Manchester United made it through to the next stage of the 2022/23 Europa League but they did not manage to win their group which makes things more complicated for Erik ten Hag.
The Premier League side were pipped to top spot by Real Sociedad in the final game when United needed one more goal to clinch first.
That means that a knockout round play-off will be required to get into the last 16 proper, something Ten Hag will certainly have wanted to avoid in a group with Real Sociedad, Sheriff Tiraspol and Omonia Nicosia.
It was ultimately the first game of the group stage that proved fatal to United’s quest to win the group.
La Real travelled to Old Trafford in the hope of a big start and that is exactly what they got. They came away as 1-0 winners thanks to a dubious penalty that was given after a Lisandro Martinez handball.
That added a certain level of pressure to Manchester United’s trip to Transnistria where they were facing FC Sheriff. A much better performance saw United win 2-0 to get their campaign back on track.
A 3-2 win in Cyprus against Omonia was followed by a 1-0 win over the same side at Old Trafford. While the points were welcome, the games did feel like a missed opportunity to increase the goal difference by a big margin as Real Sociedad were continuing to win their games.
A comfortable 3-0 win over Sheriff at Old Trafford meant that United went into the game against La Real in San Sebastian needing to win by two goals to finish top of the group.
The first half went to plan as United impressed and 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho scored a superb goal to make it 1-0. In the second half though, Real Sociedad remained resolute and United’s creative spark seemed to wane.
Marcus Rashford was United’s top scorer in the group stage with three but the Red Devils only got ten across the group stage.
Due to finishing second, Manchester United will have to navigate their way through the knockout round play-off against a team that finished third in the Champions League groups.
That means a potentially very tough tie awaits United against one of the following teams:
Barcelona and Juventus are the two sides that Manchester United may wish to avoid but there is no team in that set that will be an easy opponent for Ten Hag’s side.
If United manage to win that tie, to be played on February 16 and February 23, they will go into the Europa League round of 16 where they can face one of the following teams except for Arsenal as they are from the same association:
There are some more agreeable ties in there for United so that could prove to be an easier stage of the tournament as long as they get through the play-off.