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What Manchester United need to do to avoid potential Barcelona Europa League tie

The Red Devils round off the Europa League group stage this evening

Manchester United will determine their fate this evening when they finish their Europa League campaign in Spain against Real Sociedad.

The Red Devils currently sit second in their group, having recovered from an opening-day defeat to the Spanish side to record four consecutive wins over Sheriff and Omonia, three points behind Sociedad and with an inferior goal difference.

And finishing second in the group is a risk. Though they do qualify for the next round, any side that comes as a runner-up in their group will have to play a two-legged round of 32 tie against one of the eight sides that finished third in the Champions League group stages.

This would mean that whoever finishes second between Sociedad and United will face one of:

FC Barcelona*

RB Salzburg

Ajax

Bayer Leverkusen

Sporting Lisbon

Juventus

Shakhtar Donetsk

*Real Sociedad would be ineligible to face another Spanish side.

What United need

Fortunately for United, their task in Spain is clear. To avoid a second-place spot, they must beat Sociedad by two clear goals,

Should they do so, they would move level on 15 points with the Spanish side, and though they would move ahead on goal difference, UEFA operates on a head-to-head tiebreaker first.

As a result, United’s win by two goals would outweigh the slender 1-0 win that Sociedad managed to pick up at Old Trafford on Matchday 1.

(Photo by Stefan Constantin/News Images) 2K9DBYY Erik Ten Hag applauds the fans after the UEFA Europa League match Manchester United vs Sheriff Tiraspol at Old Trafford, Manchester, United Kingdom, 27th October 2022

(Photo by Stefan Constantin/News Images) (Alamy Stock Photo)

An 1-0 win for the Red Devils would see them tied on head-to-head, in which case it would revert to goal difference, which even with a swing of 2 would see Sociedad squeeze through in top spot.

With the hosts having lost just twice all season at home, and with Manchester United set to be without all of Anthony Martial, Antony and Jadon Sancho, it could be a tough ask for Erik ten Hag’s men, but their task is clear.

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Ben Browning

Football writer and analyst. Long-time writer of all things Arsenal and avid watcher of European football. Happy to discuss all things football over on Twitter.

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