Manchester United are in control of their last-32 Europa League tie against Real Sociedad after a commanding 4-0 victory in this relocated match in Turin.
In an open first half both sides might have scored in the opening two minutes, and Alex Remiro later saved a shot by Marcus Rashford from point-blank range. In the 27th minute, however, Remiro gifted United the lead as he missed a bouncing ball over the top, ran into two of his defenders and left a tap-in for Bruno Fernandes.
In the second half United doubled their lead when Fernandes combined with Daniel James to tuck his second of the night into the far corner. Marcus Rashford then made it three a few minutes later after racing clear from a Fred through-ball, before James added the fourth in the final minute of normal time.
The second leg of the tie will be at Old Trafford next Thursday.
TALKING POINT - Can United win the Europa League?
When this fixture was drawn in December, Real Sociedad were top of La Liga and it was difficult to envisage a more difficult tie for United. Tonight’s victory is compelling evidence that they might be able to go on and win a trophy that they reached the semi-finals of last August.
United are evidently making progress under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer even if it currently requires squinting to see their neighbours City, who are ten points ahead of them at the top of the Premier League. That makes the cups a priority for this United side, for whom any piece of silverware promises to be an important staging post in their development.
Solskjaer has been denied in four semi-finals in his time in charge at United. A tricky away quarter-final to Leicester in the FA Cup is the nearest gateway to a fifth crack at reaching a final, but after this victory they have confirmed their status as one of the favourites for the Europa League this season.
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MAN OF THE MATCH – Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
Scoring, creating and being the best player on the pitch is just another day at the office for Fernandes. The 20th and 21st goals of his remarkable season set United on their way tonight. The latter of those efforts, crafted with the help of James, evoked memories of Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke in the Camp Nou in 1998.
Real Sociedad (4-3-3): Remiro 5; Zaldua 5, Le Normand 5, Zubeldia 6, Monreal 4; Illarramendi 6, Silva 6, Merino 6; Januzaj 5, Isak 6, Oyarzabal 7. Subs: Guevara 6, Gorosabel 6, Portu 6, Barrenetxea 6, Bautista 6
Manchester United (4-3-3): Henderson 6; Wan-Bissaka 6, Maguire 7, Bailly 6, Telles 6; McTominay 7, Fred 7, Fernandes 8; James 7, Rashford 7, Greenwood 6. Subs: Matic 6, Martial 7, Mata 6, Diallo 6
19’ WHAT A CHANCE! One long ball from Telles releases Fernandes on the left of the Sociedad area. He squares it to Rashford, who shoots from 12 yards out and once again Remiro saves well with his feet. Fernandes heads the rebound at goal but it's cleared off the line, and Sociedad escape!
27’ GOAL! Real Sociedad 0 Manchester United 1 (Fernandes 27) It's been coming! Fernandes gets his 20th of the season. From wide on the left Rashford clips a ball into the area for the onrushing Fernandes. He's in, and Remiro clears the path by jumping past the bouncing ball and into two of his defenders, leaving Fernandes the simple task of side-footing United in front from eight yards out.
57’ GOAL! Real Sociedad 0 Manchester United 2 (Fernandes 57) It's two! United work a lovely move, with Fernandes stepping over a pass from Rashford and then taking the return ball from James, hitting it first time and slightly into the ground to tuck it into the far corner. It's initially disallowed for offside, but after a VAR review it's correctly given. Shades of Cole and Yorke there from Fernandes and James.
GOAL! Real Sociedad 0 Manchester United 3 (Rashford 65) There it is! United win the ball back near their own area, and one long pass from Fred splits the Sociedad defends and sends Rashford clean through. Rashford calms himself and slots the ball past Remiro and into the bottom corner.
90’ GOAL! Real Sociedad 0 Manchester United 4 (James 90) United race through with one long pass again. Bailly sends it down the right wing to James, who cuts in all the way from the touchline and shoots through Remiro to make it four. It's a rout.
- Bruno Fernandes has scored 33 times, and contributed 19 assists, in his 58 games since signing for Manchester United in January 2020.