By Sonia Oxley
MANCHESTER, England, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Manchester United may have to rely on increased noise levels rather than current form to make their home advantage count when they host Real Sociedad in Champions League Group A on Wednesday.
Old Trafford will be trying out a new 'singing section' at the stadium, with up to 1,400 of their loudest fans sitting in an area of the ground normally reserved for away supporters in order to improve the atmosphere because the acoustics are better there.
The move should lift spirits at Old Trafford, where a previous reputation as a rock-solid fortress has been shattered with the English champions managing just one win in the Premier League this season.
Their recent European form is little better with four defeats in their previous seven home games.
United are level on four points with group leaders Shakhtar Donetsk after two games before meeting Sociedad, who have no points and are enduring a start to their league season as shaky as that experienced by David Moyes' men.
"I feel that this is an important one for us," The United manager said on the club website (manutd.com).
"If we could win this one, it would give us a strong position in the group. We have to go out there and take advantage of the home game and try to get a result."
United made a flying start in the Champions League, beating Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 at home in their opener but then drew 1-1 in Donetsk.
Conceding in the 89th minute to draw 1-1 with Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday has done little to inspire confidence in the merits of home advantage before facing a Sociedad team who won away from home at the weekend.
The 2-1 victory at Valencia was, however, their first domestic success since the opening day of the season as their first foray into Europe's elite club competition in a decade appears to have taken a toll on the San Sebastian-based side.
Their two Champions League matches, against Shakhtar Donetsk and Bayer Leverkusen, ended in defeat and they remain a work in progress under inexperienced new coach Jagoba Arrasate.
They were boosted by the return from injury of captain Xabi Prieto as a second-half substitute at the Mestalla but Esteban Granero, on loan from English club Queens Park Rangers, remains sidelined after rupturing knee ligaments last month.
Arrasate said he hoped Saturday's victory, which ended the club's worst La Liga run in two years, could mark a turning point.
"I think we won the game with authority and that gives us a confidence boost for Wednesday," the 35-year-old told a news conference.
"Winning here does not guarantee a good performance (in Manchester) this week but it's better to go into the match after a win than a defeat."
Sociedad's only previous European outing in England does not bode well for them.
They lost 6-0 to United's arch-rivals Liverpool in the UEFA Cup second round in the 1975-76 season, when John Toshack, a future coach of the Basque side, scored the English club's opening goal.
(Additional reporting by Iain Rogers in Madrid; Editing by John Mehaffey)
- Sports & Recreation
- Manchester United
- Real Sociedad
- Shakhtar Donetsk
- Premier League