Manchester United face Europa League play-off as Alejandro helps down Sociedad


    Alejandro Garnacho of Manchester United
    Alejandro Garnacho celebrates his goal during the UEFA Europa League match between Real Sociedad and Manchester United (Picture: Getty)

    Europa League, Group A

    Real Sociedad 0-1 Manchester United

    Erik Ten Hag hailed Manchester United teenager Alejandro Garnacho’s outstanding goal that secured victory over Real Sociedad but rued his side missing out on automatic qualification to the last 16 of the Europa League.

    United now face a knockout round play-off tie in February against a club who finished third in the Champions League group stage – with Barcelona, Juventus and Atletico Madrid among possible opponents – after finishing second in Group E behind Sociedad, who won at Old Trafford in September.

    Spanish-born Argentine winger Garnacho, 18, scored a fine 17th-minute opener in San Sebastian, his first senior strike, after running on to Cristiano Ronaldo’s astute pass but the visitors could not find the second goal they needed, with defender Harry Maguire brought on as a makeshift striker in a desperate and ultimately fruitless attempt to double their lead.

    Ronaldo on his knees
    Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo reacts (Picture: Reuters)

    ‘You don’t always get what you deserve, that’s football. First game, you get a penalty that isn’t a penalty but today we win so I’m happy with that,’ said United boss Ten Hag.

    ‘I’m happy with some other things like the performance from Garnacho. Of course we are disappointed, we want always to be No. 1 and when we aren’t, we are disappointed but there are positives. I think we make a really good goal with Garnacho, some good chances as well first half, but of course we are disappointed we didn’t score two goals as that is what we needed.’

    But Garnacho shone, the teenager overtaking Red Devils legend George Best as United’s youngest non-English goalscorer in European competition. ‘We need options there. Anthony 
Martial is not available, Jadon Sancho is not available so it’s thin,’ added the Dutch coach.

    ‘So I’m really happy with the performance and I really hope he can keep the process going. He was a threat, he scored the goal and the finish was really enjoyable. He was reliable defending so if he can keep this going then I’m really happy.’

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    MORE : Paul Scholes hoping Manchester United get Barcelona in Europa League play-off draw

    MORE : Erik ten Hag hits back at ‘messy’ tactics criticism after playing Harry Maguire in attack during Manchester United’s win over Real Sociedad

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