Manchester United take step towards Europa League semi-final with patient win over tricky Granada

Mike McGrath
·19-min read
Manchester United take step towards Europa League semi-final with patient win over tricky Granada - GETTY IMAGES
Manchester United take step towards Europa League semi-final with patient win over tricky Granada - GETTY IMAGES
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  • Marcus Rashford scores excellent goal in the first half

  • Bruno Fernandes fortunate to score late penalty as goalkeeper dives correct way

Bruno Fernandes’ last-minute penalty was scored with just one eye open and helped Manchester United put one foot in the semi-finals of the Europa League.

Marcus Rashford had earlier scored a crucial away goal at Estadio Municipal Nuevo Los Cármenes but the tie was still in the balance, particularly with Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay picking up bookings to rule them out of next week’s second leg.

But Fernandes made sure their path to the last four will be much easier. He was fortunate to be awarded the penalty when Yan Brice’s caught him as a cross came in, then luckier to see his spot-kick squirm through the hands of his good friend Rui Silva. It was, however, enough to make sure United are in control of this quarter-final.

“He got hit and his eye was red when I saw him,” said United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “To score with one eye open is also a skill.”

The question will then be whether Solskjaer’s team can take the next step and reach a final after losing in semi-finals four times under the Norwegian.

“I've seen the hurt that losing in the semi-final caused last season and hopefully that will provide the motivation,” said Solskjaer. “A successful season would be to win a trophy and move up the table.”

Granada vs Manchester United, Europa League: live score and latest updates from quarter final - GETTY
Granada vs Manchester United, Europa League: live score and latest updates from quarter final - GETTY

It has also been another successful season for Rashford. His goal made him the first United player to score 20 goals in back-to-back seasons since Wayne Rooney a decade ago.

He patched himself up after missing England duty and scored at the weekend to spark a comeback win against Brighton, then his goal in Andalusia was a rare moment of genuine quality in a clash short on clear chances.

Rashford timed his run perfectly when Victor Lindelof launched a long ball from his own backline, then took one touch to pluck the ball from the sky, another two as he sprinted beyond Domingos Duarte and a fourth to coolly place his finish into the bottom corner.

The move was too quick for the Spanish television director sending footage around the world but replays showed it was a route-one goal of expert precision.

“The goal is exceptional,” said Solskjaer. “He's not recovered from his injury and hopefully it's not any worse from this because he lasted 70 against Brighton, 65 now, so hopefully he's ready, I think he should be ready for the weekend.”

United failing to have a player score 20 goals in consecutive seasons for a decade is the reason they have not been winning trophies, according to Paul Scholes. The former United midfielder believes they should spend whatever it takes to get Erling Haaland. “If it meant getting Haaland, why not?” said Scholes on BT.

Rashford was not even starting as a centre-forward, curving his run from the left-wing to stay onside. It was Mason Greenwood who started up front, with Edinson Cavani coming off the bench. Neither troubled Granada, who threatened through Kenedy’s shots from the edge of the area.

The magnitude of the match for Granada was shown by thousands of fans lining the streets outside the stadium to give support as the team bus arrived. “It felt like normal football,” admitted Solskjaer.

David De Gea was given his first start in five weeks after being replaced by Dean Henderson while he was on paternity leave and for the matches since he returned. He dealt with Kenedy’s swerving shots well, making tricky saves look easy.

The negative aspect to the evening was the three bookings which ruled out Maguire, Shaw and McTominay. Shaw was taken off at half-time to protect him from injury.

“It was not a perfect night,” said Solskjaer. “Losing three players is not a good position to be in, I don't think we deserved five yellow cards in total but that's happened, I’m delighted with the result of course.

“It looked like it would be 1-0 but we gladly take the second goal, so vital away from home and we've created a good starting point for next week's game for ourselves.”

United winger Dan James felt his team-mates passed a physical test. “We always knew it would be tough physically and we had to match it and then play our football,” he said. “We did that for the first goal and then fought to the end and got the penalty.”

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08:53 PM


This wasn't an easy win but United were in almost total control. Granada are tricky opponents and shouldn't be underestimated but just lacked the quality necessary in the final third to carve out opportunities. It's only a two goal lead but two away goals might prove too much for Granada.

08:51 PM

90 mins+2 - Granada 0 Man Utd 2

The replay of that penalty shows that the goalie should 100 per cent have saved it. He'll practise those 20 times a day in training. That'll haunt him.

08:50 PM


Fernandes scores from the spot!

Granada 0 Man Utd 2

The goalkeeper almost saves it, guessing the right way and diving low to stop it. It sneaks under him.

08:49 PM


Ehhhh... what? Nobody seems to know what's going on, no United players appeal for a penalty... but as Telles crosses into the box from the left, Fernandes gets a wee knock to the face. It looks accidental to me - I'm not sure how that can be a foul. Ridiculously harsh.

08:45 PM

87 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

Matic is booked for catching Puertas on the nose with his elbow. Totally accidental but that's United's fifth booking and given Granada a chance to get a cross into the box. It's a corner now though... cleared away, back out wide, and well tackled by Fernandes who is then fouled. United take their time.

08:43 PM

84 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

United win the ball back, James attacks the left wing, tucks a reverse pass to Fernandes to put him one v one with the goalie but his shot is saved! James is back on the ball on the left almost immediately afterwards but again Granada are able to block.

08:42 PM

81 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

Granada manage to get themselves a corner. This looks their most likely route to a goal... but it's blocked at the back post. Throw in. That is hurled long into the box, headed away, and United break! But Fernandes hits a poor pass to Greenwood, who didn't really seem to know whether he wanted it played ahead of him or to feet.

08:38 PM

78 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

United passing around the Granada half, happy to go backwards when they need to but keeping the ball moving about to keep things safe. They're in total control.

08:33 PM

74 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

Matic comes on for Pogba as OGS tries to lock this one down.

08:33 PM

71 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

Granada trying to get back into it, pushing forwards as they search for an equaliser. That will allow United to break on them, which is exactly how they want to play.

08:27 PM

68 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

And there is one of those quick Granada counter-attacks! Kenedy ends up shooting from miles out and straight at the goalkeeper.

08:25 PM

66 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

Cavani on, Rashford off.

08:25 PM

64 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

United in total control at the moment. A second goal is really important though - it'll only take a quick counter (if they have the energy!) or mistake from a set piece to give Granada a way back in.

08:21 PM

61 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

United making the pitch nice and wide, using the wide areas to keep play moving forward and keeping Granada pinned back. They win a corner.

08:19 PM

58 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

United playing well under a lot of pressure from Granada. They're keeping the ball and passing it around, making Granada do a lot of running out of possession.

08:14 PM

55 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

Maguire is fouled on the right wing (what is happening) and United win a free-kick. Duarte hobbles off having tried to play on for a bit.

The free-kick comes to nothing. United are in control of this match.

08:12 PM

53 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

James is still down receiving treatment too but seems to be OK.

08:11 PM

51 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

Granada take a few corners in a row but all are headed behind until the final one, which is headed away and then powered on the volley from 25 yards by Kenedy. De Gea saves.

Duarte slides into a tackle on James and knows that he's in real trouble, immediately signalling to the bench that he thinks his game might be over. Duarte then screams something that sounds like 'No!' as he hobbles away. He might have done serious damage to his knee. It's already gone purple.

08:07 PM

48 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

Granada try another of their set piece routines and at this point it seems pretty sure they've got a playbook that they're slowing working through. This one goes short, short to the edge of the box, and is then curled around to the back post. It's easy to deal with.

Maguire is down now after being bumped into by Herrera. He's feeling that one.

08:05 PM


We're back.

08:05 PM

Half time changes

Alex Telles is coming for United, replacing Luke Shaw. That could be because he's on a yellow card but is more likely to be precautionary to protect him from injury.

07:49 PM


A decent game so far. United are clearly better but Granada are playing with a spirit and energy - and they aren't bad either - that is making them difficult opponents.

07:46 PM

45 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

Greenwood has not had a good game. He looks a level below what we saw from him last season at the moment actually, not playing with the same confidence and swagger and making simple mistakes with his first touch.

07:43 PM

42 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

Soldado shoots wide at the far post from a corner. Greenwood loses control in midfield and possession turns over.

Shaw is then booked as a result as he tries to recover which means both he and McTominay will miss the second leg.

07:42 PM

40 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

Granada enjoying a little spell of attacking possession. McTominay has been booked for a late tackle, catching a player with his studs. Granada try another set piece routine... and hit the post! Either United switched off there or something very clever happened. The replay shows... defensive error. McTominay got caught following the wrong man.

07:37 PM

37 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

United starting to put some passes together in the final third now. Fernandes turns on the spot and shoots from distance to win a corner but it's cleared away. Then James brings down a switched pass with a brilliant first touch but hits a weak cross to nobody at the near post.

07:34 PM

34 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 1

That goal is why so many teams don't play this high intensity, high line, compact defensive shape. One ball over the top and a well timed run has undone all that hard work by Granada. Will they open up now? I'd imagine the manager will ask them to play as though it's 0-0.

07:33 PM


I have no idea what just happened because the TV director was running some replays while United scored.

Granada 0 Man Utd 1

The replay is on now... and it's a long pass from Lindelof over the top of the high line defence, an amazing first touch from Rashford and a tidy finish. What a ball. That's a great goal.

07:29 PM

29 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 0

Rashford tries to bend a shot into the top corner from the wide edge of the box but lifts it over. Worth a go.

United need to up the passing tempo but they don't really have the opportunity to do it. Granada defending really well. It'll take a mistake to open this game up.

07:28 PM

27 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 0

Herrera goes down holding his face and stays down way longer than any human needs to after having a hand brush his or her face. McTominay accidentally does just that to him and goes down looking for a free-kick that the referee, thankfully, does not award.

07:25 PM

24 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 0

Granada are doing what Atletico Madrid and Porto do. It's a 4-5-1 and 5-4-1 in deep defensive phases and a 4-4-2 in the middle of the pitch. There's no space between the lines for through-balls and United can't counter-attack them either. How are they supposed to progress play and create chances?

07:22 PM

21 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 0

Granada press United into their own corner, keep going at them and a bit of superb play by Lindelof and Wan-Bissaka allows United to escape. The ball comes back straight away though and they're under pressure again. United players are getting annoyed by their opponents being quite so physical.

07:19 PM

18 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 0

James is playing really wide on the right for United which is forcing Wan Bissaka to underlap when he goes forward. That's not really his game. Granada working hard off the ball, United staying patient as they build play.

07:15 PM

15 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 0

Granada are showing play wide, pouncing on the United midfielders to try and steal the ball, and then swarming the side of the pitch that play is on when United get forward. They're doing well to close space.

07:12 PM

12 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 0

Granada try a couple of set piece routines out on the United defence but De Gea isn't troubled.

07:10 PM

9 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 0

Pogba loses control and dives into a slide tackle on Kenedy from behind and catches him with a really sore one. Kenedy is down howling with pain and it's because he's just caught his foot and caused him to jar his ankle. That will hurt for a while and might impede how he plays. The magic spray is being used to sort that.

07:08 PM

7 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 0

Somehow there's a streaker on the pitch or in the stands somewhere. The camera cuts to players so as not to draw attention to it. Empty stadium. No fans allowed. How does that happen?

07:07 PM

6 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 0

United absorb another attack... the ball rolls to Pogba and he launches a counter-attack with one long pass out to the left. Rashford can't quite get control of the ball and McTominay hits a shot straight into a defender. Rashford might have picked up an injury though. He's hobbling a bit and holding his ankle. I'm not sure what's happened, and I'm not a scientist, but would guess that's a problem with his ankle.

07:05 PM

3 mins - Granada 0 Man Utd 0

Great start from Granada who go at United from the first whistle and try to harass them in the final third. High energy, intense... but United easily deal with the early pressure.

07:01 PM


Here we go! United get the game started.

06:57 PM

Here come the players

The players are getting ready to come out into the empty stadium but will surely be fairy pumped from having seen so many fans out in the streets before. Even I'm a bit excited about that.

06:45 PM

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

"The fans outside... it's like a normal game of football!"

Granada fans cheer as the team bus arrives ahead of the Europa League, quarterfinal - AP
Granada fans cheer as the team bus arrives ahead of the Europa League, quarterfinal - AP
 Fans are seen outside the stadium before the match  - REUTERS
Fans are seen outside the stadium before the match - REUTERS
Granada fans cheers and set off smoke grenades as the team bus arrives ahead of the Europa League, quarterfinal, first leg soccer match between Granada and Manchester United - AP
Granada fans cheers and set off smoke grenades as the team bus arrives ahead of the Europa League, quarterfinal, first leg soccer match between Granada and Manchester United - AP

06:39 PM

Granada's team cost

Apparently this team cost 8million euro to assemble, which is a lot less than Manchester United's, which cost £9400billion or something.

Granada's squad is valued at £104.3m by Transfermarkt vs Man Utd at £646.2m. They did beat Napoli on the way to this match though so United can't get too comfy.

06:27 PM

Fans out on the streets

There are a few pictures going around of fans making their way.... to the outside of the stadium? I'm not sure where they're going because they're not allowed inside.

This is a live photo remember, it's not from two years ago or anything.

Fans greet the Manchester United team bus as it arrives at the stadium prior to the UEFA Europa League Quarter Final First Leg match between Granada CF and Manchester United  - GETTY
Fans greet the Manchester United team bus as it arrives at the stadium prior to the UEFA Europa League Quarter Final First Leg match between Granada CF and Manchester United - GETTY

06:24 PM

The teams for tonight

Here are both teams in written text form:

Granada (4-2-3-1)

Rui Silva; Victor Diaz, Vallejo, Duarte, Neva; Herrera, Gonalons; Kenedy, Montoro, Puertas; Soldado

Subs: Banacloche (g), Fabrega , Foulquier, Nehuén Pérez, Germán, Suárez, Brice, Machis, Molina

Man Utd (4-2-3-1)

De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Pogba, McTominay; Rashford, Fernandes, James; Greenwood

Subs: Grant (g), Henderson (g), Cavani, Mata, Fred, Diallo, Alex Telles, Matić, Williams, Van de Beek, Tuanzebe, Elanga

06:22 PM

Paul Scholes on the goalkeeper situation

Scholes is talking on BT Sport just now about how it took Man Utd years to replace Peter Schmeichel and that it wasn't until Edwin Van der Sar was signed that they really started to compete at the top level again. De Gea has definitely dropped off from where he was and it seems like his recent absence gave Solskjaer the chance to promote Henderson to first choice.

06:13 PM

Man Utd starting lineup

This is what the United team looks like this evening... and it looks like De Gea has a chance to prove his worth! Or he's become the European goalkeeper. Hard to tell really isn't it?

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05:49 PM

David De Gea has to prove his worth

By Mike McGrath

David De Gea has been told he must fight to prove he is Manchester United’s No1 after his five-week spell out of the team.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given Dean Henderson a run of games in goal during De Gea’s paternity leave and when the Spaniard returned, with the United manager set to choose between the two for tonight’s Europa League quarter-final against Granada.

Solskjaer says he had to compete with new signings when he was a player at United and it is no different for De Gea despite his status as the highest-paid goalkeeper in football after his contract agreement last season.

“When you’re a part of Man Utd there’s always players who come in and they don’t just come there to fill the bench or squad everyone has ambition to take your shirt,” said Solskjaer.

“I was there myself we signed Ruud (van Nistelrooy), Diego Forlan, Louis Saha, loads of top strikers like Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham, the aim for me then is to prove to the manager, ‘okay I don’t mind you signing these but I’m still important to you and I’m still going to give everything I can to play’.

“It’s the same at right-back, left-back, centre-forward, goalkeeper. David has had 10 fantastic years at Man United and he’s had challengers who of course want to play. Sergio, he probably played less games than he deserves, Dean comes in and gives it his all and best because everyone wants that place in the team.

“David does as well and it’s a healthy competition, the nature of football and the small goalkeeping department are a very tight-knit group. They work together in prep, they have different gym sessions, they stay together more so naturally they create a bond and the spirit in the goalkeeper department is top. But it’s healthy competition and all of them want to play.”

Marcus Rashford is set to feature at Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes despite taking a knock at the weekend and missing England duty during the international break but Solskjaer is undecided whether Rashford will play from the start or come off the bench. “I don’t think he’ll be a 90-minute man so let’s see where he’s at,” said Solskjaer.

Eric Bailly must return a negative Covid-19 test before returning from Ivory Coast where he was on international duty and Anthony Martial could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury suffered when he played for France.