Manchester United will aim to seal safe passage through to the UEFA Europa League semi-finals when they welcome Granada to Old Trafford on Thursday.
The penultimate stage of the UEFA Europa League is nearly upon us, but before that, some very important business needs to be conducted, as the quarter-final second leg fixtures get played out this Thursday to identify the four semi-finalists. One of these ties will be played at Old Trafford, where Manchester United will play hosts to Granada.
Manchester United reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League by getting past Real Sociedad and AC Milan in the last two knockout rounds, having dropped down to the second-tier competition by finishing third in their Champions League group. The Red Devils have been on a good run of form lately and come into this midweek’s fixture on the back of a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
Granada, on the other hand, have been struggling in recent weeks, having only managed to win one of their last five games, that being their most recent fixture – a 2-1 win over Real Valladolid. In the UEFA Europa League, the Nazaries finished runners-up to PSV Eindhoven in Group E before ousting Napoli and Molde in the previous two stages.
The first leg, played at Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes last week, saw Manchester United run out 2-0 winners over Granada, with Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes on target. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
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?️ "We want to build on our performances and build momentum," adds the boss.
"There will be a few changes of course, some of them are forced, some of them are maybe rotation."#MUFC #UEL pic.twitter.com/i8L6O6jor6
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) April 14, 2021
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a number of fresh roster issues hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Granada for the UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg. On Thursday, the Manchester United boss will be bereft of the services of as many as seven first-team players.
Six of those squad members are confirmed absentees, with Scott McTominay, Luke Shaw and club captain Harry Maguire suspended due to an accumulation of bookings, while Phil Jones (knee), Eric Bailly (coronavirus) and Anthony Martial (knee) were already on the sidelines. The major concern for Solskjaer is the fitness of Marcus Rashford.
The English international missed training on Wednesday and the Manchester United boss is sweating over the fitness of his star forward. However, there is some good news, as Daniel James is fit after missing the game against Tottenham this past weekend due to a knock he sustained last week against Granada.
James ought to return to the starting lineup, taking his place on the left wing in place of Paul Pogba as the Frenchman is afforded a breather. Meanwhile, Rashford is only likely to be an option off the bench, with Mason Greenwood starting in his stead on the right flank, meaning Amad Diallo misses out.
Edinson Cavani ought to lead the line for Manchester United against Granada, hoping to continue from where he left off against Tottenham. Playing off of him on Thursday, should be Donny van de Beek, whose rare start will afford some much-needed rest to Bruno Fernandes. As for the midfield double pivot, the absence of McTominay means Nemanja Matic and Fred become automatic picks.
The defence will see some changes as well, with Axel Tuanzebe getting a rare start at the heart of the Manchester United backline alongside Victor Lindelof, while Alex Telles will replace Shaw. On the right flank, Aaron Wan-Bissaka is a certainty, with David de Gea set to replace Dean Henderson in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Tuanzebe, Telles; Fred, Matic; Greenwood, van de Beek, James; Cavani
Like his counterpart in the Manchester United dugout, Diego Martinez has a few pressing issues to deal with ahead of the trip to Old Trafford for the Europa League quarter-final second leg. On Thursday, the Granada boss will have to make do without as many as five first-team players.
Quini is ineligible to play in the Europa League and so is Neyder Lozano, although he is unavailable due to a head injury anyway. In addition, Luis Milla is recovering from a hamstring injury, while Domingos Duarte has a knee injury to overcome, though he would have missed the Manchester United tie due to a suspension anyway, with Yan Eteki also serving a one-match ban on Thursday.
Eteki’s absence is unlikely to hurt Granada a great deal, with Yangel Herrera and Maxime Gonalons the first-choice pairing for the midfield double pivot in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Martinez prefers. The midfield duo will aim to keep things tight in the middle of the park, hoping to support the defenders behind them ably.
Speaking of the defence, German Sanchez ought to replace Duarte to partner Jesus Vallejo in the central defensive partnership. Out wide, Carlos Neva and Dimitri Foulquier are likely to get the nod as the two full-backs, with Rui Silva taking his place between the sticks for the visitors.
Roberto Soldado should lead the line for Granada against Manchester United after having missed the league game this past weekend due to a suspension. Behind him, Angel Montoro will reprise the no. 10 role while Antonio Puertas is a certainty on the right wing. The key decision will be the choice between Kenedy and Darwin Machis, with the latter likely to be favoured on Thursday.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Silva; Foulquier, Sanchez, Vallejo, Neva; Herrera, Gonalons; Puertas, Montoro, Machis; Soldado
- Manchester United won the first leg of a European tie away from home for the 22nd time in their history; the Red Devils have progressed from all 21 of their previous such ties.
- Granada will be the 11th different Spanish side to play away to Manchester United in Europe. Spanish outfits have lost on just one of their last 10 visits (D4 L5) to visit Old Trafford to face the Premier League heavyweights (Manchester United 1-0 Real Sociedad, October 2013).
- After winning seven consecutive matches at home in European competition, Manchester United are without a win in each of their last three such outings at Old Trafford (D2 L1), their longest run since October 2018 (three games); they have never gone four such games without a win. However, United are unbeaten in their last 16 home games in the Europa League (W12 D4), winning five in a row before the draws against Real Sociedad and AC Milan this year
- Manchester United have registered four clean sheets in their last five games in Europe (1 goal conceded), after managing just one shutout in their previous seven (12 goals conceded).
- Marcus Rashford has scored eight goals in 10 matches for Manchester United in European competition this season; excluding qualfiers, this is the most by a Manchester United player since Cristiano Ronaldo (eight goals) in 2007/08, while the last player to net more was Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2002/03 (12).
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This one is an easy pick for this game. With Harry Maguire suspended and Eric Bailly unavailable due to his recovery from the coronavirus, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no choice but to hand a rare start to Axel Tuanzebe at the heart of the Manchester United defence.
The young defender, while being supremely talented, has been on the sidelines either forcefully or due to fitness issues for quite some time now. And so, rust might be an issue, one that can easily be exploited by the Granada attack. However, having not been given ample chances this season, this will also be an opportunity for Tuanzebe to make an impression. A big game in his Manchester United career for the 23-year-old.
Manchester United 2-1 Granada
This should be a close one. While Granada threatened a fair bit last week, they lacked the clinical touch to trouble David de Gea. This time around, there is a chance that they could be afforded more openings, considering the influential Harry Maguire will be missing.
However, Manchester United will also have Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford coming off the bench, while Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani seem to be in fine touch. With that in mind, the Red Devils should do enough to win another game, thereby cruising into the UEFA Europa League semi-finals with ease. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 United win for the second leg.
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