Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shows wishful thinking with reaction to Europa League draw

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did his best to put a brave face on Man Utd's draw to meet Real Sociedad by insisting the fixture belonged in the Champions League.

United were demoted from Europe's top club competition last week after losing their final Group H fixture to RB Leipzig.

And their reward was a last-32 showdown with the current La Liga leaders in the Europa League.

Solskjaer had worked tirelessly with his squad to seal their place in this season's Champions League, and tried in vain to show his enthusiasm for the clash with Sociedad was not dampened by United's earlier disappointment.

“It sounds like a Champions League draw and it’s definitely one that keeps everyone on their toes,” he told United's official website .

"They’re the team that’s top of La Liga at the moment ahead of teams like Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

"I’ve watched them a couple of times and they’re an exciting team and it’ll be a test for us."

As if pining for a spot back at the top table once wasn't enough, Solskjaer continued: "We’ve got some difficult games around that period.

"It’s not a time we can switch off and feel it’s an easy Europa League draw, this feels like a Champions League draw – they’re top of the Spanish league. We just have to stay focused."

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have missed out on Jadon Sancho in the summer, but he still made some big moves in the transfer market with Donny van de Beek, Alex Telles and Edinson Cavani all arriving.

But their start to the season has been a mixed bag, with a home defeat to Crystal Palace and a 6-1 thrashing by Spurs at one end of the scale, and a tremendous 2-1 win over PSG in Paris at the other.

The question now is whether they can find the right balance?

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Sociedad may be mixing it with Spain's finest domestically, but European competition is hardly something they are regularly accustomed to.

They last featured in the Europa League three years ago, reaching the last-32 stage again, and were knocked out before the group phase in their previous appearance three years prior to that.

Indeed, in their history they've only appeared twice in the Champions League since it was re-formatted in the early 90s.

Their most recent appearance in the competition was as part of United's group back in 2013-14, however, when they finished rock bottom with just a single point.

It will no doubt be a different contest come February, though, and Solskjaer is all too aware of the threat Sociedad possess, including former United winger Adnan Januzaj.

“They’re hard-working with high intensity and some high-quality players and they’ve got our own Adnan of course,” the United boss added. "They also have some experienced players and some young, up and coming players."

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Discussing the prospect of facing one of United's academy alumni, Solskjaer said: "Everyone who plays against Man United wants to show what could have been and Adnan’s done well in his career.

"It’s always difficult to see where you’re going to go after Man United and he’s one of those boys that you hope would make it here. It wasn’t to be so now we’ll have to make sure that he’s not going to enjoy his return!"

“With a draw and a team like Sociedad everyone will be focused and of course we want to win trophies,” Solskjaer continued. “We want to go through and the Europa League is one of the tournaments we’re chasing for a trophy.”

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