Manchester United will play the away leg of this month’s Europa League last 32 tie against Real Sociedad on neutral soil in Turin, an expected decision that has now been confirmed as a result of coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
The game on 18 February was originally supposed to be played at La Real’s Anoeta stadium in San Sebastian, but Spain has banned air and sea travel from the UK since December.
Instead, the fixture will now take place at the Allianz Stadium, usually home to Juventus.
The second leg is still scheduled to take place at Old Trafford a week later on 25 February.
It appears the losers here are Real Sociead who have now lost their home leg in the tie. Even without fans in the stadium, the familiarity of playing at home would have been an advantage that is now gone.
United’s isn’t the only European fixture that has been moved because of coronavirus concerns. Liverpool will now play the away leg of their Champions League clash against RB Leipzig in Budapest in Hungary for similar reasons.
Chelsea could end up facing Atletico Madrid in either Romania or Poland because they would be denied entry into Spain, while Manchester City’s away leg against Borussia Monchengladbach is another that has been moved to Budapest.
United are no strangers to playing Europa League games at a neutral venue, having played both Copenhagen and Sevilla in Germany during last season’s knockout mini-tournament.
The competition, which United last won in 2017, offers a genuine chance of a trophy this season. It was the last trophy the club was able to lift, beating Ajax in the final under the guidance of Jose Mourinho, and one of only three bits of silverware since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.