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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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7 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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21 Daniel James

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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19 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

Loan Watch: Pereira and Wilson made debuts with defeats; Januzaj continues to stutter

So far this season Manchester United have five players out on loan; Guillermo Varela at Eintracht Frankfurt, Adnan Januzaj at  Sunderland, James Wilson at Derby County, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Andreas Pereira at Granada. The summer transfer window closes on Wednesday evening so that number could well increase ahead of the first half of the season. The emergency loan spell window has been abolished this season, so teams will need to strengthen before the closure of the summer window. Here is how I feel the loan players did for their respective clubs this weekend.

Guillermo Varela – Eintracht Frankfurt

Guillermo Varela played 90 minutes in the 1-0 victory over Schalke in the Bundesliga on Saturday afternoon. The Uruguayan right-back played well but was booked in the final three minutes of the match. Last week, the player scored the winning penalty in the DFB-Pokal, earning his team a place in the second round of the competition. The only goal of the match was scored in the 13th minute  through Alexander Meier and was assisted by Szabolcs Huszti. Varela committed a few fouls and conceded corners on a few occasions, but he did what he needed to do in order for his side to win their first Bundesliga match this season. Varela has not been called up by Uruguay during the international break, so he will a period of rest before the season starts again.

Next Match: SV Darmstadt 98 – Bundesliga – Saturday 10th September 2016, KO 14:30 BST

Adnan Januzaj – Sunderland

Adnan Januzaj played 90 minutes in the 0-0 draw with Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon. The Belgian, despite scoring his debut goal for his loan club during the EFL Cup earlier in the week, was not on the scoresheet this weekend. He failed to achieve a shot on goal, his passing was poor; managing to successfully pass to a teammate 42% of the time. He created one chance, a key pass on the 36th minute of the match, but nothing came of it. Januzaj managed to get on of his two crosses to a teammate, again nothing transpired from them. Januzaj has talent, but his attitude seems to be something of a problem, probably why he has not been granted a chance at United this season. It could well be the end of the road for him, as looking at his form and what he offers, a player of his calibre should be head and shoulders above the players currently at Sunderland. It is funny that when he scores a goal like he did midweek, many seem to think he has made it. Not by a long shot. He has a lot to do in order to get himself back into United’s first team if that is, in fact, achievable at all. Januzaj was not called up by Belgium during the international break.

Next Match: Everton – Premier League – Monday 12th September 2016, KO 20:00 BST

James Wilson – Derby County

James Wilson was on the bench for his first Derby County match of the season following his loan move away from Manchester United. Derby was subjected to a 1-0 defeat to Burton Albion, which was a poor result for the away side. Wilson replaced Jacob Butterfield in the 56th minute of the match. The United striker had a shot on goal in the 90th minute of the match, but it was blocked. Wilson made five passes, all of which reached a teammate, which was good, but he needs to be doing more, and so do Derby. Two minutes into his debut, Wilson crossed into the box, but it did not reach a teammate and came to nothing. I am sure that given the chance, Wilson will start to find his feet, as this was his first competitive game this season. He played during some of United’s pre-season matches but had not played since then. Wilson has not been picked for England U21’s ahead of their European Championships qualifier against Norway.

Next Match: Newcastle United – Championship – Saturday 10th September 2016, KO 17:30 BST

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson – Wolverhampton Wanderers

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson was an unused substitute in the 1-0 defeat to Huddersfield Town in the Championship on Saturday afternoon. The Manchester United left-back did not feature in the EFL Cup through the week either. He has been loaned to Wolves in order to develop, but he is not going to do that on the bench, so we will keep an eye on this loan spell, which at this moment in time does remind me of Tyler Blackett’s failed loan spell at Celtic last season, but it is early days. Borthwick-Jackson, along with United teammates Dean Henderson and Axel Tuanzebe has been selected for England U20’s, who face Brazil on Sunday 4th September 2016.

Next Match: Burton Albion – Championship – Saturday 10th September 2016, KO 15:00 BST

Andreas Pereira – Granada

Andreas Pereira made his debut for Granada in the 5-1 defeat to Las Palmas in La Liga on Sunday evening. The Belgian-born Brazilian replaced Luis Martins in the 56th minute of the match, with his side trailing 2-1 at the time. Pereira had one shot on goal, in the 78th minute of the match, which was saved by the keeper. He maintained his passing at 63%, which was not all that bad. The Manchester United attack midfielder created one chance for his teammates with a key pass in the 71st minute, which came to nothing. Pereira was never going to have the debut of his life, having not played competitive football this season. The important factor is that he will gain some valuable first team football this season, in a competitive league where he will face Barcelona and Real Madrid, which may not be the best teams to play again, but the potential to learn is a massive thing for the young midfielder.

Next Match: SD Eibar – La Liga – Sunday 11th September 2016, KO 17:15 BST

copyright: JW