Manchester United earned a crucial 2-0 away win over Granada in their Europa League quarter-final first leg on Thursday night. Goals from Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes gave Ole’s side the win, and the away goal advantage. In an evenly contested game, United defended well and capitalized on the scoring chances to win.
Starting XI- Battling Injuries
Ole welcomed David de Gea back to his position in goal. Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw, and Wan-Bissaka retained their roles as the regular back-four. Pogba and McTominay were the physically dominant holding midfielders behind Bruno, Rashford, and James. Mason Greenwood was the lone striker today in place of injured Martial. The bench consisted of Cavani, Fred, van De Beek, Matic, Amad, Telles, and Mata.
First Half- Rashford Salvages Slow Half for United
United started the half on the backfoot as Granada pressed high and hard early on. Although United intended to start with an attacking high-line, they were pushed back by Granada’s pacey wingers. United resorted to dropping deep and hitting on the counter. Unfortunately, the final passes lacked quality as the forwards gave up possession quite easily. Pogba picked up an early yellow in what was a lukewarm performance from the Frenchman. By the 15th minute, United found a foothold in the game as they began controlling possession. Marcus Rashford had a freekick chance in the 19th minute, but his hopeful CR7-esque attempt was off target. United’s defenders were the busier of the bunch as Granada’s counter-attacks kept the center backs on their toes.
Both sides came close to scoring but the half was generally quite uneventful. In the 30th minute, Granada’s Kenedy attempted a hopeful strike from distance which sailed over the ball. While replays of that attempt were being showed, Rashford broke through into the Granada box and slotted home to make it 1-0! Replays showed Lindelof completing a magnificent pass into Rashford’s path, who took a fantastic first touch and scored calmly. Classy stuff from Lindelof putting most midfielders to shame with the quality of that pass. The final minutes of the first half saw Granada in control, looking for the equalizer. Fortunately, the home side could not muster the quality to crack open United’s defense despite hitting the woodwork once. At half time, the game looked even but United held the advantage. Also noteworthy that Shaw and McTominay picked up bookings that will rule them out of the reverse fixture.
Second Half- Bruno Clutch for United
Alex Telles came on to replace Shaw at half-time as United looked to double their advantage. Granada started the second half brightly in search of the equalizer. United looked very nervy on set pieces but Granada’s low-quality playmaking and poor decision-making bailed the visitors out. Harry Maguire channeled some attacking spirit as he fired a hopeful 20-yard strike just wide of the Granada goal. A little shimmy and shake from Maguire outside the box, and on the right-wing raised some eyebrows. In the 66th minute, Edinson Cavani came on to replace Rashford and give the young lad a short break. Maguire also picked up a booking which will rule him out of the next fixture as well.
For the final 15 minutes, Ole replaced Pogba with Matic in an attempt to close the door on Granada. Telles and Cavani came close to finding each other but lacked a bit of chemistry on that occasion. Fatigue set in for Granada as they were confined to their own box for the final 10 minutes. James and Bruno combined well to create a chance but the Granada goalkeeper pulled off a good save. The goal would not have counted either way as Bruno was offside. In the final few minutes, van de Beek came on to replace Greenwood. As the game looked to be heading towards a slender 1-0 win, Bruno won a penalty after getting fouled in the box. The Portuguese midfielder stepped up and squeezed the penalty into the net to make it 2-0! Done and dusted!
Full-Time Thoughts – All About the Score
After registering an important victory, United will travel back to London to square off against struggling Tottenham. After that, they will be hosting Granada in the reverse fixture. Although today’s win was comfortable, United will be wary of the suspensions their players are facing for the home tie. I won’t complain too much about the game because it was all about the result and a 2 goal away advantage is a good one. We must keep up the momentum for the coming games and end the season with at least one trophy. Lindelof and Maguire did a good job of staying with the forwards but got caught out on occasion. Granada’s quality or lack thereof made our lives much easier today.