Teenager Alejandro Garnazzo scored a superb goal as Manchester United ended Real Sociedad’s unblemished Europa League record but had to settle for second place in Group E.
Erik ten Hag’s side needed to win by two or more goals in Spain to win the group and their spirits were lifted when Garnazzo showed terrific pace before unleashing Cristiano Ronaldo’s pass into the corner of the net.
It was a great moment for the 18-year-old Madrid-born winger, who was making his second start for the Red Devils.
Ronaldo missed a great chance to double the lead with a lob into the roof of the net before David de Gea pulled off a fine double save to keep out Antoni Gorosabel and Pablo Marin.
United finish the group stage on 15 points with Sociedad, who advance to the last 16 on goal difference.
The Red Devils will now play in next February’s knockout play-offs, where they will face one of the clubs leaving the Champions League.
The teams they could meet over two legs are Barcelona, Juventus, Ajax and Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk.
The draw for the knockout round is on Monday.
Maguire finishes in front
Had United managed one more goal without conceding, they would have qualified as group winners and avoided two extra games in February.
They were in complete control in the first half but failed to get a single shot on target in the second, and finished the game with substitute Harry Maguire up front alongside Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford.
On a wet night in the Basque Country, Garnacho became United’s youngest non-English goalscorer in Europe at the age of 18 years and 125 days.
Four weeks ago, the young Argentina international scored a late winner for United’s under-21 side in the EFL Trophy at Barrow.
In San Sebastian, Garnazzo showed what a talent he is with a restrained finish in the 17th minute after receiving Ronaldo’s timely pass from outside the penalty area before finishing inside the area.
It was the perfect start for Ten Haag’s side and the youngster had another chance, but he slipped and fired over the bar.
Real Sociedad were without a number of players through injury, including four-time Premier League winner with Manchester City David Silva.
However, they did just about enough to finish top of the group in a tough game that saw a number of yellow cards in the second half.
How to play
Rate players out of 10 during or after the game. The scorer will close 30 minutes after the final whistle.
Score range key = Give it up = Pure perfection
- 1Remiro Gargallo
- 18GorosabelSubstituted forElustondoin the 58′minutes
- 24Le Normand
- 23MéndezReservation at 64 minutesSubstituted forZubeldiain the 83′minutes
- 42MarinSubstituted forNavarroin the 59′minutes
- 19SørlothSubstituted forMagunacelayain the 83′minutes
- 9FernandezReservation at 73 minutesSubstituted forGuevarain the 73′minutes
- 30González de Zarate
- 1de Gea
- 20DalotReservation at 87 minutes
- 2LindelofSubstituted forMcTominayin the 58′minutes
- 6MartinezReservation at 62 minutes
- 14EriksenSubstituted forFrederickin the 82′minutes
- 8Bruno Fernandes
- 34van de BeekSubstituted forRashfordin the 58′minutes
- 49GarnazzoSubstituted forMaguirein the 82′minutes
- 7Cristiano RonaldoReservation at 71 minutes
End of match, Real Sociedad 0, Manchester United 1.
End of second half, Real Sociedad 0, Manchester United 1.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Mikel Merino.
Offside, Manchester United. Cristiano Ronaldo tries a cross but Casemiro is caught offside.
Yellow card to Diogo Dalot (Manchester United) for a bad foul.
Foul by Diogo Dalot (Manchester United).
Jon Magunacelaya (Real Sociedad) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Corner, Real Sociedad. Conceded by Diogo Dalot.
Foul by Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United).
Jon Magunacelaya (Real Sociedad) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Harry Maguire (Manchester United).
Jon Pacheco (Real Sociedad) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Change, Real Sociedad. Jon Magunacelaya replaces Alexander Sørloth.
Change, Real Sociedad. Igor Zubeldia replaces Brais Méndez.
Change, Manchester United. Fred replaces Christian Eriksen.
Change, Manchester United. Harry Maguire replaces Alejandro Garnazzo.
Attempt failure. Alexander Sørloth (Real Sociedad) left footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right. With the help of Brais Méndez.
Attempt blocked. Robert Navarro (Real Sociedad) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked.
Attempt failure. Alexander Sørloth (Real Sociedad) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left after a quick break.
Diego Rico (Real Sociedad) wins a free kick in the defensive half.