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Tactical Analysis: Rotations and the Five Attacking Corridors Model – Manchester United 2-0 Granada

On Thursday evening, Manchester United secured their place in the semi-final of the Europa League after taking advantage of their 2-0 aggregate lead from the first leg. The victory was achieved through a professional performance and as United’s team is vastly superior to that of Granada’s, there was little need for any of the tactical intricacies Ole Gunnar Solskjaer produced against Spurs on Sunday. The game did, however, provide the opportunity to educate on the attacking principles Solskjaer is looking from his team and how the players are starting to show an understanding of these principles. 

Before moving onto the game, it is important to have a brief understanding of the five attacking corridors model. As demonstrated in the image below, the common theory applied in top level coaching is there are five vertical corridors in football: the wings, the half spaces, and the centre. 

The idea behind these corridors is that teams should look to have one player occupying each of these corridors. These five players will often be positioned between the lines of the opposition defence and midfield. The remaining five outfield players will then usually adopt a “3-2” or a “2-3” type formation in front of the oppositions defence and midfield lines. The tactical differences between the two variances are beyond the scope of this article so let us continue to focus on the attacking five. The idea behind the five corridors is to provide optimal spacing across the width of the pitch to stretch the opposition defensive lines. The five players deeper then move the ball from side to side with the goal of opening one of these corridors and progressing the ball forward through it. Below is an example of how United setup in this formation. 

Here, United have adopted a 2-3-5 type formation with Axel Tuanzebe and Victor Lindelof at the back, Nemanja Matic, Fred and Paul Pogba in the middle zone with Alex Telles, Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (on the right, out of shot) as the five most advanced players. To play out the move, Pogba moves the ball into the right-wing corridor to Wan-Bissaka, who then attempts to cross the ball into the three central players, who move into the box in anticipation for the cross. 

An important concept of Solskjaer’s tactical theory here is not only to have one player occupying each of these positions, but for the players to rotate within the formation. As seen in the example before, Pogba, who is originally positioned on the left of midfield to primarily occupy the left half space, is found in possession as one of the deeper three midfielders. This then allows Bruno to move into the left half space. In the example below, the players rotate again. 

Here, United are now taking up a 3-2-5 type formation, with Matic dropping in as a left centre back. Fernandes has dropped deep to form the middle two with Fred and Pogba is occupying the left half space, with both full backs pushed forward and Cavani and Greenwood out of shot occupying the central and right half space, respectively. As demonstrated, there is an emphasis on the players to interchange positions with the aim of further disorganising the opposition defensive setup and this is what led to the first goal.

In the above image, Fernandes has moved into the middle zone to join Fred and Matic, drawing the Granada defender (number two) with him and freeing up the left half space. Pogba, who was originally in the box for Wan-Bissaka’s earlier cross attempt, recognises Fernandes’ movement and the space left as a result. Pogba understands it is his responsibility to move forward into the left half space now that Fernandes has moved into the middle zone, whilst also recognising the opportunity to receive the ball in a dangerous position. 

Telles spots Pogba moving into the space created by Fernandes and plays an accurate ball into the space and finds Pogba successfully, who then flicks the ball back to Cavani to strike on the volley and score. It is also important to note the positions of Greenwood and Wan-Bissaka. As the ball was in a crossing position with Telles, Greenwood and Wan-Bissaka have both moved inside, the former to get into the box for an opportunity to score and the latter to pick up any second balls which may arise.

The rotations from the players were a constant feature of United’s play throughout the first half and it became evident the players were starting to form subtle understandings with each other. Pogba in many cases was the catalyst, as he and Fernandes interchanged throughout the half and both had license to roam. Solskjaer has played Pogba in the left midfield role several times this season and before he was substituted at half time, it was clear to see why. Pogba is able to have a greater impact in forward positions coming in from the left and has better prospects to form an understanding with Fernandes, one which United fans have been excited to see develop since Pogba’s return from injury. 

When Pogba is played deeper in midfield next to one holder, it makes it harder for him to effectively link up with the forwards and hopefully this article provides a little more insight into the reasons behind that. With Pogba deep, he is unable to occupy positions further forward as there are already too many players rotating between the five forward positions and he is often restricted to operating in the middle zone. He can still be effective here due to his elite passing range but is rarely afforded the opportunity to make the difference in the opposition box, like he did against Granada and also against AC Milan earlier in the competition. 

Written by Chris Greening

Ratings: Cavani and Pogba combined to open the scoring with the Frenchman playing well in the first half

Manchester United beat Granada 2-0 (4-0 on aggregate) in the UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg at Old Trafford. Edinson Cavani opened the scoring in the sixth minute of the match, shinning the ball into the back of the net on the volley after Paul Pogba’s pass. Pogba was booked 11 minutes later and the Spanish side were trying to get hims sent off, which shows bad sportsmanship. United did well in the match, bringing on Donnny van de Beek, Daniel James, Juan Mata, Amad Diallo and Brandon Williams. A second goal was scored by Jesus Vallejo in the 90th minute, which secured a 4-0 aggregate victory over the Spanish club.

United started well at the Theatre of Dreams and instantly sought to hunt for an early goal against the Spanish side. United got their goal in the sixth minute of the match, putting them 3-0 up on aggregate in the tie, which gives the Spanish side an uphill struggle to make the semi-finals of the competition. Ales Telles crossed the ball into Paul Pogba, who flicked the ball into Edinson Cavani and his volley found the bottom corner of the net. It was his ninth goal of the season and his second in two matches. The ball came off Cavani’s shin but a goal is a goal and he won’t be too worried by that.

Paul Pogba was booked in the 17th minute of the match, which was a harsh booking and the Granada players seemed to orchestrate that. Minutes later and Pogba won the ball then a player fell over his legs and Roberto Soldado was vocal with the referee in trying to get Pogba sent off for a second yellow card. However, Soldado was the player that was booked. Pogba needs to be wary of the threat Granada have now which won’t stop until they get him off the pitch. Poor tactics and bad sportsmanship from the Spanish side all because they are in a losing position. Boo hoo.

Granada were forced into making their first substitution in the 32nd minute of the match with Maxime Gonalons being replaced by Jorge Molina. United were still using their attacking power to command their lead of the game and in the 34th minute, Bruno Fernandes missed the target after Nemanja Mastic delicately chipped the ball into him but his shot went over the target. Fernandes then had another chance five minutes later but Cavani’s pass bobbled on the pitch and was not received by the Portuguese magnifico. United were in a commanding position at the end of the first half but another goal should kill the game again.

At the start of the second half, Solskjaer made his first substitution with Donny van de Beek replacing Pogba after his booking in the first half of the match. Within a few minutes, Granada had an opportunity on goal but Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s face took the sting off the shot which did not trouble David De Gea. United had a chance at the other end pit the pitch with Mason Greenwood’s attempt not causing much trouble. United would need to remain wary of Granada’s threat as they have been seeking to get something from this match, despite the fact they were 3-0 down on aggregate – they were better than they were at home a week ago.

United had another effort on goal through Cavani in the 56th minute of the match with the ball ending up coming off his shoulder after Fernandes played the ball into the box. It was a shame he did not make it ten goals for the season with that – but there is still plenty of time for that to happen. Van de Beek had a good chance on goal with Greenwood running with the ball, stopping to buy some time, passing to the Dutchman but his shot was wide of the target. Solskjaer made his second substitution with Cavani being replaced by Daniel James in the 60th minute of the match. United will use James’ pace on the attack now.

Solskjaer made a third substitution in the 73rd minute of the match after Juan Mata replaced Fernandes, so United will have some fresher legs on the pitch against Burnley in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday. United won a free kick before the substitution, which Telles took and it seemed to get a deflection but the referee blew his whistle with the ball in the air. United made a double substitution in the 83rd minute of the match with Amad Diallo replacing Greenwood and Brandon Williams replacing Aaron Wan-Bissaka. United should take the chance to maintain this 1-0 victory to learn the mentality of maintaining a 1-0 victory.

Amad Diallo had a good moment on the pitch, running through with the ball but slowing as he reached the box. It seemed like he was fouled, right in front of the referee but he gave nothing, despite Mata appealing. Granada then got forward and threatened United with De Gea making the save. The ball was then played up the pitch with Mata rising to make the header, the ball missing him and it deflecting off Jesus Vallejo and into the back of the net for United to go 2-0 up in this game, 4-0 on aggregate. It was a shame that Diallo was ignored by the referee after that cynical foul and I think it should have perhaps been a red card for last man.

United got the job done and will now play in the semi-final of the Europa League this season where they will face AS Roma, a team they beat 7-1 at Old Trafford back in 2007. It will be an interesting match for United, who are the favourites to lift the trophy this season. They will need to be at their best to lift the trophy but two matches lie in wait before they can think about that. Next up for United is a visit from Burnley in the Premier League on Sunday, which United will need to win to keep their cushion in second place in the league table. If Leicester City do not face West Bromwich Albion for a week, so United could end up ten points clear.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Kept another clean sheet but was hardly tested. Did well late on the make the save. Played a good ball to Wan-Bissaka. Good to see him back, for however long it may be.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Played well at right-back and was required more defensively against Granada, as they pushed to get something in the match, despite not getting anything. They were better than at home last week. Wan-Bissaka was replaced by Williams in the 83rd minute of the match. I would like to see him attack more.

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38 Axel Tuanzebe

Good to see him back in the team again. He maintained his composure when under pressure. Needs to be utilised more this season.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Authoritative in this match with the absence of Henderson and Maguire. Did what he needed to do defensively against Granada.

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27 Alex Telles

Did what he needed to do with Shaw suspended in this match, which will see Shaw get some much-needed rest ahead of Sunday's clash with Burnley. Was better with the dead ball situations, which was the same as last week. Supported Pogba on the left in the first half.

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17 Fred

Helped United press further up field. His shooting towards goal was not all that great, even after Sunday's goal against Spurs.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Played in a superb chipped ball into Fernandes in the 34th minute of the match. Had a good game for United, which he will be happy with. United kept a resurgent Granada, who had poor sportsmanship, at bay in the game to reach the semi-final of the Europa League.

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6 Paul Pogba

Did well in the first half of the match. He got his third assist in his last four matches sending the ball into Cavani to put United 1-0 up on the night and 3-0 up on aggregate. He was booked in the 17th minute of the match and Granada seemed to want to get hims sent off. He was replaced by Van de Beek at the start of the second half.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

Had a good game for United but was not able to extend his goal or assist tally in this match. He had a good shot on goal, which was off target and did what he needed to do in the match before he was replaced by Mata in the 73rd minute of the match.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Had some good moments on the pitch and when Cavani came off, he was the main striker. He tried to work inside the box but ended up getting dispossessed or crowded in the box, keeping possession by playing the ball out to a teammate. It was good to see that he is developing into the striker he could become in the future. Should have scored today. He was replaced by Diallo in the 83rd minute of the match.

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21 Edinson Cavani

Scored his ninth goal of the season with a volley, which on replay came off his shin. He won't have been worried about that. He is in good form at this stage of the season. His positioning was good to see, both as a goal threat and opening up space for his teammates. Should have had a second goal, but it came off his shoulder. Replaced by James in the 60th minute.

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Substitutes

34 Donny van de Beek

Replaced Pogba 46'. Was a positive addition at the start of the second half. There was some moaning when he did not start. They will probably moan that he never scored, although he did get a chance too. He needs to play more but also needs to settle at the club, which has been the main problem. Should have at least got an assist.

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Ratings: Cavani and Pogba combined to open the scoring with the Frenchman playing well in the first half

Replaced Cavani 60'. Used his pace to push Granada, despite United being 3-0 up on aggregate and cruising to the semi-final of the Europa League. Did what he needed to to in the second half but should have created something.

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8 Juan Mata

Replaced Fernandes 73'. Came on late in the game and did not really have much impact, other than supporting the attack. His experience was key to seeing out the match.

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16 Amad Diallo

Replaced Greenwood 82'. Needs more time to impress. Should at least come off the bench in the Premier League.

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33 Brandon Williams

Replaced Wan-Bissaka 82'. Did what was expected at right-back to see out the match.

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Goals: Edinson Cavani 6′, Jesus Vallejo 90′ o/g

Assists: Paul Pogba 6′

Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka (Williams 83′), Tuanzebe, Lindelof, Telles; Fred, Matic, Pogba (Van de Beek 46′); Fernandes (Mata 73′); Greenwood (Diallo 83′), Cavani (James 60′)

Substitutes Not Used: Grant, Henderson; Fish, Shoretire; Rashford, Elanga

Bookings: Paul Pogba 17′; Roberto Soldado 19′, German Sanchez 61′, Carlos Neva 75′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: De Gea in goal and Pogba captains United as they look to defeat Granada

Manchester United will return to UEFA Europa League action this evening when they welcome Granada to Old Trafford for the very first time. United beat the Spanish side 2-0 last Thursday in the quarter-final first leg of the competition and hold the advantage in this match. United will be boosted by their victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. It was a controversial match with United taking the lead early but the goal was ruled out. Son Hueng-Min eventually scored with United coming from behind to score three goals. In coming from behind, United have now earned 28 points in the Premier League, 12 more than any other club.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have a foot in the door to the semi-final of the competition this season. The draw has already been made and they will face either AS Roma or Ajax, with the Italian side having the advantage with a 2-1 aggregate scoreline. United reached the semi-final of the Europa League last season, losing to Sevilla, who were knocked out of the Champions League. United should be seen as the favourites to win the competition this season. Diego Martínez’s side are also boosted after beating Real Valladolid 2-1 on Sunday. This was their first win in four matches, with the club losing four in a row.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Wan-Bissaka, Tuanzebe, Lindelof, Telles;

Fred, Matic, Pogba;

Fernandes;

Greenwood, Cavani

Substitutes:

Grant, Henderson; Williams, Fish, Mata, Diallo, James, Van de Beek, Shoretire; Rashford, Elanga

Granada:

Rui Silva;

Foulquier, Vallejo, German, Neva;

Montoro, Gonalons;

Kenedy, Herrera, Machis;

Soldado

Substitutes:

Banacloche, Fabrega, Perez, Suarez, Puertas, Diaz, Molina, Ruiz, Torrente

United and Granada have met once in the history of both club with United winning 2-0 last Thursday. This puts them in with a good chance of winning the tie. They will need to score a few goals at Old Trafford. Granada had not yet faced any English opposition in European competition before meeting United last week. United have faced Spanish opposition many times, including beating Real Sociedad in the round of 32 stage of the competition this season. United won 4-0 in the first leg and drew 0-0 in the second, winning 4-0 on aggregate. If United win this match they will reach the semi-finals for the second season running.

United also faced Sevilla in the semi-final of the competition last season, losing 2-1 in the one-legged match. The competition was delayed and switched to one-legged matches after the round of 32 stage because of the coronavirus pandemic. United have pedigree in facing Spanish teams in European competition. The have faced Barcelona, Valencia, Real Madrid, Celta Vigo, Athletic Club, Villarreal, Deportivo La Coruña and Atlético Madrid. United have played 60 times against Spanish opposition. The have won 15, drawn 23 and lost 22 – scoring 71 goals and conceding 80.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-2-3-1] Cavani, James, Van de Beek and Greenwood to face Granada

Manchester United will return to UEFA Europa League action on Thursday evening when they welcome Granada to Old Trafford for the very first time. United beat the Spanish side 2-0 last Thursday in the quarter-final first leg of the competition and hold the advantage in this match. United will be boosted by their victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. It was a controversial match with United taking the lead early but the goal was ruled out. Son Hueng-Min eventually scored with United coming from behind to score three goals. In coming from behind, United have now earned 28 points in the Premier League, 12 more than any other club.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have a foot in the door to the semi-final of the competition this season. The draw has already been made and they will face either AS Roma or Ajax, with the Italian side having the advantage with a 2-1 aggregate scoreline. United reached the semi-final of the Europa League last season, losing to Sevilla, who were knocked out of the Champions League. United should be seen as the favourites to win the competition this season. Diego Martínez’s side are also boosted after beating Real Valladolid 2-1 on Sunday. This was their first win in four matches, with the club losing four in a row.

How United have faired against Granada and other Spanish teams in European competition.

United and Granada have met once in the history of both club with United winning 2-0 last Thursday. This puts them in with a good chance of winning the tie. They will need to score a few goals at Old Trafford. Granada had not yet faced any English opposition in European competition before meeting United last week. United have faced Spanish opposition many times, including beating Real Sociedad in the round of 32 stage of the competition this season. United won 4-0 in the first leg and drew 0-0 in the second, winning 4-0 on aggregate. If United win this match they will reach the semi-finals for the second season running.

United also faced Sevilla in the semi-final of the competition last season, losing 2-1 in the one-legged match. The competition was delayed and switched to one-legged matches after the round of 32 stage because of the coronavirus pandemic. United have pedigree in facing Spanish teams in European competition. The have faced Barcelona, Valencia, Real Madrid, Celta Vigo, Athletic Club, Villarreal, Deportivo La Coruña and Atlético Madrid. United have played 60 times against Spanish opposition. The have won 15, drawn 23 and lost 22 – scoring 71 goals and conceding 80.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Granada in the UEFA Europa League at Old Trafford on Thursday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

The Spanish goalkeeper played against Granada last week and with Dean Henderson playing against Tottenham Hotspur, it would seem like David De Gea is now the cup goalkeeper. His experience will be key in matches like this as United will be seeking to make the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League this season, then looking to win it if they get to the final. United have to be the favourites to win the competition this season and will face either AS Roma or Ajax if they reach the semi-finals. United are in a period of good form, losing once in their last six matches but need to make Old Trafford a fortress again.

Solskjaer will be happy with what De Gea has done this season, even if he did seem to be out of form many times and making many mistakes. Still, form is only temporary, as they say. In his decade at the club, De Gea has done some wonderful things and winning a trophy this season, of which the club has one chance, would be good for both him and the club. It could well be his last season at the club with reports of his departure and the fact he is now a father to a child that lives in Spain, could be the decision behind that, if that is going to be the case. United have a top goalkeeper in De Gea but an up and coming goalkeeper in Henderson.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Axel Tuanzebe, Alex Telles

The defence is where some of the problems will lie in this match. Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw are both suspended after being booked in the last match. Eric Bailly is still not back from international duty, although that is expected to happen before the match but he will not have been training so will probably be ruled out. That leaves Victor Lindelof and Axel Tuanzebe as the only experienced central defenders and Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Alex Telles as the fullbacks. United do have Brandon Williams to fall back on, if Solskjaer wants to make more changes to his starting XI.

It could be problematic if United receive any injuries in this match to the defence. Nemanja Matic has played in defence before, and will be available so he could be called upon if the need arises. Other than that, Solskjaer might need to call up some of the younger players in the U23s, which has not happened yet but would need to be done on Wednesday, at least 24 hours before kick off. Solskjaer might not think it is necessary but you never know what will happen. Maguire is one card away from a two-match suspension in the Premier League too after being booked on Sunday. If he’s booked against Burnley, he will be suspended again.

Midfield: Fred, Paul Pogba

Scott McTominay is out of this match due to suspension, so United will have to call in other players to fill the void. United have Fred, Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek to fall back on so there are many options. This cannot be said for the defence, especially the central defensive places. Solskjaer might opt for Fred to start against which would be good for him after getting the equaliser against Spurs on Sunday which is was proud of. He can offer something going forward, despite his form being terrible at times. United will miss McTominay though.

Pogba should also start in the pivot, if that is the formation that Solskjaer opts for. Who knows? Pogba has been inspirational at times this season for United and it will be a big match for the club. He will need to lead though as Bruno Fernandes might be rested, as he has been struggling for weeks now. United have a foot in the door to the semi-finals of the competition though after their two goals in Spain last week. United will need to be wary of Granada who will come to Old Trafford after winning their first match in five, losing the four prior. I am sure United have the players to get ready for this match though.

Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Donny van de Beek, Daniel James

There could be a few changes for United in this area against Granada. Mason Greenwood should keep his place. He needs to keep building on his confidence after scoring against Spurs in the final minutes on Sunday. The teenager is one go the good things about United’s future as he is going places but this season he has found it much tougher to get on the end of the ball and score goals. Donny van de Beek is a player that has not played a lot of football. Because of this he will be relishing the chance to feature for United and hopefully get them into the semi-final of the competition. He needs to start getting more minute on the pitch.

Daniel James could fill in for Marcus Rashford, who has not been enjoying matches recently. He still seems to be carrying an injury, despite coming through training and obviously wanting to play. Rashford could well be on the bench but I would like to see him given time off to fully recover. He might not be needed against Burnley and United don’t play other mid-week match until the 29 April. They would need to beat Granada though as that will be the date for the semi-final first leg. United have the players to get the ball into Cavani in this match and the players on the bench to show their ability and help United achieve their objective.

Forward: Edinson Cavani

The Uruguayan came back into the fold against Spurs and scored a 33rd minute goal, which was disallowed. Not giving up, he continued to help United change the game in the second half. Fred scored an equaliser in the 57th minute of the match and Edinson Cavani struck with a flying header beating Hugo Lloris to put United ahead for the second time in the match – although the first was disallowed. Cavani’s form is getting better and he positioning is magnificent and just what United need at this time as they face the remainder of the season without Anthony Martial. He received a knee injury whilst playing for France.

Cavani has eight goals to his name so far this season and will be seeking to score more. United have seven more Premier League matches and providing they beat Granada, will have two more Europa League matches. That will give him enough time to get into double figures this season, which will be an achievement. He has been injured for 30.4% of the season, which came at the wrong time for United. He has done enough to be offered a contract extension though, which would be good for United if he accepts. It would be even better for the likes of Marcus Rashford, Martial and Mason Greenwood too.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson, Lee Grant; Brandon Williams, Will Fish; Juan Mata, Bruno Fernandes, Amad Diallo, Nemanja Matic, Ethan Galbraith, Shola Shoretire; Marcus Rashford, Anthony Elanga

Substitutes will need to play a part in this match and United might be short of those. As yet, Solskjaer has not named any of the younger players in the squad. That could change though. I expect to see both Dean Henderson and Lee Grant on the bench for the goalkeeper places. United might even bring Nathan Bishop into the fray if they are short of substitutes. In defence, Brandon Williams is the only player that could be called upon with Phil Jones injured and Eric Bailly not yet back into the country after the international break. Will Fish has been added to the squad as a fall back option inn defence though.

In midfield, Juan Mata, Bruno Fernandes, Amad Diallo, Nemanja Matic, Ethan Galbraith and Shola Shoretire could fill somme places. As yet, Mejbri has not been included in the squad but that could change on Wednesday, which is the opportunity to add another player to the squad ahead of Thursday’s match. It may not happen though. United will name fewer substitutes for the match. In attack, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga could both be on the bench although I would prefer it if Rashford was rested. United will need to get the job done as quickly as possible at the Theatre of Dreams.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Manchester United v Granada – Europa League; semi-final or bust

Manchester United -v- Granada

UEFA Europa League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Thursday 15 April 2021, KO 20:00 BST

Referee: István Kovács  Assistants: Vasile Florin Marinescu, Ovidiu Artene

Fourth Official: Sandro Schärer

VAR: Bastian Dankert Assistant VAR: Pawel Gil

Manchester United will return to UEFA Europa League action on Thursday evening when they welcome Granada to Old Trafford for the very first time. United beat the Spanish side 2-0 last Thursday in the quarter-final first leg of the competition and hold the advantage in this match. United will be boosted by their victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. It was a controversial match with United taking the lead early but the goal was ruled out. Son Hueng-Min eventually scored with United coming from behind to score three goals. In coming from behind, United have now earned 28 points in the Premier League, 12 more than any other club.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have a foot in the door to the semi-final of the competition this season. The draw has already been made and they will face either AS Roma or Ajax, with the Italian side having the advantage with a 2-1 aggregate scoreline. United reached the semi-final of the Europa League last season, losing to Sevilla, who were knocked out of the Champions League. United should be seen as the favourites to win the competition this season. Diego Martínez’s side are also boosted after beating Real Valladolid 2-1 on Sunday. This was their first win in four matches, with the club losing four in a row.

Manchester United: WWWLWW

Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 W, Granada CF 2-0 W, Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 W, Leicester City 3-1 L, AC Milan 1-0 W, West Ham United 1-0 W

Granada: WLLLLW

Real Valladolid 2-1 W, Manchester United 2-0 L, Villarreal CF 3-0 L, Valencia CF 2-1 L, Molde FK 2-1 L, Real Sociedad 1-0 W

Top Scorers: United have scored 97 goals in all competitions this season with Granada scoring 48 goals in all competitions.

Manchester United Goals: 24 – Bruno Fernandes, 20 – Marcus Rashford, 8 – Edinson Cavani, 7 – Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, 5 – Daniel James, Paul Pogba, 3 – Own Goal, 2 – Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 1 – Amad Diallo, Fred, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Donny van de Beek

In the past six matches, United have won five and lost one. Solskjaer’s side have scored 10 goals, conceded five and kept three clean sheets. United have improved across the course of the season. That should not be debated. In the Premier League, they are three points adrift of the points they amassed last season. They have seven matched left to play. Granted, the Carabao Cup and the Emirates FA Cup are not competitions they can win this season. However, the Europa League is a competition they have thrived in, even in bad form with injuries. United can win matches playing badly, which was the case under Sir Alex Ferguson all them years ago.

Granada Goals: 8 – Roberto Soldado, 7 – Jorge Molina, Luis Suárez, 5 – Yangel Herrera, 4 – Kenedy, Darwin Machís, 3 – Germán Sánchez, 2 – Ángel Montoro, Domingos Quina, Alberto Soro, 1 – Domingos Duarte, Luis Milla, Antonio Puertas, Quini

Granada have been a poor side in their last six matches. They have won twice and lost four times, which is terrible form. They have scored five goals, conceded 10 goals, keeping one clean sheet. They sit eighth in La Liga and do not look likely to earn a place in a European competition next season – which I am sure they understand. Losing four matches in a row will have been a tough blow but beating Real Valladolid on Sunday could give them confidence. This will be the first time they have played at Old Trafford so that may inspire them. United will need to keep their heads in this match without some key players.

Team News: United have three players suspended and three more ruled out of Thursday’s match.

Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay are suspended for this match after receiving too many bookings in the competition. Phil Jones and Anthony Martial (both knee) and Eric Bailly (coronavirus) look set to be ruled out, although Bailly is due in Manchester this week. Daniel James has a 50% chance of being available after receiving an injury against Granada last week, which also kept him out of the Spurs victory. United could be forced to change their formation or start some fringe players in this match, but they should have enough in their locker to win this match.

Luis Milla (muscle) is the only real injury for Granada ahead of their first trip to Manchester. Obviously, Quini and Neyder Lozano have not been included in the squad for the Europa League this season. Domingos Duarte and Yan Brice Eteki are both suspended. With two goals conceded in the last match between the two teams, United have their foot in the door to the semi-finals this season. However, a boost in confidence after winning their first game in five at the weekend could come at the right time for the Spanish side. Beating United might be tough but it is possible, especially when they have away goals in their favour.

Predicted Starting XI: Edinson Cavani to keep his place leading the line for United after he inspired comeback against Spurs?

Solskjaer will be boosted with a points cushion in the Premier League and the fact United scored two goals away from home last week. This puts them in the driving seat to reach the semi-finals. Marcus Rashford should be rested, possible given some time off to get over his injury. United can cope without him. However, Edinson Cavani is a player that has shown his stuff for United, inspiring the victory over Spurs. He needs to keep his place in the team as he could be too much for Granada. Of course, the likes of Amad Diallo could also benefit from this match, needing some important minutes on the pitch.

Match Prediction: United need to remain on top as they face Granada on Thursday to reach the semi-finals

United and Granada have met once in the history of both club with United winning 2-0 last Thursday. This puts them in with a good chance of winning the tie. They will need to score a few goals at Old Trafford. Granada had not yet faced any English opposition in European competition before meeting United last week. United have faced Spanish opposition many times, including beating Real Sociedad in the round of 32 stage of the competition this season. United won 4-0 in the first leg and drew 0-0 in the second, winning 4-0 on aggregate. If United win this match they will reach the semi-finals for the second season running.

United also faced Sevilla in the semi-final of the competition last season, losing 2-1 in the one-legged match. The competition was delayed and switched to one-legged matches after the round of 32 stage because of the coronavirus pandemic. United have pedigree in facing Spanish teams in European competition. The have faced Barcelona, Valencia, Real Madrid, Celta Vigo, Athletic Club, Villarreal, Deportivo La Coruña and Atlético Madrid. United have played 60 times against Spanish opposition. The have won 15, drawn 23 and lost 22 – scoring 71 goals and conceding 80.

Manchester United 2-0 Granada

Written by John Walker

Ratings: Rashford and Fernandes put United 2-0 up on aggregate with victory over Granada; Lindelof MOTM?

Manchester United beat Granada 2-0 in the UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes on Thursday evening. It was a fraught first half until Marcus Rashford, played through by a Victor Lindelof long-ball in the 31st minute of the match. Granada did not seem to be in the mood to score goals, as they had done at home in the last two knockout rounds of the competition. A late penalty scored by Bruno Fernandes, after he was seemingly fouled in the box, giving United a two away goal cushion to take back to the Theatre of Dreams next week.

Granada started the game well, launching on the attack right away, trying to get United with their pants down. Fortunately, it was not meant to be for the Spanish side. The game soon started to become lacklustre and the highlight was a streaker on the pitch in the sixth minute, who looked rather like Mohamed Salah, but it was not him, he will still be hiding after Liverpool were humiliated by Real Madrid. United had the majority of the possession in the opening 25 minutes of the match but there were no real chances that could have amounted to something, which was a worry, but something United have been known for, especially recently.

In the 31st minute of the match, not that we were able to see it live on BT Sport in England, Marcus Rashford opened the scoring, getting his 20th goal of the season so far. On replay, David De Gea fed the ball out to Victor Lindelof, who had time on the ball to think ahead. Rashford was rushing forward, remaining onside only for the Swedish international to loft a long ball up field to Rashford, who beat the Granada goalkeeper cooly to put United ahead, which ends Granada’s current form at home in the knockout stages where they have beaten both Napoli and Molde 2-0 in the first leg, losing 2-1 in the second and going through on aggregate.

United will need to make some changes next week with a flurry of yellow cards in this half. Paul Pogba was booked in the eighth minute of the match, Scott McTominay was booked in the 40th minute and Luke Shaw was booked in the 42nd minute and both McTominay and Shaw will miss the second leg through suspension, which is not the end of the world for United but it will cut Solskjaer’s options down a little next week at the Theatre of Dreams. The first half was brought to a close with United still leading 1-0, having 66% of the ball and more importantly, having eight shots, one on target resulting in the goal, two off target and five being blocked.

At the start of the second half, Solskjaer made his first substitution with Alex Telles replacing Shaw, who was booked in the first half – possibly keeping him fit for Sunday’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur. Both United and Granada were trying to get something from the game in the early stages of the half with United seemingly the most comfortable team on the pitch. In the 65th minute of the match, Edinson Cavani replaced Rashford, the scorer of the only goal in the match, which will have been well-received by some with Rashford’s injury not completely recovered. United will need to retain their lead ensuring that they don’t conceded.

Harry Maguire was booked in the 72nd minute of the match, which means he will also miss the second leg because an accumulation of yellow cards in the competition. United should strive to score more goals in this match to give them a cushion next week, as United’s defence will not be as strong as it could be next week, which could see Solskjaer revert to a 3-4-1-2 formation or similar. In the 64th minute of the match, Solskjaer made his third substitution with Nemanja Matic replacing Pogba, who was on a yellow card from the eighth minute of the match. Granada have not looked like scoring in this match, which might change next week.

Nemanja Matic was booked in the 84th minute of the match for a foul, which was a harsh booking. A minute later, Solskjaer made his fourth substitute with Donny van de Beek replacing Mason Greenwood. United should, in may opinion, have given Amad Diallo and Anthony Elanga a chance as United are leading, could have scored more goals and more importantly, earned both players more confidence ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford in a week’s time. United won a penalty in the 89th minute of the match with Bruno Fernandes scoring his 24th goal of the season a minute later. United got what they needed a two-goal cushion to take into next week.

No matter what those who always find something to moan about say, United won this match with two away goals, which will put them in good stead of reaching the semi-final of the competition. They will need to keep a clean sheet at Old Trafford next week, or score a few more goals to give them more of a cushion. However, the suspension of Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay will be a big loss and Solskjaer will need to have a game plan to get by without the trio. It is possible that other players end up getting booked next week, which will cause more of a problem for the club. That said though, United have one foot in the door.

Solskjaer’s side will now be able to get ready for Sunday’s Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur, who are not the team they were at the start of the season, and neither are United. This will be a battle to show the Spurs supporters that just because they scored six goals at Old Trafford, does not mean they win a trophy, which is something the club have been lacking in for many years now, winning the League Cup more than ten years ago and watching other London clubs win silverware in that time. Spurs are struggling to break into the top four this season which shows how far they have fallen and they could fall further this season.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Good to see him back in goal but it seems likely that he is the goalkeeper for the cup competitions now, unless Solskjaer aims to keep him in goal on Sunday too, considering he has not played in any of the last seven matches before tonight. The clean sheet will be something he is happy about.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Did well inn his own third but I would like to see more from him in an attacking sense. United can be predictable attacking on the left and need to do more on the right. That could work better with a proper right-winger in the team.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Played a superb long-ball into Rashford up the other end of the pitch, paving the way for the Rashford to open the scoring in the 31st minute of the match

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5 Harry Maguire

Helped keep United going throughout the match. Booked which means he missed the next match so will get a break next week. The clean sheet and the 2-0 aggregate lead will help United get through the disappointment. Got forward a few times in the second half.

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23 Luke Shaw

Did what he needed to do in the first half but was booked, which means he will miss the second leg of this match. He was replaced by Telles at the start of the second half.

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39 Scott McTominay

Suspended for next week's second leg. Played the defensive midfielder role and did well throughout the match. Will probably be annoyed that he will miss next week's clash but it is one of those things. He will get a rest now.

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6 Paul Pogba

Booked in the eighth minute of the match. He was not the best player on the pitch but not the worst either. He had his moments but was not involved in anything special.

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Ratings: Rashford and Fernandes put United 2-0 up on aggregate with victory over Granada; Lindelof MOTM?

Seemed to be restricter on the right and played a lot better on the left. Had pace a plenty throughout the match but did not seem to be a threat on the ball. He's a good player to have in the tea, as his energy is great to see. He needs to score more goals though to get the FIFA plebs off his back.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

Seemed unhappy at how the game was progressing in the first half and did not look like scoring himself until United won a late penalty, which became his 25th goal of the season.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Looked to have been carrying his injury still, but he has obviously said that he can play with the medical staff giving him the go ahead. Seemed to struggle at times but opened the scoring from a Lindelof assist in the 31st minute, putting United ahead in Spain. He was replaced by Cavani in the 65th minute of the match.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Did well at times for United but experience wise, he was unable to lead the line well for United this evening. He was often isolated up top and was switched to the right when Cavani came on.

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Substitutes

27 Alex Telles

Replaced Shaw 46'. Came on for Shaw and did well at left-back. Seemed to be better at dead-ball situations that with the ball moving. Will probably start next week too, so he has that to look forward too with Shaw suspended.

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21 Edinson Cavani

Replaced Rashford 65'. Made his first appearance in the Europa League this season. Led the line in a more experienced way but still did not get a goal.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Replaced Pogba 74'. Came on late in the game to help steer the club to victory. Harshly booked, which he has something to say about. However, the referee has many harsh booking in him tonight.

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34 Donny van de Beek

Replaced Greenwood 85'. Came on for the last five minutes plus added time. It was nothing more than a cameo for him. He might start next week though.

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Goals: Marcus Rashford 31′, Bruno Fernandes 90’

Assists: Victor Lindelof 31′

Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw (Telles 46′); McTominay, Pogba (Matic 74′); James, Fernandes, Rashford (Cavani 65′); Greenwood (Van de Beek 85′)

Substitutes Not Used: Grant, Henderson; Williams, Tuanzebe; Mata, Fred, Diallo; Elanga

Bookings: Paul Pogba 8′, Scott McTominay 40′, Luke Shaw 42′, Harry Maguire 72′, Nemanja Matic 84′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: De Gea back in goal against Granada, Greenwood leads the line; Cavani, Van de Beek and Elanga on the bench

Manchester United return to UEFA Europa League action this evening as they face Granada CF at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes, which will be the first time both teams have met in European competition. United reached the quarter-final stage of the completion this season by beating both Real Sociedad (4-0 on aggregate) and AC Milan (2-1 on aggregate) after falling from the group stages of the UEFA Champions League at the end of 2020. Granada came through the qualification stages and the group stage beating Napoli and Molde with the same 3-2 on aggregate scorelines.

Granada seem to be a different team in competitions than they are in La Liga, sitting in ninth place currently and unlikely to feature in European competition next season because of this. However, as they have beaten both Napoli and Molde, both 2-0 scorelines at home in the last two knockout rounds, losing 2-1 away from home and still reaching the next round, they will be seen as the team to beat, which could be an uncertain match for United as they tend to struggle against teams they should beat easily. Hopefully this is different as United are seen as the favourites to win the competition this season.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw;

McTominay, Pogba;

James, Fernandes, Rashford;

Greenwood

Substitutes:

Grant, Henderson; Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe; Mata, Fred, Diallo, Matic, Van de Beek; Cavani, Elanga

Granada CF:

Silva;

Díaz, Vallejo, Duarte, Neva,

Herrera, Gonalons;

Kenedy, Montoro, Puertas;

Soldado

Substitutes:

Banacloche, Fabrega; Foulquier, Pérez, Germán; Brice; Suárez, Machis, Molina

United and Granada have not yet met in any European competition so Thursday’s match will be the first and also the first time United have played at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes. Granada have not yet faced any English opposition in European competition either, so in a week’s time, it will be their first time playing a competitive match at Old Trafford, the Theatre of Dreams. United have faced Spanish opposition many times, including beat Real Sociedad in the round of 32 stage of the competition this season, winning 4-0 in the first leg and drawing 0-0 in the second, winning 4-0 on aggregate.

United also faced Sevilla in the semi-final of the competition last season, losing 2-1 in the one-legged match with the competition being delayed and switched to one-legged matches after the round of 32 stage because of the coronavirus pandemic which raged around the world. United have pedigree in facing Spanish teams in European competition, facing Barcelona, Valencia, Real Madrid, Celta Vigo, Athletic Club, Villarreal, Deportivo La Coruña and Atlético Madrid. United have played 59 times against Spanish opposition, winning 14, drawing 23 and losing 22 – scoring 69 goals and conceding 80.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-3-3] Three-man midfield could overpower Granada with Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay and Donny van de Beek

Manchester United return to UEFA Europa League action on Thursday evening as they face Granada CF at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes, which will be the first time both teams have met in European competition. United reached the quarter-final stage of the completion this season by beating both Real Sociedad (4-0 on aggregate) and AC Milan (2-1 on aggregate) after falling from the group stages of the UEFA Champions League at the end of 2020. Granada came through the qualification stages and the group stage beating Napoli and Molde with the same 3-2 on aggregate scorelines.

Granada seem to be a different team in competitions than they are in La Liga, sitting in ninth place currently and unlikely to feature in European competition next season because of this. However, as they have beaten both Napoli and Molde, both 2-0 scorelines at home in the last two knockout rounds, losing 2-1 away from home and still reaching the next round, they will be seen as the team to beat, which could be an uncertain match for United as they tend to struggle against teams they should beat easily. Hopefully this is different as United are seen as the favourites to win the competition this season.

How United have faired against Spanish opposition in European competition as this is the first time they will have played Granada.

United and Granada have not yet met in any European competition so Thursday’s match will be the first and also the first time United have played at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes. Granada have not yet faced any English opposition in European competition either, so in a week’s time, it will be their first time playing a competitive match at Old Trafford, the Theatre of Dreams. United have faced Spanish opposition many times, including beat Real Sociedad in the round of 32 stage of the competition this season, winning 4-0 in the first leg and drawing 0-0 in the second, winning 4-0 on aggregate.

United also faced Sevilla in the semi-final of the competition last season, losing 2-1 in the one-legged match with the competition being delayed and switched to one-legged matches after the round of 32 stage because of the coronavirus pandemic which raged around the world. United have pedigree in facing Spanish teams in European competition, facing Barcelona, Valencia, Real Madrid, Celta Vigo, Athletic Club, Villarreal, Deportivo La Coruña and Atlético Madrid. United have played 59 times against Spanish opposition, winning 14, drawing 23 and losing 22 – scoring 69 goals and conceding 80.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Granada in the UEFA Europa League at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes on Thursday evening…

Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson

It is suggested that Dean Henderson is now United’s number one goalkeeper and it has been suggested that David de Gea’s relationship with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is strained. I don’t know whether to believe the sensationalism here but it is clear that Henderson has the talent to succeed in his career and he has done well at United so far. However, there are so-called ‘fans’ with an agenda that suggest United are obsessed with English players to a point whereby it is xenophobic. What a load of rubbish. United are an English club that has history priding themselves on bringing through talent from the home nations.

Henderson is the first goalkeeper to have come through the academy and got as far as he has. He did well on loan every season for the past five season (before this one) when he was loaned to Stockport County, Grimsby Town, Shrewsbury Town and Sheffield United, where he spent two seasons one in the Championship and one in the Premier League. Henderson is at the beginning of his United career and should be supported. De Gea has been a great servant to the club and has, at times, been the difference that the club needed, which will give us all great memories of the player at the club.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Axel Tuanzebe, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles

United can afford to take a risk against Granada in this match and that will be giving some rest to Victor Lindelof, who was a doubt ahead of the Brighton match but ended up playing because Eric Bailly is not back inn the country after testing positive for coronavirus. Lindelof should be left on the bench, just in case he is needed, giving Axel Tuanzebe a run out, which will be good for him. He played very well at times this season, especially against Paris Saint-Germain. Harry Maguire should keep his place in the team as he is a hard worker and can play the whole season in his position, as he has shown since he signed for the club.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka will probably play at right-back but Brandon Williams could probably be risked so perhaps he could play ahead of Wan-Bissaka. If not, he could play both against Granada on Thursday and Spurs on Sunday, especially after having a two-week break because of the international break, having not been called up by England. In the left-back position, Alex Telles, providing he overcomes the illness that kept him out at the weekend, could start ahead of Luke Shaw, who should be rested until Sunday, unless United have a mare and need him to come on, which was the case against AC Milan in the last round.

Midfield: Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba

A three-man midfield might change things up a little for United as the 4-2-3-1 formation could be a reason why United have been stagnant when it comes to scoring goals recently. United could afford to risk this as the injuries across the midfield have ceased giving Solskjaer his whole midfield to choose from to get the best from his team. Bruno Fernandes could be rested, as United will need him at his best on Sunday as the Red Devils look to get revenge on Spurs following the 6-1 defeat at the start of the season. Solskjaer cold give Donny van de Beek a start, which would be good for him to regain some confidence.

Along with Van de Beek, Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay could both start, giving United a good attacking midfield with McTominay doing the defensive work, if required as the Spanish side may not be expecting United’s might, which should be shown in the away leg, aiming to settle the tie, like they did against LASK last season and Real Sociedad earlier this season. Pogba is a player in good form right now, dispite his poor distribution against Brighton and McTominay always gives his all for United, which is one fo the positive things he does as a player. He’s scored seven goals this season too, matching Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani.

Forwards: Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani, Daniel James

In a 4-2-3-1 formation, there tends to be three forwards on the pitch which will be the same in a 4-3-3 formation but this formation could make United an attacking side, allowing Pogba in his favoured midfield position and allowing Van de Beek to shine. This could help United’s attack who should be scoring goals galore with their experience. Marcus Rashford has a 50% chance of featuring for United, which means he probably will but United could risk having him on the bench, ideally keeping him fresh for Sunday, which will be a big match. Edinson Cavani should play as the striker, aiming to right the wrongs from his performance on Sunday.

Cavani has seven goals to his name this season, which could be his last at the club, meaning he should aim to score more so he can be looked back upon as a player that gave something to the club. Mason Greenwood, who scored the winner against Brighton at the weekend, should start again as he is young enough to play back to back matches – he could also provide some width and pace, even cut into the middle and cause some damage to the Spanish team. Daniel James should start instead of Rashford as his pace could be deadly and he has been known to score a goal or two in the Europa League and will be due another soon.

Substitutes: David De Gea, Lee Grant; Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Brandon Williams; Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Amad Diallo, Nemanja Matic, Shola Shoretire; Marcus Rashford, Anthony Elanga

Solskjaer can use five substitutes in the Europa League, so he will have a chance to change things up if that needs to happen. United normally name the rest of the squad on the bench in Europe, which could be as many as 12 players. Both David De Gea and Lee Grant could be on the bench with Dean Henderson keeping his starting place in the team. In defence, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams could eb available to choose from, should they be needed. United need to score away from home based on the last two legs which have seen Granada win 2-0 at home and lose 2-1 away, going through on aggregate.

In the midfield, Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Amad Diallo, Nemanja Matic and Shola Shoretire could have some involvement in the match and Juan Mata has returned to training this week after his lay off, so he could also be back in action, although this match might be a bit too soon for him, especially after losing his mother recently. In attack, Marcus Rashford could be on the bench, just in case he is needed but keeping him fit for Spurs on Sunday would be better, the same could be said for Fernandes. Solskjaer added Anthony Elanga, who has returned to fitness after a collarbone injury, to his Europa League squad, so he might get some involvement too.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Manchester United must score against Granada, who have beaten both Napoli and Molde, shutting the defensive door at home

Granada CF -v- Manchester United

UEFA Europa League

Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes, Granada

Thursday 8 April 2021, KO 20:00 BST

Referee: Artur Dias Assistants: Rui Tavares, Paulo Soares

Fourth Official: Tiago Martins

VAR: João Pinheiro Assistant VAR: Luis Godinho

Manchester United return to UEFA Europa League action on Thursday evening as they face Granada CF at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes, which will be the first time both teams have met in European competition. United reached the quarter-final stage of the completion this season by beating both Real Sociedad (4-0 on aggregate) and AC Milan (2-1 on aggregate) after falling from the group stages of the UEFA Champions League at the end of 2020. Granada came through the qualification stages and the group stage beating Napoli and Molde with the same 3-2 on aggregate scorelines.

Granada seem to be a different team in competitions than they are in La Liga, sitting in ninth place currently and unlikely to feature in European competition next season because of this. However, as they have beaten both Napoli and Molde, both 2-0 scorelines at home in the last two knockout rounds, losing 2-1 away from home and still reaching the next round, they will be seen as the team to beat, which could be an uncertain match for United as they tend to struggle against teams they should beat easily. Hopefully this is different as United are seen as the favourites to win the competition this season.

Manchester United: WLWWDW

Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 W, Leicester City 3-1 L, AC Milan 1-0 W, West Ham United 1-0 W, AC Milan 1-1 D, Manchester City 2-0 W

Granada CF: LLLWWL

Villarreal CF 3-0 L, Valencia CF 2-1 L, Molde FK 2-1 L, Real Sociedad 1-0 W, Molde FK 2-0 W, Athletic Club 2-1 L

Top Scorers: Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford have nearly scored as many goals as Granada have this season. United need to find away goals inn this match with the return leg at Old Trafford.

Manchester United Goals: 23 – Bruno Fernandes, 19 – Marcus Rashford, 7 – Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, 6 – Mason Greenwood, 5 – Daniel James, Paul Pogba, 3 – Own Goal, 2 – Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 1 – Amad Diallo, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Donny van de Beek

United have been beaten once in the last six matches, winning four, drawing one and losing one. Solskjaer’s side have scored eight goals, conceded three and kept three clean sheets. The goals have dried up since February, when 21 goals were scored across the month. In March, United only scored six goals with two scored so far in April. United’s injury problems are better now than they were in February and March although Anthony Martial looks to have played his last match this season, which is a shame for him. Solskjaer has seen his squad take advantage in the Premier League though which puts them in good stead this season as opposed to last.

Granada CF Goals: 8 – Roberto Soldado, 7 – Luis Suárez, 6 – Jorge Molina, 5 – Yangel Herrera, 4 – Kenedy, Darwin Machís, 3 – Germán Sánchez, 2 – Ángel Montoro, Domingos Quina, Alberto Soro, 1 – Domingos Duarte, Luis Milla, Antonio Puertas

Granada do not seem to be having a good domestic season. They exited the Copa del Rey at the quarter-final stage and currently sit ninth in La Liga. In the past six matches, they have won twice and lost four times, scoring six goals, conceding nine and keeping two clean sheets. It seems unlikely that they will qualify for European competition next season – shutting ten points adrift of the Europa Conference League place (sixth) and the Europa League qualification round place (fifth) and their goal difference is only going to hold them back, plus the fact they still have to play Barcelona and Real Madrid again this season, amongst others.

Team News: Anthony Elanga named in Europa League squad with United short of attacking players this season. Two players to miss out for Granada?

Phil Jones (knee), Anthony Martial (knee) and Eric Bailly (coronavirus) have all been ruled out of the trip to Spain to face Granada on Tuesday evening. Marcus Rashford (ankle/foot) has a 50% chance of being available for this match despite playing against Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday. Solskjaer has called up U23 forward Anthony Elanga for this match, who has eight goals and three assists at U21/U23 level the season, but has spent time out of action due to a collarbone injury, which he seems to have now recovered from. Juan Mata is back in training Amad Diallo could also prove positive in this match, which would be good for him and United.

Luis Milla (muscle) and Luis Suárez (muscle) both seem to be out of action for the visit of United in the first leg of the quarter-final stage of the UEFA Europa League this season. Two players; Quini and Neyder Lozano are ineligible to play in the Europa League having not been named in the squad for the competition this season. This match will be an unknown for both teams as they have never met each other competitively. In the last two knockout rounds Granada have knocked out Napoli and Molde with the same scorelines; a 2-0 win at home and 2-1 defeats away from him, winning with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.

Predicted Starting XI: Daniel James, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood to spearhead United’s attack in rare 4-3-3 formation which has Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba in the midfield?

Solskjaer has the chance ti rest some players for the match against Granada, keeping in mind the trip to face Tottenham Hotspur in London on Sunday, which will require a fresh side with the North London club out of European competition at this stage of the season. Daniel James, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood could launch the attack inn a 4-3-3 formation with Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba in midfield. In defence, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Axel Tuanzebe, Harry Maguire and Alex Telles could do the job needed with Dean Henderson continuing in goal, as he has done in this competition this season.

Match Prediction: United and Granada will meet for the first time on Thursday evening – it will also be the first time Granada has played a competitive match against an English club.

United and Granada have not yet met in any European competition so Thursday’s match will be the first and also the first time United have played at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes. Granada have not yet faced any English opposition in European competition either, so in a week’s time, it will be their first time playing a competitive match at Old Trafford, the Theatre of Dreams. United have faced Spanish opposition many times, including beat Real Sociedad in the round of 32 stage of the competition this season, winning 4-0 in the first leg and drawing 0-0 in the second, winning 4-0 on aggregate.

United also faced Sevilla in the semi-final of the competition last season, losing 2-1 in the one-legged match with the competition being delayed and switched to one-legged matches after the round of 32 stage because of the coronavirus pandemic which raged around the world. United have pedigree in facing Spanish teams in European competition, facing Barcelona, Valencia, Real Madrid, Celta Vigo, Athletic Club, Villarreal, Deportivo La Coruña and Atlético Madrid. United have played 59 times against Spanish opposition, winning 14, drawing 23 and losing 22 – scoring 69 goals and conceding 80.

Granada CF 0-3 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW