The Old Trafford crowd was left frustrated after the Europa League loss against Real Sociedad, as Manchester United was narrowly beaten 0-1 by visiting Real Sociedad, prompting delighted celebrations amongst fans hailing from the Basque region of northern Spain. But while the game itself offered little to inspire, more worryingly, the Red Devils continued their poor form against Spanish opposition, who have increasingly enjoyed success against the English giants.

Regardless of this initial defeat, Manchester United still remain as one of the outright favourites to win the UEFA Europa League, when browsing the top online football betting sites reviewed by SBO in 2022. These are bookies which are rated and reviewed for overall quality and reliability, based upon expert analysis of all markets available, accompanied by information covering the latest odds and promotions.

Indeed, the oddsmakers don’t have any serious concerns about United making the knockout phase, confident they will bounce back to winning ways in the continental competition. Without any disrespect to the opposing sides, Group E also features relative minnows in football terms, with the Red Devils expected to beat FC Sheriff of Moldova and AC Omonia Nicosia of Cyprus. Two victories will certainly be welcome, before facing the Spaniards again.

Historic record against Spanish rivals
Throughout the recorded history of Manchester United in European competitions, they have come up against eleven different Spanish clubs. The biggest rivalries were typically in the European Cup, which continued when the competition was rebranded as the UEFA Champions League, against Real Madrid and Barcelona. Encounters against those two sides typically produced thrilling matches, genuine clashes of continental titans, and memorable victories.

Nevertheless, the historic record for United against opponents from Spain is largely negative, according to archived match data from the World Football website. Excluding friendly games and only considering competitive matches in Europe, the Red Devils have played against Real Madrid eleven times. Since the 1956-57 season, Manchester United have only beaten them twice, drawing four, and losing five times, including the 2-1 UEFA Super Cup defeat of 2017.

The record against Barcelona is also negative overall, since the first time the two clubs met competitively during the 1983-84 season. That was in the Cup Winners Cup, when a Barça side with Diego Maradona won 2-0 at the Camp Nou, before Bryan Robson inspired a spectacular 3-0 comeback at Old Trafford. However, the total record including Champions League meetings produces an overall deficit, losing six times against Barcelona, drawing four and winning three.
The deficit in winning results also extends to several other Spanish rivals, including Athletic Club Bilbao, who United have beaten just once, and suffered defeat on three occasions. Atletico Madrid have never been beaten by the Red Devils, with five meetings producing two draws and two defeats. Andalucian side Sevilla have also never been conquered, with United losing twice and drawing once.

Looking for the positive balance
When it comes to Spanish rivals, some confrontations have resulted in positive outcomes overall for Manchester United over the years. Amongst the two Galician sides of north-west Spain, the only meetings with Celta Vigo produced a win and a draw in 2016-17, while contests against Deportivo la Coruña were somewhat more even. The six meetings produced three wins for United and three for Deportivo.

After games against Barcelona and Real Madrid, the Spanish opponent faced on most occasions has been Valencia, producing a balance of two wins for United, two for the Valencia, and four draws. Then comes Villarreal, hailing from small town in the south-east of Spain. Manchester United sunk the ‘Yellow Submarine’ twice last season in the Champions League, although every other meeting resulted in draws. This includes the 2020-21 Europa League final, when Villarreal won 11-10 on penalties.


Manchester United were up against modest Spanish minnows Granada CF in 2020-21, after they surprisingly reached the quarter-finals. Neither of the 2-0 victories home and away were comfortable, although they still produce a positive balance. As for encounters with Basque outfit Real Sociedad, up until the unfortunate recent loss at Old Trafford, the previous balance favoured United with two victories and two draws.

The surge of Spanish success in Europe
Despite what is largely a disappointing record against Spanish opponents, this can also be tempered by a notable surge in the success of their teams, especially over the last couple of decades. Since the year 2000, Spanish sides have lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy eleven times, and the UEFA Europa League title eleven times. This proves that even beyond the ‘Big Two’ of Real Madrid and Barcelona, no Spanish side should ever be underestimated.

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