‘Mess’ - Paul Scholes’ assessment of Man Utd second half vs Real Sociedad & Erik ten Hag changes

Paul Scholes has claimed Manchester United’s second-half performance against Real Sociedad was ‘messy’ as the Red Devils failed to take top spot in their Europa League group.

Paul Scholes has claimed Manchester United’s second-half performance against Real Sociedad was ‘messy’ as the Red Devils failed to take top spot in their Europa League group.

United won 1-0 in Spain but needed a victory by a margin of two goals to overtake Sociedad and immediately progress to the last-16 of the competition. Instead, they’ll need to beat one of the eight Champions League drop-outs in order to progress to that stage of the competition, and could face the likes of Barcelona, Juventus or Ajax in February’s two-legged play-off.

But after a first half where United looked threatening against Sociedad on Thursday, Erik ten Hag’s men failed to register a shot on target in the second period. The team also lost shape and fluidity after a change of shape and personnel in the 58th minute, as Ten Hag replaced Victor Lindelof and Donny van de Beek with Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford, and switched to a back three.

In the latter stages, Ten Hag also threw on Harry Maguire as an auxiliary striker, as United struggled to create passing sequences and Sociedad grew in stature. Speaking after the game, Scholes said he was disappointed with United’s display in the second period.

“I think it got a little bit messy that second half,” opined the former United midfielder in BT Sport’s post-match coverage. “I’m not really sure what was trying to be achieved by the Lindelof substitution.

“United [in the] first half were in complete control. Lindelof’s substitution put Casemiro into the back four or three. Marcus Rasnford then coming in for Van de Beek as a No.10. It’s not Marcus’ position, Marcus needs to be on the shoulder of people. He needs to be out wide, he needs to have space to receive the ball and be able to beat people.

“Then Maguire going up top… it just became a long-ball game. I’m all for that, it can work. But in the second half I just thought that after being in complete control of the first half, it just became a mess.”

Scholes was surprised at the decision to play Rashford through the middle. Credit: Getty.

Speaking later in the show, Scholes expressed his surprise again at the decision to play Rashford in the hole behind Cristiano Ronaldo, and even suggested it’s a sign the United No.10 is carrying a knock.

“I just don’t think Marcus was in the right positon,” he continued. “I thought Bruno [Fernandes] on the right could have swapped easily with Marcus. Bruno was ineffective on the right-hand side. Bring him into the middle of the pitch and let Marcus go out wide.

“It makes you wonder [if] Marcus is carrying something. He [Ten Hag] probably didn’t want him to stretch his legs down the outside, where Marcus is most effective. When it gets into the middle of the pitch Marcus has to take a touch, beat a man, beat two men.

“He’s capable, but it’s not his best position. Getting Bruno in that position would have been better and it would have given the team a better shape.”