MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Manchester United went top of Champions League Group A on Wednesday thanks to an early own goal by Real Sociedad’s Inigo Martinez that gave them a 1-0 home win to mask a host of missed opportunities.
Wayne Rooney did all the hard work to create the second-minute opener and watched as his shot crashed off the far post and into the path of Martinez who inexplicably directed the ball into his own net.
United, driven by the rejuvenated Rooney on the eve of his 28th birthday, then proceeded to spurn chance after chance to kill the game off and Sociedad hit the woodwork twice to keep Old Trafford nerves on edge until the final whistle.
“A good job done, a good performance, we could’ve scored more goals and should have but I‘m pleased with the victory,” United manager David Moyes told Sky Sports with memories of conceding an 89th-minute equaliser at the weekend still fresh.
”We had it on Saturday in a Premier League game (against Southampton) when we were 1-0 up and lost a goal in the last minute so today we had that feeling around us but if we’d scored five or six it wouldn’t have been out of place.
“We really did have an awful lot of opportunities and didn’t finish it off.”
With Shakhtar Donetsk suffering a 4-0 thumping at Bayer Leverkusen, United’s victory was enough to send them a point clear of the Ukrainian side with seven points from three games. Leverkusen are third with four, while Sociedad have none.
Once the dust settles on the joy of picking up three valuable points, United will have questions to answer about the manner of this victory against a La Liga side who have, rather like them, made a lacklustre start to their domestic campaign.
United had aimed to create a noisy atmosphere at Old Trafford by trying out a new ‘singing section’ of the stadium but they did not need it as their flying start raised the decibels from the off.
Rooney’s skill in weaving his way past several defenders fully deserved a goal and while his blistering shot crashed against the far post, an apparently panic-stricken Martinez was on hand to turn the rebound into his own net.
Watched by former manager Alex Ferguson, who has grabbed all the headlines in the build-up to this match following the release of his autobiography, Moyes’ men did as much as they could to try to turn the spotlight back on them.
Rooney went for the spectacular with an overhead kick that would have been like the goal of the season he scored against Manchester City in 2011 but it flew well off target, while Javier Hernandez had a header disallowed for offside.
The visitors finally tested United keeper David De Gea half an hour into the game when Ryan Giggs was dispossessed by Haris Seferovic near the halfway line and the Sociedad striker charged forward and his shot from 25 metres out was tipped over the bar.
Sensing an opportunity, with United having failed to stretch their lead despite their early dominance, Sociedad went close again just before halftime when Antoine Griezmann smashed a free kick over the wall and against the post.
United, whose teamsheet had featured the surprise omission of striker Robin van Persie who Moyes later said was struggling with some knocks, started the second half with Phil Jones forcing a save from Claudio Bravo to keep his header out.
The hosts then hit the far post with a low Antonio Valencia effort shortly after Sociedad had left De Gea raising his eyebrows in surprise that a cross from Alberto de la Bella had rattled his bar.
United endured a nail-biting end to the match as yet more decent chances went begging with Old Trafford fans perhaps left feeling they could do with a ‘sighing with relief’ section of the ground instead of a singing one.
Reporting by Sonia Oxley; Editing by Justin Palmer