Erik ten Hag

Such is the significance Erik ten Hag has placed on winning the group changes from the West Ham win are bound to be at a minimum.

Refreshing the midfield has to come under consideration but Christian Eriksen and Casemiro are two of United’s most important players, so their breather may be against Aston Villa in the League Cup next week.

Bruno Fernandes will start as he is suspended at Villa Park on Sunday. Antony remains out so Alejandro Garnacho deserves to start in place of Anthony Elanga who struggled against West Ham.

United have to win by two clear goals to finish top of Group E and have prevailed 2-0 in Spain on only three occasions. Two were last year and the first, a vibrant and commanding performance against Deportivo la Coruna in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2002, was one of United’s best on the continent under Sir Alex Ferguson.

The defeat of Villarreal came in Michael Carrick’s first match in management and the victory in Granada seven months earlier is the most unmemorable from United’s Europa League knockout ties in 2021. United thrashed Sociedad 4-0 in the previous round but that was staged in Turin, depriving the ‘hosts’ of any home advantage other than donning their blue and white strip.

Cristiano Ronaldo never lost against Real Sociedad until he faced them with United. In nine games with Real Madrid, he pillaged 15 goals, among them two hat-tricks.

Anthony Martial has stayed behind at Carrington to work individually so continuing with Ronaldo back on Spanish soil would be logical.

In his annus horribilis last season, Rashford still scored in successive matches three months apart. If he is to reach the heights of his goalscoring in 2019-20 then a goal in San Sebastian would fuel the belief he is well and truly back. Rashford has not struck in three successive United games since November 2019, his career-best form.

Lisandro Martinez was the first confirmed starter tonight with his withdrawal at half-time against Sheriff a week ago. Martinez was a booking away from suspension and the notion he could be held back for a group decider would be anathema to the Argentine.

The only game all season Martinez has not started for United was in the defeat to Sociedad in Manchester. He was preposterously penalised for handball and booked, gifting Sociedad their one-shot to win and it is not a stretch to imagine that motivating him this evening.


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