Return to troubled times for Man Utd in Basque country
After a torrid start to life as Manchester United manager David Moyes can finally start to relax.
His Red Devils are on a seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions and have won their last four matches.
Those victories go some way to banishing the memory of three defeats in the Scot’s first six Premier League games in charge at Old Trafford and they will face Real Sociedad at the Anoeta with a renewed confidence.
However, United’s recent record in Spain – where they have won just once in their last eight visits – suggests they are in for a tricky night in San Sebastian and Jagoba Arrasate’s side are taken to hold their illustrious visitors to a draw at odds of 12/5.
The Premier League champions will not need reminding of the disaster that befell them on their last visit to Spain’s autonomous Basque region in March 2012.
On that occasion United were attempting to overturn a one-goal first-leg deficit against Athletic Bilbao in the last 16 of the Europa League, but were comfortably beaten by a Los Leones side containing Fernando Llorente, Javi Martinez and Ander Herrera.
Moyes also has bad form in the book when it comes to clashes in Spain as his Everton side went down 2-1 to Villarreal at El Madrigal in the Toffees’ Champions League qualifier in 2005.
The Scot never got a second chance to take the Merseysiders into the group stages of Europe’s elite club competition, but even a draw here would give his new side an excellent chance of progressing out of Group A with two matches to go.
La Real’s results have improved markedly since United’s 1-0 win over them at Old Trafford, which was their only defeat in the last five games.
They have won three and drawn one of their last four La Liga matches, with midfielder Antoine Griezmann helping himself to a six-goal haul during that run.
He is 15/8 to score at any time and it’s 4/6 that both teams find the net at some point in the match, which rates an enticing prospect considering United left defenders Jonny Evans and Rafael in Manchester after they both came off at half-time in the 3-1 over Fulham.
Moyes’ men have scored the opening goal in their last two games and in each of their three Champions League ties so far in 2013/14.
Javier Hernandez, who scored the only goal the last time his club won in Spain against Valencia three years ago, will be hopeful of getting on from the start and is 6/1 to break the deadlock in San Sebastian.
Dropping the Mexican for United’s trip to Craven Cottage was scant reward for his return of three goals in 120 minutes of football against Stoke and Norwich recently.
However, Robin van Persie has started all of the champions’ Premier League and Champions League matches under Moyes when fit and the Dutch hitman is good value at 9/2 to score the first goal here.