Manchester United put in a professional away performance against Granada and gained two invaluable away goals in the process. Goals from dynamic duo Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernades were enough to see off the La Liga side. So let’s look at five things we learned from this European tie.
1. Rashford- The risk and reward vs Granada
Going into this match there were many questions surrounding the fitness of Rashford. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decided to pick the England international to start the match. United fans would have their heads in their hands as the 23-year-old was visibly in pain in the early stages of the game. Rashford however repayed the trust shown by his manager and gave the Red Devils the lead on the hour mark. Rashford got on the receiving end of a delightful ball from Victor Lindelof to give United the lead. Solskjaer’s risk of picking Rashford and further aggravating his injuries, did pay off. Rashford has been in red hot form for United and now has 30 goal contributions to his name in all competitions.
2. Suspensions dampen victory over Granada
An issue the United boss would not have wanted would have been suspensions and that is exactly what he got. Going into this first leg, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott Mctominay would have been aware that they were one booking away from suspension. Yet, all three players committed offences that warranted yellow cards.
Skipper Harry Maguire will be the most significant miss. As, Eric Bailly is in Ivory Coast following his positive Covid-19 test. This will likely result in the door being open for a start for Axel Tuanzebe. Luke shaw, who has been in tremendous form this season, won’t be as much of a significant miss. As, Brazilian fullback Alex Telles will likely take his place. At left- back Manchester United have plenty of cover and this area will be the least of Solskjaer’s issues going into the second leg. With Mctominay sitting out of the second leg, Ole with mostly likely replace him with Fred or Nemanja Matic. Both of these options have a high level of experience on the European front.
3. Late Bruno penalty dents Granada comeback hopes
Manchester United got the job done against ninth-placed La Liga side. But, this victory was not at all convincing. United created very little throughout the entire contest. Simultaneously, the United backline should receive praise for their defensive efforts. Going into the second leg with only a one goal advantage would be extremely risky. In this knockout tournament, away goals are crucial and Ole would have known that a second away goal would give his side extra security. Unsurprisingly, it was Bruno Fernandes who got the second away goal late on. The Portuguese playmaker won a penalty and then calmly put it away to give United that feeling of security going into the second leg.
4. The goalkeeper battle continues
In recent weeks it appears Dean Henderson has made himself first choice in the goalkeeping department. Evidently, this can be seen by David De Gea starting his first Europa League game this season. As, Henderson was typically United’s cup and European keeper. While, De Gea was the main keeper for Premier league games. Despite this, it remains to be seen whether Henderson will start ahead of De Gea for the trip agaisnt Spurs. Furthermore, this is because of De Gea’s commanding performance in this European tie. Questions will be put to Solskjaer in the coming weeks over the goalkeeper situation. But, it is becoming clearer that De Gea’s time at United is coming to it’s end.
5. United favourites for Europa glory?
Silverware is a must for Manchester United. The Europa League is the perfect opportunity to gain silverware and sent out a message to rivals for next season. Europa League success would also ease the pressure upon Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who will be desperate to win a trophy.
So far United have let themselves down in the semi finals, in which they will be looking to reach the final for the first time under Solskjaer. However, surely United are favourites for this competition now? Their strongest competitors come in the form of Ajax, Roma and Arsenal. The Red Devils will face the winner of Ajax and Roma in the semi finals. While Arsenal remain on the other branch of the knockout format. On paper United are superior to all three teams. Can United put an end to thier drought without or trophy? Or will the semi final curse strike again?