Today, Manchester United will play Real Sociedad in a game in which the former team could reach the Europa League playoffs with a good result.
With the Red Devils set to start from a strong side against a rather depleted Sociedad, United are expected to win despite their poor track record on Spanish soil.
Eric ten Haga’s players will line up in a 4-2-3-1 pattern against a 4-3-1-2 La Liga scheme, which will create obvious space on the flanks.
United have the speed to use vast areas when crossing, while Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw will play an important role in creating a 2 on 1 against Sociedad’s outfield defenders in possession of the ball.
The Red Devils will have a numerical disadvantage in moving the ball through the center of the field, although defenders can play an important role in this area as well.
Dalot, in particular, has done a very good job in a secondary role under Ten Haga, and this will allow him to support the trio of United’s midfield against four Sociedad players.
This would give Manchester United more solutions to propel the ball around the pitch with different attacking methods available to them.
Defensively, Ten Haga’s wards must watch out for Sociedad’s fast short passes.
They tend to build up through thirds, keeping the midfield diamond narrow to facilitate quick rondo-style maneuvers.
Carlos Fernandes and Alexandre Sorlot up front always provide the potential for a direct pass to change this pattern, as both are physically impressive strikers, but in general Sociedad prefers to play short and through where possible.
The usual pattern to pay attention to in the midfield of a La Liga team is the transition from a diamond—shaped to a square shape when they work playing the ball on the field.
Since Bryce Mendes looks more like a half-winger than a real midfielder, he often finds himself higher up the field, and Mikel Merino falls on the opposite side of the diamond, forming a double support with Martin Subimendi.
This shift sometimes forces Sociedad to play more according to the 4-2-2-2 scheme than according to the 4-3-1-2 scheme, which may affect the attacking pressure that United’s defensive midfielders have to cope with.
However, in terms of how to attack them, the difference is minimal. In any case, United’s speed on the flanks will make counterattacks deadly against the narrow form of the Spanish team.