Alejandro Garnacho’s first goal gave Manchester United a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad in Spain, but it wasn’t enough for Erik ten Hag’s side to top their Europa League group.
The result saw United finish second in Group E – behind Sociedad on goal difference – and now face a two-legged play-off round against a third-placed Champions League team in February.
Traveling to San Sebastian, United needed a two-goal margin to beat Sociedad and they got off to the perfect start as teenager Garnacho checked Cristiano Ronaldo’s fine through ball before driving forward and blasting home in the 17th minute. The strike saw 18-year-old George Best overtake as United’s youngest non-English goalscorer in European competition.
Man Utd Player Ratings
Manchester United: De Gea (7), Dalot (7), Lindelof (7), Martinez (8), Shaw (6), Casemiro (7), Eriksen (6), Fernandes (6), Van de Beek (5), Garnacho ( 7), Ronaldo (6).
Subscribers: Rashford (6), McTominay (6), Fred (n/a), Maguire (n/a).
Man of the match: Lisandro Martinez.
The Argentine then flared up more than 10 minutes later before Ronaldo missed a glorious opportunity to extend United’s lead just before half time when he narrowly lifted his effort over the crossbar.
An impressive double save from David de Gea saw United go into halftime with the lead they needed, but their search for that all-important second goal after the break was unsuccessful – despite the introductions of Marcus Rashford and makeshift striker Harry maguire.
Man Utd team news
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has made three changes to his side following Sunday’s 1-0 win over West Ham in the Premier League.
Victor Lindelof replaced captain Harry Maguire, while Donny van de Beek filled in for Anthony Elanga to make his first start since last December.
Teenager Alejandro Garnacho, who impressed in his full-length debut against Sheriff Tiraspol last week, took the place of Marcus Rashford.
The draw for the play-offs of the Europa League will take place on Monday. As runners-up, United will find out who they will face in the next stage with Barcelona, Juventus and Ten Hag’s former club Ajax as potential opponents.
Group E winners Sociedad will know on February 24 after the play-off round who they will play against in the round of 16.
When is the draw for the Europa League play-offs?
The draw for the Europa League play-offs will take place at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, on 7 November at 12 noon.
The eight group winners of the Europa League will compete against the eight third-placed teams from the group stage of the Champions League.
Who can Man Utd face in the Europa League play-offs?
- Bayer Leverkusen
- Sporting Lisbon
- Red Bull Salzburg
- Shakhtar Donetsk
The eight group winners from the Europa League miss the draw and receive a bye for the round of 16. On 24 February they will be placed and drawn against one of the eight winners from the play-off round.
However, no two sides of the same national association can be drawn against each other in the play-off round or round of 16.
Ten Hag: You don’t always get what you deserve
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag told BT Sport: “You don’t always get what you deserve. First leg, you get a penalty that is not a penalty. Today we win, I’m happy with that.”
“I’m happy with some other things, like Garnacho’s performance. Donny, back in the team. I think we scored a very good goal with Garnacho. Also some good opportunities.”
“But of course we are disappointed. We didn’t score twice, because that was what we needed.”
About Garnacho’s performance, Ten Hag said: “I am very happy and I hope he can keep it up. He was a threat, he scored a goal and he was reliable defensively.”
“If he can keep this up, I’ll be very happy. It was a great finish for his goal.”
Fernandes: We tried everything
Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes told BT Sport: “Our goal for today was to win by two goals.
“We tried everything, at the end we took a few more risks to try to score the second goal.
“We won the game against a great opponent; it wasn’t enough to win the group, but it’s a win.”
Alejandro Garnacho – a star in the making?
Dan Sansom of Sky Sports:
“I don’t know if it’s real or if I’m dreaming.”
That was the reaction of 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho after he made his full-length debut for Manchester United against Sheriff Tiraspol last week.
The teenager received a standing ovation from the majority of those in attendance at Old Trafford as he was substituted late in the 3-0 win. Seven days later, United fans who have traveled to see their side of Real Sociedad will find it even harder to hide their excitement.
While Garnacho’s winning goal in San Sebastian wasn’t enough for United to win their Europa League group, the young Argentine delivered another promising performance on his second senior start – against much better opponents.
His expert control and fine finish in the 17th minute illustrated his quality in the final third, while his confidence in possession, willingness to ride on opponents and unpredictable skills gave United another dimension going forward.
“I am very happy and I hope he can keep it up,” Ten Hag said of Garnacho, who is now the club’s youngest non-English goalscorer in European competition.
He may be a raw talent, but early signs suggest he has the potential to become a world-class winger. Under Ten Hag’s leadership, that outcome is possible.
Opta stats: Man Utd unbeaten streak continues
- Manchester United are now unbeaten in their previous five away games against the Spanish opposition in the European competition (W4 D1), their longest run.
- Manchester United have now won seven of their last eight away matches in the Europa League (L1) and have kept a clean sheet in six of those wins.
- Erik ten Hag has now gone unbeaten in his previous 10 away matches in European competition (W8 D2), including wins in all three of his appearances as manager of Manchester United.
- Between goalscorer Alejandro Garnacho (18j 125d) and assist Cristiano Ronaldo (37j 271d) for Manchester United is 19 years and 147 days. It is the second largest age difference between goalscorer and assist in the Europa League.
What’s next for Man Utd?
Manchester United have three games left before the World Cup. They return to Premier League action on Sunday when they travel to Aston Villa (starting at 2 p.m.). United then take on Unai Emery’s side again in the EFL Cup at Old Trafford on November 10, live on air sports (starting at 8 p.m.).
In United’s last game before the tournament in Qatar, they make the trip to Fulham in the Premier League on November 13, also live on air sports (starting at 4.30 pm).