United play well but need an Inigo Martinez own goal to get win
A deserved win for Moyes' men, who endured rocky spells but were manifestly the superior side even if it took an own goal for them to get the victory. Rooney was terriffic as the main man in Van Persie's absence. Kagawa performed well in everything but finishing and was not alone in that.
90 min: A timely intervention by Evans foils another promising Sociedad break.
89 min: Kagawa shffles into the box and at last gets off a shot, but it was from a right angle and it hurtles into the sidenetting.
88 min: Wonderful play by Giggs, who's still full of puff and darts past two opponents before feeding Kagawa. The Japense serves Rooney with a perfect pass and all the Englishman has to do is tap into the net from six yards .... but he misses his kick! Are United going to be made pay for all these misses?
86 min: Sociedad work a decent opening but De La Bella undoes all that with a wild shot into the stands. Perhaps he finds the singing section irritating?
85 min: IT's a helther-skelter finale and after a a narrow escape at their own end, United rollick forward with Rooney. He pulls a fine low cross towards Young but Bravo anticiaptes it, rushing off his line to whack clear.
82 min: Kagawas is reluctant to shoot - and Rooney is reluctant to pass up any shooting opportunity. The Englishman should have slipped the ball through to his better-placed team-mate just now but instead opted for a swirling shot from 27 yards. Easy for the keeper.
80 min: United change: Young comes on not for Kagawa, but for Hernandez. Kagawa will go central. Good move by Moyes.
80 min: Pardo curls the free over the wall ... and just wide.
79 min: Giggs fouls Greizmann at the edge of the area, giving Them an excellent freekick opportunity. They hit the post from a similar spot in the first period ...
78 min: De La Bella fires a clever ball over Evra's head to Agirretxe at the back post but the new arrival shanks it high and wide.
77 min: Ashley Young is warming up: surely Moyes is not going replace Kagawa with him? Elsewhere, Leverkusen are trouncing Shakhtar 4-0.
75 min: Double substituon by Them. Seferovic and Zurutusa off; Agirretxe and Castro on.
73 min: "A second goal looks very much on the cards for United," says Sky's commentator, who, by the way, is calling the visitors Socieddd. "Calling them 'Sociedad' is a bit like talking about Premiership teams named 'Aston', 'Crystal' or 'Bromwich'," warbles Ed Rostron. "It's just not something anybody does." Should I follow your example and just call them ... Them? Is that clearer?
71 min: United are beginning to rack up an alarming number of misses: Rooney has just blazed high and wide when put through.
69 min: Nice move down the left between Evra and Kagawa as United's improvement continues. But Kagawa annoys again by eschewing the shot for a pass, leaving Evra to loft a useless cross into the keeper's arms.
67 min: Sociedad change: Prieto off, Prado on. "On Spanish radio they refer to United as 'el Manchester' - if you are fine with that, I am ok with Sociedad," announces Vicente Grau. Fine by me, Vicente, but some would say "ill manchester" would be more apt.
65 min: Valencia finds aces of space down the right again ... and Kagawa botches a chance again: as in the first half he spurned a chance to shoot on sight and instead took a redundant touch, allowing Carlos Martinez to block his close-range shot.
63 min: So close for United! A marvellous pass by Rooney tees up Valencia, who wallops a low shot across goal ... and off the post!
62 min: After a delightful run by Kagawa, featuring an outrageous pirouette, Rooney fires low and hard at goal from 25 yards. Well held by the keeper. "I think you should refer to the visiting team as The Real Society so as not to confuse them with The Self Preservation Society or Nationwide Building Society etc," chortlers Mark Judd.
60 min: Valencia has a bang from an awkward angle. Brave isn't fooled and gets down quickly to save.
59 min: United's bottom lip is well and truly wobbling. Zurutuza hits the frame of the goal with an audacious shot-cum-cross from the left. The crowd gasp. Meanwhile, on comes Smalling for Rafael.
56 min: Fellaini is on the bench. Januzaj is on the bench. Nani is on the bench. So who looks poised to come on? Chris Smalling. That tells you how Moyes is thinking. Mind you, the fact that both his fullbacks are on yellows probably has something to do with it. We'll see.
55 min: Zurutuza curls a freekick two yards over from the corner of the box.
53 min: Another well-worked short corner almost pays off for United, as Rafael floats a lovely ball to the far post. Jones does well to meet it and dispatches a powerful header from eight yards ... but Bravo make a strong block. The Society survive.
50 min: Panic in the United box as the home side defend terribly! A weak header by Evans, dawdling by Giggs ... it's a a proper shambles and only a series of blocks and one good save by De Gea prevent the visitors from equalising. A stroll in the park has become a marathon in a minefield for United.
48 min: Valencia goes down in the box but, between them, the 47 Uefa officials arrive at the correct decision" no foul. " Madrid is one of several 'El Real' clubs (masculine) while "La Real" is the only Sociedad in Spanish football (feminine)," lectures Juan Escudero. But how many other Sociedads are there? "No other Sociedades in football. But in Spanish you must use the article 'the'. It would sound strange to call them The Society." Yes, but I am writing in English here. Or an approximation of it, at least. "Erreala means 'La Real' in Basque," continues Juan. "And Txuri-Urdin means 'Blue and white' usually used as an adjective. Sorry for all this info!"
46 min: No changes by either manager during the break. And within 33 seconds, Sociedad mount a credible threat: Greizmann ghots past Evra and curls in a cross .... that is just too far for Vela, much to the relief of Evans, who was nowhere near the striker.
Thanks to Steven Mason for drawing our attention to this magnificent own goal that tonight's culprit, Inigo Martinez, scored before.
"Since I'm trying to avoid doing a really tedious task right now I thought I'd get involved in this debate that I would ordinarily have no earthly interest in," wibbles Sarah Rothwell. " According to Wikipedia (which we all know is irrefutable gospel) one of the nicknames for Real Sociedad is La Real. Apparently you could also go with Erreala or Txuri-Urdin but the first one might be easier to type." I know one of their nicknames is La Real. That does not mean we are not allowed to call them anything else. One of Sunderland's nicknames is The Black Cats, that doesn't mean we're not allowed to call them The Already Relegated. In each case it is perfectly to whom we are referring.
United started brilliantly and romped into the lead. A rout looked on but Sociedad perked up towards the end of the half and showed that they have the wherewithal to do what Southampton did to United on Saturday. United need a second goal.
44 min: Good response by United, who raise the tempo and re-apply pressure at the other end, A wizardly turn by Kagawa opens up a clear shooting chance from 18 yards but he decides to pass instead ... and it's an inaccurate one.
41 min: Rafael, who has already been booked, gets a telling-off from the ref for an over-zesty tackle. And the ref gets a telling-off from Gary Neville. "He's on one tonight," fumes the Neviller. "He's doing my nut in. HE wants to be the star of the show. Go away." The ref then books a Sociedad player for trying to take the freekick quickly! When permission is finally granted for them to take it, Greizmann whips a splendid effort over the wall ... and against the post! A let-off for United.
38 min: Jones meets Giggs' out-swingining corner but nuts over from eight yards.
37 min: That young dynamo Ryan Giggs spurs a United revival, gamboling past two defenders before being felled by a defender. Bergara booked. Rooney's freekick is deflected behind for a corner.
35 min: Sociedad are growing, United fading. Even the home fans' singing is sagging. It seems United were not able to keep up their dominance and the more vigorous side are now starting to look properly threatening. albeit without creating clear chances. "Richard Thomas is right: Referring to Real Sociedad as Sociedad is like referring to Man United as Manchester (except the other way round)," witters Anne Williams, who seems to believe tonight's visitors hail from the city of Sociedad. "Call them La Real. Why? Just because." Not good enough.
32 min: Carrick attempts to recreate Roy Keane's 1999 rabble-rousing goal against Juventus but his header is wellied away by a defender... and suddenly Sociedad are on the counter. Evra puts an end to their meddling with an illegal tackle - now both United full-backs are on bookings.
29 min: Now De Gea gets something to do! Giggs gave the ball away in midfield and suddenly Sociedad slipped in Seferovic. He is not one of Sociedad's speedsters and is unable to get past Evans so instead lets fly from 20 yards. His fierce shot deflects off Evans and forces the goalkeeper to make an improvised save, which he does well, flipping the ball over the bar with his outstretched left arm
28 min: United have tailed off a tad and there are hints that Sociedad may be able to muster a threat. They sure are fast, especially De La Bella and Greizmann out wide. But De Gea has yet to have anything to do.
26 min: Rafael booked for a trademark reckless tackle. Paul choles is on the coaching staff at United, right? "Please don’t say ‘Sociedad’ as a short form," drones Richard Thomas. "If you want to abbreviate, say ‘La Real’." Why? Sociedad is perfectly clear.
24 min: Leverkusen are leading 1-0 in this group's other match, by the way.
22 min: Vela booked for a slightly late tackle on Jones as both competed for a breaking ball.
20 min: Lovely play by United! Except by Hernandez, who was way offside when he headed into the net from close range. Before that, however, Giggs and Rooney had combined nimbly following a short corner and the Welshman clipped a dinky cross to Hernandez. All those fears about Giggs and Carrick being unable to keep pace with the young visitors have so far been unfounded, as United are blowing the visitors back to where they came from. Can they keep it up?
18 min: United are eager to kill this off early before Sociedad pull themselves together. Valencia hares down the right again and sends in a decent cross. Rooney's in such high spirits that he fancies trying a flying scissors kick. The ball sails high over the bar.
16 min: Rooney sure is in the mood tonight.
15 min: A rare slack pass by Carrick gives Sociedad a chance to play in Griezmann but Evans scampers across to cut it out.
13 min: A poor cross from De La Bella allows United to mount a counter-attack through Valencia, who hurtles down the right and delivers a cross that runs all the way over to Kagawa on the far side. United recycle possession well, eventually working it back to the right, where Rafael arrives at speed to curl in a cross that Rooney meets with a sidefooted volley from six yards. Smart save by the keeper, who then gobbles up the rebound.
11 min: Rooney tonks the freekick into the wall. Speaking of walls: "It's almost inevitable that United will try to sign Baines again in January: might Kagawa's prospects at United depend on their success or otherwise in that signing?" wonders David Wall. "Although not a genuine wide player, when he was being signed from Dortmund he was described as best either behind the striker or as a kind of inside-left/ attacking midfielder. That doesn't sound dissimilar to the role that Pienaar excelled in for Everton last year, importantly in combination with Baines where his tendency to come inside complimented Baines over-lapping. Could Kagawa thrive doing similar as it's unlikely he's going to oust Rooney from the position just behind the central striker?"
10 min: Gonzalez booked for boted Hernandez in the face as he tried to clear the ball following more shambolic play by Sociedad. Rooney and Giggs are sizing up the freekick. It's 26 yards out, lads, and central.
6 min: Strong calls for a penalty as Hernandez goes down in the proximity of a defender as he tried to meet a fine low cross by Kagawa. The replay shows, however, that Hernandez slipped. Still, the ease with which United opened their opponents up suggests this could become a cake walk.
5 min: United are looking eminently comfortable, Sociedad a shambles.
What a start by United! Kagawa's first touch was a dainty one but he then lost possession wide on the left. United quickly won it back and Rooney did superbly, twisting and turning on his way into the box before firing against the post. Sociedad's sluggishness continued in the aftermath - and in quite preposterous fashion, as Martinez's showed the reflexes of a log, allowing the ball to bounce off the far post and travel back across the goal before hitting off him and going into the net. Forget the singing section, there is now a huge laughing section at Old Tradfford.
2 min: Kagawa's first touch is a dainty one, a little dink over the defender and a dash down the line.
1 min: We have kick-off! And singing!
Out trot the teams, the substitute Ashley Young making it all the way down the tunnel and over to the bench without falling over. What a soldier! United are clad in their traditional red shirts with the traditional prominent tribute to their offical risk investment advisors. Sociedad are in Sheffield Wednesday's traditional blue and white stripes.
Many of you are whining about my suggestion that United "squeaked through" the group last season. Well stop it. United did squeak through. Even if they got the required results, they were seldom convincing - the irony, of course, was that when they did finally put in a decent performance, they were beaten by Real. "I'm starting to hope that Kagawa gets his move in January now," groans Mark Gillespie, thankfully changing the subject. "Not because I don't like him, quite the opposite, but if he can't get a game in his actual position even with one of the big two up front, there's no point him being here. He may not be someone who could make it in this Utd side, but if we only ever leave him on the bench or play him out of position, we'll never know. "
Mever mind Mancs, what do Mexicans make of tonight's match? "Obviously, this game is huge in Mexico (as well as for us Mexican-Americans)," hollers Jonathan Maciel. "It’s the Golden Boy of Mexican Football vs The Estranged Son. It is not lost on Mexican football fans that Vela at this stage is probably the superior player. And of course all of this is with the backdrop of Mexico’s immense struggle to qualify for Brazil 2014. All in all, it’s a very bittersweet event. Would it be too much to hope for a goal apiece?" Sounds like a reasonable hope to me: I reckon there'll be plenty of goals here.
"39-year-old Ryan Giggs playing a Champions League game in central midfield for Manchester United says more about how Fellaini has started at the club than it does about Giggs," growls Rob Edwards. "This Sociedad team has pace to burn. Not looking forward to watching Carrick and Giggs deal with it." United sure aren't going to be pressing much. Sociedad's real flyers are out wide - it'd be a shame if Kagawa was included just because of his ability to track back.
"From now on, 'complaining about my groin' is going to be my favourite euphemism," quips Chris Boylan. That's all very well, Chris, but what are you going to say when you want to complain about your groin? You'll end up like the boy who cried wolf. Except that you will suffer from persistent groin bother rather than a gory death on the fangs of a savage beast.
United have introduced a 'singing section' at Old Trafford tonight, where 1,400 of their fans will attempt to generate jollification for the greater good. A much-needed intiative, but a better way to improve atmospheres in English grounds would, of course, be to make ticket prices affordable.
Speaking to Sky, Moyes explains that Van Persie is not fully fitted so is being given a chance to recuperate: "He's never really recovered from the knocks he's had in the last two weeks or so. And he's been complaining about his groin ... so we're just giving him a rest tonight in the hope he'll recover for the weekend."
So Robin Van Persie isn't even on the bench for United tonight - we await Moyes's explanation. A diplomatic knock, per chance? No Vidic either, possibly because the manaegr wants plenty of speed at the back to thwart the rapid Sociedad forwards. Meanwhile, Kagawa starts, as he did in the win over Leverkusen and the defeat to WBA. He didn't finish either game. "Real Sociedad's Basque arch-rival Bilbao beat United twice a couple of years ago. Real Sociedad will be extra motivated tonight," tweets Juan Escudero. "And Basque people are very romantic about football, they will want to make a statement at Old Trafford, if anything out of respect."
Man Utd: De Gea, Rafael Da Silva, Jones, Evans, Evra, Valencia,
Carrick, Giggs, Kagawa, Hernandez, Rooney.
Subs: Lindegaard, Smalling, Nani, Young, Buttner, Fellaini, Januzaj.
Real Sociedad: Bravo, Carlos Martinez, Mikel Gonzalez,
Martinez, De la Bella, Vela, Zurutuza, Markel, Prieto,
Subs: Zubikarai, Agirretxe, Pardo, Ansotegui, Castro, Cadamuro, Ros.
Referee: Bas Nijhuis (Holland)
There has been much squabbling this week as to whether this is a good time for Alex Ferguson to start telling tales but one thing is for sure: David Moyes is still dealing with the consequences of the flawed squad bequeathed to him by his predecessor. Indeed, if the current Manchester United manager, rather than a by-gone one, were to release a book this week, he might begin it by pointing out that Ferguson's recent European record was pretty lousy, United having failed to make it out of the group stages two seasons ago and only squeaked through last season after defeats to Cluj and Galatasary before being ousted in the first knock-out round by Real Madrid. What's more, Ferguson guided United to just one victory in his last six encounters with Spanish sides at Old Trafford. So there you go, Mr Moyes, some handy facts for you to recite next time someone says you are an unworthy successor to the not-so-silent knight. Flop tonight and you can claim you are actually upholding tradition.
And United could lose tonight even though they shouldn't. Real Sociedad are no Real Madrid or Barcelona and actually arrive in worse shape than United, toiling dolefully in La Liga and malfunctioning in Europe, where they have lost both their group games so far. Tonight the Spaniards are playing for their survival and those stakes may inhibit a young squad that, last season, played with thrilling verve and derring-do; then again, the stakes and arena may inspire them. So what I'm saying is this will be an authoritative home victory or an exhilarating away one. Absolutely no chance of a tame draw. None whatsoever. Follow this minute-by-minute.
As we await team news and indications as to how Moyes intends approaching the game, you might like to ponder the fruit of Daniel Harris's meditations on the early stages of Moyes' Manchester United. So far, far from satisfying seems to be his verdict. Read it here.