Man United lost to Real Sociedad in their first Europa League game of the season under the Old Trafford floodlights. But what did we learn?
Erik ten Hag will no doubt be frustrated with that overall performance, though it has to be said, Manchester United had to battle against Real Sociedad and the officials.
We’ll get it out of the way early. That was a truly dreadful penalty decision. Under the current rules and guidelines, that is never a penalty in a million years, while it puts an even bigger dampener on what has been a pretty tough day.
Anyway, the good news is that this is only gameweek one, so United have five more matches to put it right – though winning the group takes on more significance with the new Europa League rules that are in place.
Anyway, let’s get right into what we learned…
Cristiano Ronaldo looked every bit a 37-year-old
It’s a sad state of affairs. Ronaldo is the greatest to ever do it, though against Real Sociedad, he looked like an ageing footballer trying to play in a high intensity system.
The lack of pace was alarming. He was caught offside on way too many occasions, while the overall game just wasn’t good from a man who is supposed to be the focal point of our attack. Perhaps some of it can be attributed to a lack of playing time, though I’m not so sure…
It’s clear to see why Casemiro hasn’t been starting in the Premier League
Alright, so it’s early days, but Casemiro didn’t look good tonight. His passing was sloppy, he looked like he was running through treacle and that defensive sharpness just wasn’t there.
Again, it could be down to a lack of familiarity with this system coupled with learning how to play with new players. So I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, though I fully expect Scott McTominay to start this Sunday (assuming the game goes ahead).
Ups and downs are to be expected
This is Ten Hag’s first year in the job. The rebuilding process is going to take years, though the four-game win streak prior to this clash had us all dreaming big. This was a jolt right back down to earth.
The overall performance wasn’t good. United didn’t create enough quality chances to win the game, though losing it to a dodgy referee decision 100% hurt.
Christian Eriksen is so important
United were controlling the tempo of the game and pinning Sociedad back in that first 45. When Eriksen departed at half-time, the game swung the way of the Spanish side as United just couldn’t keep ahold of the ball.
I knew United were getting a good player in Eriksen – though I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t think he’d be that good. Hopefully, he’s got enough gas in the tank to give us 90 minutes over the weekend.
Ten Hag not scared to give young players their chance in Europe
It was nice to see minutes for both Alejandro Garnacho and Charlie McNeill. These lads are the future of this club and although they looked a little lost at times during their cameos, the experience will no doubt serve them well going forward.
Ten Hag gave them their chance at 1-0 down, which shows the gaffer really believes these guys can come on and change football matches. Hopefully, we see more of these guys over the course of the campaign.