Europa League: Real Sociedad ready to look Man United in the eye, says coach

Real Sociedad will play with the handbrake off against Manchester United in Thursday’s Europa League last-32 first leg, coach Imanol Alguacil said ahead of his side’s home game which is being played in Italy due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Basque side is renowned for its attacking flair and led the La Liga standings until mid-December before sliding down to fifth.

It sneaked into the knockout phase of the Europa League ahead of AZ Alkmaar thanks to a stoppage-time equaliser against Napoli and the coach said his side would not stray from its buccaneering approach against the 20-times English champion.

“We are of course excited about playing Manchester United but Real Sociedad offer our excitement, because of how we play the important games,” he told a news conference.

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“We overcame the group of death by playing great teams, and even though United are a step up, we can look them in the eye. But we’ll be aware of their power, the fact they’re a historic club, and a few weeks ago they were leading the Premier League.

“We have great respect for United, for their history, the level of their squad and their coach but we’ll go out to win and will be treating the game like a final.”

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Instead of playing at its shiny new Reale Arena, Alguacil’s side has had to travel more than 1,000 kilometres to Turin to face United at Juventus’ stadium as Spain is restricting flights from the United Kingdom to control COVID-19 strains.

“It’s curious to play your home game in Italy, but we will not be making excuses. I don’t like coaches who focus on things other than what happens on the pitch,” he said.

“But what I’m most frustrated about is not being able to enjoy great moments like this with our fans, that’s the real shame.”


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