Manchester United assumed control of their Europa League quarter-final against Granada as goals from Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes secured a 2-0 first-leg victory at Estadio Los Carmenes.
Rashford notched his eighth European goal of the season on 31 minutes with an exquisite control and finish from Victor Lindelof’s pinpoint diagonal, before Fernandes secured a two-goal cushion with a late penalty after he was struck in the face by defender Yan Brice.
The streets were lined with supporters as the teams arrived at the stadium for what was arguably the biggest night in Granada’s history as they participated in a European quarter-final for the very first time – but despite drawing the returning David de Gea into a number of routine saves – the La Liga club rarely threatened United.
The victory leaves United in pole position to progress into the Europa League semi-finals in next Thursday’s return at Old Trafford, though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will have to finish the job without captain Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw, who are all suspended after picking up yellow cards.
Granada: Silva (6), Diaz (6), Duarte (5), Neva (5), Vallejo (6), Gonalons (6), Montoro (5), Puertas (6), Herrera (6), Kenedy (7), Soldado (5).
Subs: Foulquier (5), Sanchez (5), Machis (5), Suarez (5), Eteki (n/a).
Man Utd: De Gea (7), Wan-Bissaka (6), Lindelof (7), Maguire (6), Shaw (5), McTominay (5), Pogba (6), James (6), Greenwood (6), Fernandes (7), Rashford (7).
Subs: Telles (6), Matic (5), Van de Beek (n/a).
Man of the Match: Marcus Rashford
Rashford, Bruno hand United advantage in Granada
Granada flew out of the traps but United’s main concern after the hosts’ blistering start had subsided was the fitness of Rashford, who having been passed fit enough to start looked to be in some discomfort and nursing an injury in the opening quarter of an hour.
United quickly assumed control of the contest, restricting Granada to the odd sight of goal. On-loan Chelsea forward Kenedy blazed a volley over from tight angle and former Spurs striker Roberto Soldado lashed a shot into the side-netting, but from the next passage of play the visitors got that crucial away goal.
- Jesus Vallejo and Carlos Neva returned as Granada made two changes to the side beaten by Villarreal in La Liga. Former Spurs striker Roberto Soldado, on-loan Man City midfielder Yangle Herrera, and on-loan Chelsea forward Kenedy started for Granada.
- David de Gea, Scott McTominay and Daniel James returned as Man Utd made three changes from the weekend Premier League victory over Brighton.
Lindelof’s sumptuous 70-yard diagonal was latched onto by Rashford, who produced a flawless first touch before allaying any lingering fitness concern with a composed finish past the on-rushing goalkeeper into the corner.
United switched off from a free-kick and nearly paid the price five minutes before the break, but the woodwork came to their rescue as on-loan Manchester City midfielder Yangel Herrera’s cross-shot cannoned off the post.
McTominay and Shaw picked up bookings in quick succession which will rule them out of next week’s return leg at Old Trafford for fouls on Antonio Puertas, but that was the only blow Granada could place on United before the break, with Kenedy’s volleying a crisp effort into the arms of De Gea.
De Gea was called upon early in the second half to prevent another effort from Kenedy from swerving into the bottom corner before Maguire fizzed a shot wide after shimmying his way into space in midfield.
Edinson Cavani replaced Rashford for the final 25 minutes as Solskjaer looked to secure a more handsome first-leg advantage. Fernandes very nearly delivered a second away goal six minutes from time, only to be denied by the outstretched arm of Granada goalkeeper Rui Silva.
With the seconds ticking down Granada would have settled for a one-goal deficit – but the size of their task increased in the final minute when Brice was adjudged to have struck Fernandes off the ball in the area – and the Portuguese squeezed the penalty past Silva to leave United in the driving seat.
Rashford rises in Europe – Match stats
- Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford became the fourth Premier League player to reach 20 goals in all competitions this season after Harry Kane (29), Mo Salah (27) and Bruno Fernandes (24).
- Marcus Rashford is the first English player to score eight goals for Manchester United in European competition in a single season (excluding qualifiers) since Bobby Charlton in 1964-65.
- Manchester have won consecutive away games in Europe against Spanish opposition for the first time ever, also beating Real Sociedad 4-0 on the road in February 2021.
- 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).
- Granada have lost consecutive games for the first time in their maiden European campaign, after losing just two of their previous 12 (W8 D2 – including qualifiers).
What the manager said…
Man Utd manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told BT Sport: “It was not a perfect night. We got three yellow cards and three suspensions. 2-0 is very good result. We know how difficult it is to come to Spain. We’ve got to play well to get a result.
“[Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes] have been exceptional, so important for us. It was a very good run by Rashford, takes the ball fantastically. Bruno is so confident on penalties even though the keeper almost saved it.
“Same as always [attitude for next week]. We want to win every game. It’s still a young team, a learning team. We have to improve all the time. Football catches you so quickly if you rest. We can’t have any other approach.”
Man of the Match – Marcus Rashford
Marcus Rashford is the first player to score 20+ goals in back-to-back seasons for Manchester United in all competitions since Wayne Rooney in 2008-09/ 2009-10.
Manchester United travel to Tottenham on Super Sunday at 4.30pm – live on Sky Sports Premier League – and Granada head to Valladolid in La Liga on Sunday at 5.30pm. United then host Granada in their Europa League quarter-final second leg at Old Trafford on Thursday at 8pm.