Manchester United’s winning run was broken as a Brais Mendez penalty saw Real Sociedad earn a 1-0 victory in their Europa League opener at Old Trafford on Thursday night.
A tight game was decided when substitute Lisandro Martinez was penalised for handball in the area despite the ball hitting his knee first, allowing Mendez to convert from the spot.
Sociedad have previously endured a poor record against English teams in Europe, failing to win any of their six matches, but held their hosts to a goalless first half.
The United side included Casemiro – making his first start for the club – and recalled duo Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese forward had a few half-sights of goal and saw an excellent header disallowed for offside.
Anthony Elanga enjoyed a few electric runs out wide, but Erik ten Haag’s side recorded just one shot on target as Sociedad frustrated their hosts going into half time.
Ronaldo squandered United’s first chance of the second half, not getting enough on substitute Bruno Fernandes’ pinpoint cross from the right.
The tight battle swung the way of the visitors shortly before the hour mark in somewhat fortuitous circumstances. A shot from David Silva was blocked by diving substitute Martinez before the ball ricocheted onto his arm, with referee Marco Di Bello pointing to the spot.
Mendez made no mistake, lashing his effort beyond the reach of David de Gea.
The Spaniard was called into action soon after as he batted away Takefusa Kubo’s drive before Casemiro spurned a decent opportunity, heading the ball into the ground and over the crossbar at the back post.
United pushed on and the roaming dribbling of Martinez pushed them into promising positions, but it was Sociedad who nearly doubled their lead instead, though Alexander Sorloth butchered a counter attack and allowed De Gea to collect the pass.
It remained 1-0 and ended United’s recent winning run in the Premier League which stood at four victories.
GK: David de Gea – 5/10 – No saves to make and only four touches in the first half. More active in the second period but couldn’t save the penalty.
RB: Diogo Dalot – 7/10 – Used the ball well in the final third, whipping in some dangerous crosses.
CB: Harry Maguire – 6/10 – Back in the starting XI and thankfully for his sake not a difficult first 45.
CB: Victor Lindelof – 6/10 – A little tentative but used the ball accurately and made a couple of interceptions.
LB: Tyrell Malacia – 7/10 – Another forthright and front-foot defensive performance.
CM: Fred – 5/10 – Arrived in good positions from midfield but a couple of sloppy giveaways relinquished control.
CM: Casemiro – 6/10 – Wasted a good opportunity to equalise with a mistimed header. Gloriously spun by Aihen Munoz in a tough moment.
CM: Christian Eriksen – 7/10 – Quality of delivery was brilliant. United’s play now firmly runs through the Dane and they’re all the better for it, despite Thursday’s result.
RW: Antony – 6/10 – Tried to link up with his attacking teammates but was rarely successful.
ST: Cristiano Ronaldo – 5/10 – Had an excellent header disallowed for offside. Missed another header he should have buried at the start of the second half. Didn’t look like he enjoyed playing in United’s Thursday night team.
LW: Anthony Elanga – 6/10 – A couple of brilliant runs made him United’s main threat in the first half. Threat waned after the break.
SUB: Bruno Fernandes (45′ for Eriksen) – 6/10 – Immediately set Ronaldo up with a cross. Increased United’s tempo for a period.
SUB: Lisandro Martinez (45′ for Dalot) – 6/10 – Somewhat unfortunate to concede the penalty. Broke forward with purpose late on.
SUB: Jadon Sancho (71′ for Antony) – 6/10
SUB: Alejandro Garnacho (71′ for Elanga) – 6/10
SUB: Charlie McNeill (83′ for Malacia) – N/A
Manager: Erik ten Haag – 5/10 – Switched up his starting XI for Europe. Lack of attacking quality will be concerning for Ten Hag, though he will certainly have a good idea of the players he can trust after Thursday night.
Player of the Match: Diogo Dalot
RUMOUR: Man Utd could launch shock Pickford swoop as they consider letting De Gea go
Manchester United may consider a shock bid for Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the midst of uncertainty encompassing David De Gea’s future, reports propose.
As per the Telegraph, United are not persuaded they need to broaden De Gea’s agreement, which runs out in June and procures him an astounding £350,000, and could allow him to go free of charge in June.
The Spanish shot-stopper, who was omitted from Luis Enrique’s Spain squad for the international break, suffered a poor start to the season with a raft of errors most notably at Brentford.
And United are also dealing with a high wage bill that reached a Premier League record of £384million last season.
The Red Devils announced earlier this week that their salaries have increased by a whopping £61.6m from the previous year.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s return as well as Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane’s arrivals led to a 19.1 per cent increase in their salary bill as well as a net loss amounting to £115.5m.
United are assessing their long-term plans and a change between the sticks can’t be ruled out, even though De Gea, 31, has improved recently and has been integral in the last 11 years at Old Trafford.
That could bring England’s No1 Pickford, 28, into the frame come January.
The Everton shot stopper has various clubs carefully monitoring his situation as he will have just one year left on his Everton contract at the end of the season.
The England international is also a homegrown player, which is very appealing to his suitors.
The new signings that will dominate the Premier League this season
In every league around the world, there are players who stand head and shoulders above the competition. The players who dominate those around them and put teams to sword.
When it comes to the Premier League, there’s a number of new signings looking to do just that in 2022/23 – and they will take some serious stopping.
Liverpool’s new shiny striker Darwin Nunez was an imperious force in Portugal’s Premeira Liga last season, racking up 26 goals in just 28 appearances for Benfica.
The Uruguayan was equally as effective on the Champions League stage, and it was his performance in the two-legged game against Liverpool that convinced Jurgen Klopp and the club’s hierarchy to part ways with £64m – potentially rising to £85m if Nunez activates all the bonus payments and clauses added on to the deal.
A strong, powerful player, Nunez has already shown what’s to come in some impressive early season performances.
Arsenal have been crying out for a central striker oozing quality ever since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fell out of favour before leaving.
In Gabriel Jesus, they have acquired a proven winner, stemming from a number of hugely successful seasons with Manchester City. A versatile player who possesses skill, pace and a keen eye for goal, 25-year-old Jesus is only just entering the prime of his career – and brings so much experience to the table.
The Gunners are looking to bag a top-four finish in the Champions League and, with Jesus leading the line, they have every chance of dominating games this season.
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte demands the very best from each and every one of his players, with the Italian’s standards set as high as anybody in the game.
Croatian winger Ivan Perisic is somebody Conte worked with at Inter, and the pair lifted the Serie A title together in convincing fashion. The 33-year-old is heading towards the twilight of his career, but his incredible fitness, work ethic and mental strength means he remains one of the world’s very best wide players.
Operating as a wing-back these days, Perisic can dominate games in any third of the field, and Premier League defences will be terrified by the unknown threat he carries.
Kalidou Koulibaly has long been recognised as one of Serie A’s best defenders, but now he’s got the opportunity to show that he’s one of the very best the world has to offer.
A terrific reader of the game and fiercely strong in the tackle, Koulibaly has made a habit of pocketing forwards and dominating play from the back – something Chelsea have been crying out since Antonio Rudiger departed for Real Madrid.
Now in his peak years as a centre-half, Koulibaly has all the tools to ensure Chelsea dominate the vast majority of games they play in.
One of the standout performers at Manchester City for a number of years, Raheem Sterling decided to try something new after accepting that Pep Guardiola could no longer offer him the number of his starts his talent deserves.
City’s loss is very much Chelsea’s gain, with 27-year-old Sterling established as one of the Premier League’s most consistent forwards. Be it scoring goals, creating chances or breaking on the counter at pace, the England international continues to strike fear into defences up and down the country.
Already a member of the Premier League’s ‘100 club’, expect Sterling to deliver in spades full for Graham Potter and Chelsea.
Fulham returned to the Premier League in style last season, storming to the Championship title at a canter.
Life won’t be so easy for the Cottagers in the Premier League, but in Joao Palhinha they may have completed one of the most impressive bits of transfer business in the division. A star player at Sporting CP, Palhinha has all the attributes required to dominate Premier League midfields – with his stunning goal at Nottingham Forest a glimpse of what he can do.
Standing 6’3 tall, Palhinha was once named in the Premeira Liga Team of the Year, and he could push Fulham towards safety with some commanding displays.
Chances are if one player is going to dominate the Premier League above all else, it’s going to be Erling Haaland.
In the interest of sporting fairness, it was probably a touch unnecessary for Manchester City to sign Haaland, given how good they are already and given how unbelievably good he is. Nevertheless, the reigning Premier League champions got the deal done for a steal of a price – and the Norwegian now looks primed to tear defences apart week after week.
Unbelievably athletic and incredibly consistent, Haaland’s career statistics speak for themselves, and his opening day double-salvo against West Ham was the first warning shot to the rest of the Premier League – the 22-year-old is here and he is here to dominate.
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