Europa League run, that’s for sure. We can talk about being in the semi-final and, in the end, we got nothing out of that so maybe sometimes you could look at it not being worth it. But I think the experience from last season has helped this team, these boys, and we have got to learn from experiences on the job. That’s the only way of learning from your mistakes to correct them. I’ve got to say the semi-final defeat last season is still in the back of our heads. Of course, it hurts. We played a very good Sevilla team and felt we should have gone all the way,” concluded Solskjaer.
Bruno Fernandes echoed the thoughts of his manager as he looks to pick up his first winners medal at United.
“It’s about winning, we want to win the games and today we did everything well. The result is on our side but we have the second leg and still have a tough game to come at our home. We want to win again to go through. We know 4-0 is a good result but we have to be aware of what Real Sociedad can do and be ready for the second leg.”
“My target is scoring the most goals I can and obviously get as many assists for my team-mates to score too.”
“The position I play in is to do that, to assist, and score when you can. The most important for me though, the target, is the trophies. Winning trophies is more important than scoring goals.”
While pleased with the result, Fernandes was happier that the swagger returned to the team in a confidence-building display ahead of a tough set of fixtures in March.
“We don’t have to look at the results. We have to look at the performance,” Bruno said, before emphasising the importance of constant improvement.
“We know we haven’t performed well in some games but still, in some games, we have not got the result we wanted after performing well. We need to understand that we have to grow up, get better and better and, of course, the most important thing is the results. They give you a bit more confidence to go into the next game and try to win again.”
While four goals helps the feel-good feeling return for fans and players alike, all involved with the club know there are bigger fish to fry in the coming weeks that will determine whether or not this season ends with success.