Manchester United booked a Europa League semi-final with Roma after Edinson Cavani’s early strike sent them on their way to a 2-0 victory over Granada at Old Trafford, completing a 4-0 aggregate win.
Goals from Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes secured a 2-0 first-leg triumph at Estadio Los Carmenes last week, and United assumed control of the tie once more within six minutes at Old Trafford.
Cavani had underlined his predatory instincts during the 3-1 success at Tottenham, and the in-form Uruguayan scored his first European goal in United colours and 50th overall after meeting Paul Pogba’s knockdown to volley his low drive into the bottom corner.
Jesus Vallejo’s own goal in the final minute of normal time compounded Granada’s night with the Spaniards missing a spate of opportunities to keep the tie in the balance, but United progress to face Roma following their 3-2 aggregate win over Ajax.
Man Utd: De Gea (7), Wan-Bissaka (8), Tuanzebe (7), Lindelof (7), Telles (7), Matic (7), Pogba (7), Fred (7), Fernandes (7), Greenwood (7), Cavani (7).
Subs: Mata (6), Diallo (n/a), James (6), Williams (n/a), Van de Beek (6).
Granada: Rui Silva (6), Foulquier (6), Vallejo (6), German (7), Neva (6), Montoro (6), Gonalons (6), Kenedy (6), Herrera (7), Machis (6), Soldado (5).
Subs: Suarez (6), Puertas (5), Diaz (6), Molina (6), Ruiz (n/a)
Man of the match: Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now prepares for his fifth semi-final in two years hoping to go one better than he managed in his previous four, and Roma will provide a much stiffer test than the side eighth in La Liga, whose adventure in the Europa League was all but ended on home soil.
In the absence of the suspended Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay, Solskjaer fielded a strong side as he looked to ensure there would be no upset in the second leg, and Cavani waited little time in ending the contest.
He provided United with the dream start, as Pogba flicked on an Alex Telles cross to the 34-year-old, who volleyed into the bottom corner from inside the box. It was the 413th goal for club and country in Cavani’s illustrious career and further evidence towards extending his stay beyond the end of the season.
This was Granada’s first visit to England, and their head coach Diego Martinez will have been encouraged by his team’s response to the early set-back. Yangel Herrera missed two presentable opportunities in quick succession, glancing his header wide from an immediate set-play before doing likewise midway through the second period when unmarked.
Man Utd team news
- Paul Pogba captained Manchester United in Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg against Granada.
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made five alterations to the side that beat Tottenham 3-1 on Sunday, with Axel Tuanzebe, Alex Telles and Nemanja Matic replacing suspended Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay.
- David de Gea came in for Dean Henderson in goal, while Marcus Rashford was replaced in the starting line-up by Mason Greenwood.
Granada simply lacked the necessary quality in the final third, while United were happy playing in first gear as Bruno Fernandes met Nemanja Matic’s pass with a speculative volley that cleared the crossbar.
By then, Pogba had seen yellow for the use of a high arm on Granada captain German Sanchez – and the Frenchman was perhaps a little fortunate not to be punished for a second bookable offence when catching Herrera. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer kept him on until the interval, before withdrawing the captain for the night and replacing him with Donny van de Beek.
The Dutchman has been a peripheral figure for United this season, making just two Premier League starts, but he looked eager to impress during a relatively eventless second period. He came close to extending his side’s lead when the ball fell kindly for him from Mason Greenwood’s driving run, but his dragged shot failed to trouble Rui Silva.
Cavani departed on the hour-mark, shortly after glancing another Fernandes delivery just wide with David de Gea down the other end a mere spectator. That nearly changed when Sanchez collected Angel Montoro’s cross but the veteran defender dragged his effort wide.
Fernandes made way for the final 15 minutes as United confirmed their place in the last four with plenty to spare, with De Gea forced into a late save to keep out Victor Diaz’s long-range shot and preserve his clean sheet.
De Gea wasn’t done there, as he smothered another Herrera effort to set United on the counter-attack as Telles’ cross towards Juan Mata was inadvertently glanced into his own net by Vallejo.
Man of the match – Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Manchester United have won three consecutive knockout stage games without conceding in major European competition for the first time since April 2008, and the display of Wan-Bissaka played a crucial role in this resolute display.
Granada had more efforts at goal, but the United right-back showed both sides of his game to frustrate the visitors in their quest for an unlikely turnaround while he also provided the hosts with an attacking outlet.
The 23-year-old is down the pecking order among England’s plethora of exciting right-backs but Gareth Southgate is aware of his qualities. Wan-Bissaka made 10 ball recoveries, won eight of his duels and made three interceptions during a fine display.
United have kept five clean sheets in six UEFA Europa League games since the turn of the year, more than any other side in 2021.
United continue proud tradition – Opta stats
- Manchester United have reached their 18th semi-final in all European competitions (including Fairs Cup) – only Liverpool (19) have appeared in more amongst English sides.
- Manchester United have won three consecutive knockout stage games without conceding in major European competition for the first time since April 2008.
- Granada have lost their last three matches in the UEFA Europa League, having lost just two of their first nine in the competition (W5 D2 L2).
- Since losing their first two home games in the UEFA Europa League back in the 2011-12 season, Manchester United haven’t lost any of their last 17 games at Old Trafford in the competition (W13 D4).
- Following Granada’s 0-2 defeat to Man Utd, Spanish sides are winless in their last six away games against English teams (D3 L3), failing to score in each of the last five matches.