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UEFA Europa League: Manchester United suffers controversial loss at Ronaldo’s debut

Manchester United's Europa League campaign got off to the worst possible start, suffering a controversial 1-0 loss.

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New Delhi: Manchester United’s Europa League campaign got off to the worst possible start, suffering a controversial 1-0 loss against Real Sociedad at Old Trafford.

A penalty goal from Brais Méndez was the difference maker as United couldn’t score a response. For Sociedad, the win was their first against an English team in a competitive match.

The game’s only goal scored in 59 minutes was a controversial spot-kick. Lisandro Martinez, introduced as a half-time substitute, was deemed to have handed the ball in the box as he blocked a close-range David Silva shot, despite the former Manchester City midfielder’s effort deflecting off the Argentine’s thigh first. Italian referee Marco Di Bello immediately awarded a penalty and after being checked by VAR, his decision stood.

Cristiano Ronaldo was hoping a summer move would mean playing Champions League football somewhere else this season, but instead, the 37-year-old made his first career appearance in the Europa League, and it didn’t look like he enjoyed the experience.

Erik ten Hag said, “Antony and Marcus grabbed the headlines on Sunday, and deservedly so, but what pleased me most was the collective effort and strong teamwork. It is not the end of our development as a group. There is still a lot more improvement to come.”

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II earlier in the evening, both sets of players wore black armbands and a minute’s silence was impeccably observed by all those inside the ground ahead of kick-off.

UEFA decided it was too late to postpone the fixture but Old Trafford was understandably below full capacity and a subdued atmosphere reflected the mood of the nation. Announcements were low-key, while advertising boards were black with branding toned down.

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