Manchester United With One Foot In Europa League Semi-Final
Manchester United will return home with a 2-0 aggregate lead in their Europa League quarter-final tie, and have surely cemented a place in the semi-finals.
Spanish Minnows Overwhelmed
With Granada looking overwhelmed by their more famous opponents under the bright lights of the big stage, United took the lead after 31 minutes courtesy of a Marcus Rashford strike.
In the second half, the home side came into the match, and had spells of pressure of their own, but couldn’t find an equaliser.
With the game heading toward the final moments, and still just a solitary goal separating the teams, it looked like it would still be all to play for next week at Old Trafford.
However, in the dying moments, Granada’s Yan Brice Eteki inexplicably knocked Bruno Fernandes to the ground in the box, and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
The decision was confirmed by VAR, and Fernandes stepped up to take the penalty.
It wasn’t the Portuguese playmakers best penalty in a United shirt, and it was a moment to rue for Rui Silva who guessed correctly, got down to the shot, but couldn’t keep the ball out of the net.
With two away goals to take to Old Trafford, a comeback is surely beyond the Spaniards, even though United will be without captain Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, and Scott McTominay, who all picked up bookings that rule them out of the return leg.
Manchester United Approach Won’t Change For Second Leg
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says the approach of his club will remain the same for the second leg of the quarter-final of the Europa League tie.
“It’s not a prefect night, of course we get three yellow cards and three suspensions for the next game, but a 2-0 result is a very good result. Of course we know how difficult it is coming to Spain to get these kinds of results, we have to play well to get them and [I’m] very happy with the result.”
“We want to win every game of football, because this is still a young team, it’s a learning team. We have to improve over time, we know in football it catches you so quickly if you rest and we cannot have any other approach than go forward and try to create chances and score goals, Especially at home, Old Trafford, we feel good at home of course,” said Solskjaer.
Praise For Rashford, Fernandes, Lindelof
While Solskjaer often says his squad win and lose as a team, and rarely praises individuals, he did note some stand out performers on what proved to be a tricky away fixture.
“They’ve been exceptional, they have been so good for us and they’re so important for us. The first goal, very good run by Rashford and he takes the ball fantastically and a fantastic finish, and Bruno, I know he’s so confident on penalties. Even though the goalkeeper almost saved it, it was enough to give us a good lead.”
“Victor [Lindelof]. He kept us glued together. He was good on the ball, took command, and what a pass for the first goal!”
Another Clean Sheet
As United reach the critical run in to what they hope to be a second-place Premier League finish and Europa League triumph, the team will come to rely on their defence to be rock-solid.
As their manager noted, another clean sheet was an important step in the right direction.
“It’s a foundation to build a performance from. Today we didn’t hit the levels we normally do with the ball: passing and the combination play. We didn’t really hit the standard that we’re used to but we did enough to get a good result to take back.”
Before the return leg, United visit Tottenham, and will be reunited with their former manager Jose Mourinho who inflicted a 6-1 drubbing on his former side at Old Trafford earlier in the season.
While both teams fortunes have changed dramatically since then, another defensive performance such as tonight’s effort in Spain could set the stage for yet another away win in 2021 for the Red Devils.