A brace from Bruno Fernandes and goals from Marcus Rashford and Daniel James gifted Manchester United a comfortable 4-0 win over Real Sociedad in Turin in a frenetic encounter in the Europa League round of 32 on Thursday.
United were always dangerous on the attack, but it was Fernandes, who scored his 32nd and 33rd goals for United, who starred. First, he seized on a comedic mix-up between in the Real Sociedad defence to score into an empty net to break the deadlock before combining neatly with James to slot home an impressive second. Rashford added a third with his 17th European goal when he converted his third one-on-one of the night, and James completed the rout with a deserved goal.
United could have won more convincingly had Alejandro Remiro not denied Rashford and Mason Greenwood. James also had another effort chalked off for offside. Sociedad rarely threatened United’s goal in response and they now have a mountain to climb in the second leg at Old Trafford.
United’s victory ends a run of nine games without a win against Spanish opposition in European competition.
After an unconvincing run of games in the Premier League, United were back to their rampant best. Their movement was superb and the quality of passing in the final third sumptuous.
It was hard to criticise United’s performance, such was their dominance, but they started the game slowly. On another night their sloppiness could have found seen them go one or two down in the first five minutes. They might also wonder how they didn’t win by more.
Manager rating out of 10
9 — Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saw his side survive a reckless start, but United dominated thereafter. He was even gifted an opportunity to swap his players around in the second half and give Amad Diallo a first taste of action.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Dean Henderson, 7 — Henderson made a good early save to deny Sociedad a flying start, and then proceeded to dominate his area with a commanding vocal performance. His distribution was good too, the keeper once setting up a United attack.
DF Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 6 — The right-back was caught out of position on more than one occasion and was walking a bit of a tightrope with the referee following one or two questionable challenges. As ever, he loved to get forward.
DF Eric Bailly, 6 — A committed performance from Bailly, who recovered well after giving away two unforced errors early on. He looked a bit shaky given it was his first game since returning from injury, but he did the job.
DF Alex Telles, 6 — Telles was always looking to get forward on the overlap and he broke the lines well. United enjoyed several chances from his passes, but he looked better going forward than he did defensively.
MF Scott McTominay, 8 — The Scot was given a lot of freedom to break forward and he was a constant threat. He could and perhaps should have done better when, following a driving run into the Sociedad area, he shot straight at Remiro when he should have gone across the goal.
MF Fred, 8 — Fred was everywhere. Together with McTominay, he was quick to press David Silva and Mikel Merino and neither had any space or time to create. He was superb doing the dirty work, which enabled McTominay to attack. His pass to Rashford for United’s third was pinpoint.
MF Bruno Fernandes, 9 — Fernandes had so much space and he exploited it well. He opened the scoring when, following a speculative through ball that caused a mix-up in the Sociedad defence, he calmly slotted home into an empty net. Earlier, he’d put the ball on a plate for Rashford, who missed when one-on-one. He then added a second following a neat one-two with James.
FW Mason Greenwood, 6 — Greenwood may have looked on at the chances Rashford enjoyed with a bit of jealousy, as he was more of a spectator in a wide position. He got into the game more in the second half but couldn’t quite trouble Remiro.
FW Daniel James, 8 — James linked up well with Rashford and Fernandes and it was from his touch that United thought they’d grabbed a second; Fernandes’ effort ruled out for offside. The offside flag then denied James a goal, what would have been United’s fourth, but it was a neat finish, nonetheless. He saw another effort saved by Remiro’s legs before finally finding the net, a neat finish, and a goal his performance deserved.
FW Marcus Rashford, 8 — The striker had two wonderful chances to open the scoring when clean through on goal in the opening exchanges. Both were well denied by Remiro, but it was third time lucky when he slotted into the corner when released by Fred. His runs behind the Sociedad defence were exceptional.
MF Nemanja Matic, 6 — Matic continued Fred’s fierce protection of United’s defence and enabled the Brazilian to go forward in McTominay’s absence.
FW Anthony Martial, 6 — Martial must have been licking his lips at the prospect of attacking a poor defence, but he was more effective when tracking back and working hard for his team.
MF Juan Mata, N/R — Mata didn’t have much time to impress in his first game since early January, but had a shot on target saved late on.
MF Amad Diallo, N/R — United’s lead ensured Diallo could go out and enjoy his seven-minute cameo on his debut.