Match Report: Real Sociedad 0-1 Manchester United: Garnacho winner not enough to earn top spot

Alejandro Garnacho’s strike to give Manchester United a 1-0 Europa League victory over Real Sociedad on Thursday was in vain as the Spanish side retained Group E’s top spot.

Alejandro Garnacho scored Manchester United's winner against Real SociedadAlejandro

A win by two or more goals would have seen United through as group winners by virtue of a superior head-to-head record, and Garnacho’s early finish sparked hopes of Erik ten Hag’s side achieving just that.

But a resolute defensive display from La Real saw them do enough to prevent United getting a second, despite coming under increasing pressure late on.

Ten Hag’s men advance but will be forced into a two-legged play-off with one of the teams knocked out of the Champions League, a list that includes Barcelona and Juventus.

La Real started brighter but United grew into the game and took the lead after 17 minutes, Garnacho latching onto Cristiano Ronaldo’s throughball and holding off a defender before rifling home from a tight angle.

David de Gea made a stunning double save to preserve United’s lead before the break, tipping Andoni Gorosabel’s long-range strike wide at full stretch before somehow blocking Pablo Marin’s shot from the rebound over.

United still required another goal, but La Real threatened at the other end 16 minutes from time, with substitute Ander Guevara forcing a smart save from De Gea with his low drive.

La Real continued to defend resiliently and limited United to few chances, ultimately seeing out the game to secure top spot and their place in the round of 16, while the Red Devils will face a nervy play-off.

What does it mean? Garnacho’s goal United’s only shot on target

Garnacho’s smart early finish could have given United the impetus to kick on and win the match by the required margin, but they lacked the cutting edge in the final third needed to break down a solid La Real backline.

United registered just 0.56 xG (expected goals) to La Real’s 0.95, and despite holding 57 per cent of the possession in the second half, Ten Hag’s side failed to have a shot on target after the break.

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