The Europa League is a break from the Premier League routine for Manchester United and the games could prompt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to take a fresh approach.

A tough draw against Real Sociedad reduces the likelihood of full-scale rotation. There will be players hoping the competition will give them chances they have not been afforded in the Premier League lately.

United have a league game against Newcastle on Sunday and so there should be an element of rotation to the line-up against Sociedad, despite the quality the Spanish side possess.

Here is a look at six players who will be hoping for an opportunity to save their seasons…

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Dan James

Welsh winger Dan James has barely had a chance in 2021. He scored on his last appearance against Southampton from the bench and has not featured since.

He only has two starts since his goal on a league start against Leeds in December, and has not really been given a fair shot in terms of regular game time.

James will be hoping he has a role to play against Sociedad. Anthony Martial has done nothing with his own opportunities on the left wing. This could be an ideal chance to get him back involved.

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Juan Mata

While David Silva will play a prominent role for Sociedad, his former Valencia teammate Juan Mata will be hoping to making an impact for United.

Mata is another player who has been overlooked over the past month and like James, his last start came over a month ago in the FA Cup against Watford.

It’s unlikely both Mata and James start, but one could, and both could see action from the bench with five substitutes available.

Manchester United v Watford - FA Cup Third Round
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Brandon Williams

Brandon William started the Europa League semi-final last season and has barely seen much action since, starting three games all season.


Sociedad have two strong wingers in Adnan Januzaj and Mikel Oyarzabal, so Solskjaer may be nervous about changing his full-backs.

Williams will still be hoping to see some action over the course of the two legs. He featured in the FA Cup last week as a substitute.

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Nemanja Matic

Nemanja Matic has lost his place as a regular in Manchester United’s side.

He has started only three games in 2021, and one of these was the terrible defeat to Sheffield United.

A good performance in a game like this could offer some redemption, and lead Solskjaer to consider recalling him for big upcoming games against Chelsea and Manchester City.

Manchester United v Watford - FA Cup Third Round
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Axel Tuanzebe

When United fell into the Europa League, the tournament stood out as essential for a fringe player like Tuanzebe to make his mark.

Tuanzebe’s form has been shaky since and Solskjaer may be nervous about picking him as a starter.

Kylian Mbappe’s star turn for PSG in midweek was a reminder that Tuanzebe shut him down in Paris back in September. Surely he deserves another shot on the European stage to show what he is capable of.

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