[Champions League] Manchester United 1-0 Real Sociedad
ManUtd: Inigo Martinez (o.g 2)
Manchester United’s strong start to the Champions League campaign continued with a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad at Old Trafford, courtesy of Inigo Martinez’s early own goal.
After the frustrating weekend draw with Southampton, boss David Moyes made four changes to his team and demanded his players get the job done in Europe. They did just that, though nerves were jangling as the clock ran down with the Reds still only one goal to the good.
Wayne Rooney was the architect of the decisive goal in the second minute, cutting inside and wonderfully weaving past three defenders before curling a shot that bounced off the post, hit Martinez and went in. It was the quickest goal of the Champions League season so far.
Urged on by the noisy singing section being trialled at Old Trafford, United dominated the first half but were unable to add to the first goal and Antoine Griezmann came within a whisker of equalising when his free-kick struck the angle of post and bar.
The visitors had been quiet until that point but improved markedly after the break and Alberto de la Bella hit the woodwork from an acute angle. Yet the Reds continued to create chances: Phil Jones had a header saved, Antonio Valencia arrowed a shot against the base of the post, Shinji Kagawa’s goalbound effort was blocked and Rooney blazed over when well placed.
But unlike Saints on Saturday, Sociedad could not capitalise and United saw the game out to move closer to progressing from Group A, with seven points from three games.
The Match: United seemed determined to respond after the weekend setback against Southampton and were much the better team in the opening exchanges. Real Sociedad made a fist of it in the second half but the Reds continued to carve out openings, though David Moyes will perhaps be concerned that his team did not take any of the chances to add to their early goal. But three points were the priority and United are now well set in Group A, with two wins and a draw.
Goal: The game had barely begun before United were ahead with the fastest goal of the Champions League season so far, Inigo Martinez diverting the ball into his own net after Wayne Rooney's shot came back off a post. Rooney deserved the goal himself after beating three men in the box.
Star man: While fans voted Shinji Kagawa as Man of the Match, Rooney was also imperious. Revelling in his role behind lone striker Javier Hernandez, he dictated play as the visitors afforded him too much space early on. The only surprise was that Wayne didn't get on the scoresheet himself, though it wasn't through lack of trying.
Subplot: Moyes made four changes to the team that drew with Southampton, all in midfield and attack, and it paid dividends as Antonio Valencia, Kagawa and Hernandez looked sharp and fluid, with Rooney excelling again and Ryan Giggs bringing all his experience and guile to the fore.
Opposition: Not surprisingly, Sociedad were stunned by the early strike and took a while to get a foothold in the game; 30 minutes had elapsed before they even threatened United's goal as Haris Seferovic stung David De Gea's palms, though Antonio Griezmann rattled the woodwork with a superb free-kick just before the break. Still without a point after three games in the group, it's a long way back for Jagoba Arrasate's men.
Move of the match: Soon after the goal and still inside the first 10 minutes, Giggs' super pass released Kagawa down the left and the Japanese schemer's inviting first-time cross narrowly evaded Hernandez, who appeared to be impeded as he stretched for the ball.
In the stands: It was all about the singing section in the south-east corner of the ground, and the trial was a roaring success, literally, as United's band of vocal fans sang their hearts out for almost the entire 90 minutes. They more than matched the 6,000 away supporters, who nevertheless contributed to a great atmosphere.