Real Sociedad vs Man Utd preview | Team news | Expected line-ups | Diallo debut?
Man Utd travel to neutral ground in Turin to face Real Sociedad in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League this evening, kick off 17:55.
The game was originally scheduled to take place at the Reale Arena in Spain, however travel restrictions imposed by the Spanish government has resulted in the game being moved to neutral ground in Italy.
Man Utd have previously enjoyed playing in the Europa League, having won the competition in 2017 and reaching the semi-finals last season. This year, they will no doubt be looking to one-up their previous performance by reaching the finals and hopefully repeating history with another win.
Unfortunately, Utd manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed that Paul Pogba – who is currently out with a thigh injury – will not return to first-team action for the rest of February.
This is a major blow to Utd as Pogba had become a key player within the team, finding excellent form and winning Player of the Month for January.
Solskjaer also provided updates on Donny Van de Beek and Edinson Cavani in his pre-match press conference, stating they will both be unable to make the trip. Solskjaer said, “Donny and Edinson are injured, unfortunately. Muscle injuries, so they won’t travel.”
This is another big blow for Utd as Cavani has recently found himself as Solskjaer’s first choice striker and it is highly likely Van de Beek would also have been involved in the game, providing much-needed rotation within the squad.
Solskjaer went on to say that there are also doubts over whether Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay will be fit enough to start, saying, “We’ll have to check them tomorrow”.
With Cavani definitely out, Solskjaer will be hoping that his other centre forward, Martial, will be fit enough to start. However, if unable, Mason Greenwood can be considered as a promising alternative, as he can also play in a centre forward position. Greenwood signed a new contract this week lasting until 2025, reflecting his recent improvement in form and his importance within the team.
As for McTominay, he has been a key player for Utd in the centre of midfield, therefore Solskjaer will be equally hopeful the Scotsman will be passed fit to start in midfield.
Nevertheless, Juan Mata has returned to training after being out for a few weeks. Solskjaer has confirmed that Mata will be travelling to Italy and that “he’s been bright in training, so if we see Juan on the pitch he’ll want to prove to his Spanish fans as well what a quality player he is.”
Therefore, if McTominay isn’t fit, Solskjaer will have both Mata and Nemanja Matic – who has not made an appearance in the past few games – as potential options.
Wonderkid set for debut?
Solskjaer also revealed that Amad Diallo and Shola Shortire have been included in the 22-man travelling squad. In an interview with MUTV, the Utd manager said that the young stars have been included in the squad, “not just for [their own] experience, they’re there to make an impact if they have to.”
As to whether the youngsters will be involved in the game, Solskjaer refrained from promising too much stating, “they are talents that we want to give experience to. First of all they’re travelling and then let’s see if they come on the pitch.”
For the 18-year-old January arrival, Amad Diallo, it is arguably the perfect opportunity for his first-team debut. The Ivorian has already impressed with his excellent performances in the under 23s squad, getting onto the scoresheet as well as providing assists.
Now, with attacking players such as Martial, Cavani, Van de Beek and Pogba all either out, or a doubt, Diallo may be exactly what Utd need in order to help maintain their threatening attack.
Real Sociedad have received an injury boost ahead of the game as winger, Mikel Oyarzabal, returned to action representing the club at the weekend. However, long-term absentees, Miguel Moya and Luca Sangalli, will both miss the game.
Real Sociedad’s coach, Imanol Alguacil, also confirmed that Carlos Fernandez is going to be out of the game, but Adnan Januzaj and David Silva should both be involved.
Man Utd Expected XI (4-2-3-1): Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Telles, Matic, Fred, Rashford, Fernandes, Mata, Greenwood.
Dean Henderson has been Utd’s cup goalie this season, therefore, it is likely he will start ahead of David De Gea. At the back, Eric Bailly and Alex Telles may come in to replace Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw. This will provide some well-needed rotation within the squad, as Lindelof has played the majority of Utd’s previous fixtures and Shaw is often rested in cup games.
With McTominay a doubt, Matic may come in to replace the Scotsman after spending the last few fixtures on the bench. This would provide Utd with some more strength in their defence, which recently has been singled out as a weakness within their game.
Fred is likely to retain his place alongside Matic as he will provide Utd with a balance between defence and attack, feeding the ball to the forward players and getting into threatening positions on the edge of the box.
Rashford is set to retain his position on the left wing, next to Fernandes in an attacking midfield position. However, with Martial being a doubt for the game, Greenwood may be pushed into a centre forward position, potentially resulting in Mata starting on the right-wing.
Even though Amad Diallo is available, this would be his first time playing for the first team. Therefore, Solskjaer may opt with the experienced Juan Mata to start, preferring to use the youngster as an injection of energy during the game, if he is to be brought on as a sub.
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