Robin van Persie missed a penalty and hit the woodwork while Javier Hernandez sliced an absolute sitter as an unlucky Manchester United came away from Real Sociedad with a 0-0 draw on Tuesday.
The result keeps United atop Group A of the UEFA Champions League after four rounds, and given the identical result posted by Shakhtar Donetsk and Borussia Dortmund, their hosts remain alive in Europe—although barely.
137 - Ryan Giggs makes his 950th appearance for Manchester United and his 137th Champions League appearance (2nd most in CL history).— EPLStuff (@EPLStuff) November 5, 2013
United dominated large swaths of the first half, but generated little in the way of meaningful scoring opportunities.
Wayne Rooney, so effective of late, had one of his poorer periods of the season and midfielders Marouane Fellaini and Ryan Giggs just couldn’t provide quality service to either the Englishman or Hernandez.
Sociedad had a more energetic look about them after the restart and tested United’s mettle at the back, but Nemanja Vidic did ever so well to cleanly strip the ball off Carlos Vela deep in the Red Devils’ 18-yard box about midway through the half.
By then, Hernandez had blasted the ball well over the Sociedad bar from in close following a good pass from Shinji Kagawa.
His bad luck seemed to rub off on Van Persie, who replaced him shortly after the hour mark.
Just two minutes after coming on for the Mexican, the 30-year-old rattled a hard shot from the right of goal off the upright. Not long after, however, his night was to become even more forgettable.
It was in the 69th minute that Ashley Young, another substitute, drew a questionable foul off Markel Bergara. Van Persie’s resulting penalty came back off the post and the Basque side managed to clear the danger.
From there, Sociedad successfully closed up shop. In the 90th minute, Fellaini was given his marching orders after a second bookable offense.
Key Player Grades
Wayne Rooney: C
He was never going to remain in his purple patch all season, and on Tuesday, the 28-year-old put in one of his least effective performances of the season—misplacing passes and failing to get into meaningful spaces during key moments of buildup play.
Marouane Fellaini: B-
According to WhoScored.com, he completed 89 per cent of his passes and had the second-most touches of anyone at the Anoeta on Tuesday. However, he failed to make the sort of key pass that might have unlocked the steely Sociedad defense.
Getting himself sent off didn’t help his cause either.
Inigo Martinez: A+
Having scored an own-goal in the reverse fixture last month, the Spain international was back to his masterful self on Tuesday, closing down space and making key, clean tackles in front of his own goal.
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Next up for Real Sociedad is a trip to the capital and a Saturday appointment with Real Madrid. They’ll return from the international break with a home match against Celta Vigo on November 23.
United, meanwhile, will host Premier League leaders Arsenal on Sunday and will be away to Cardiff on November 24.