Real Sociedad had no answer for Manchester United’s pace in Turin. The Spanish side’s Europa League adventure is more or less over after a heavy first leg defeat.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer relished the space gifted by Imanol Alguacil’s men by deploying Daniel James and Marcus Rashford on the flanks. As expected, Real Sociedad’s high line failed to cope with the United attackers, and conceded three goals on the counter-attack.
James, whose selection wasn’t taken well by some fans before kick-off, was possibly the trickiest United player for Real Sociedad defenders to play against.
The Welshman assisted Fernandes for his team’s second goal, and ended the tie in the first leg itself by scoring the fourth late on. However, his overall contribution in the game was more than just the two goal contributions, as he stretched the home side’s backline with his pace all night, preventing their full-backs from involving in any kind of attack, and at the same time opening space in behind for his teammates to exploit.
Owen Hargreaves summed up the 23-year-old’s importance perfectly in his post-match analysis, saying: “His pace, his willingness to run behind, I think the Sociedad defenders couldn’t believe how quick he was. They probably thought they were going to catch him and in Spain, someone might square this or cross this, but he was too quick.”
The BT Sport pundit added: “You want your players to affect the game and I thought Dan James had a terrific game in many ways. He tracks back a lot which I think is really important in Europe away from home. Credit to Ole, he got the plan perfect today.”
In addition to providing a continuous attacking threat with his pace, the former Swansea City man also won more duels than any other United player on Thursday night. Such a complete display may give the manager another selection headache ahead of the weekend’s Newcastle United clash.