Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken this team a long way since he joined the club in December 2018 and now is odds on favourite to guide United to their 2nd consecutive Europa League semi-final, after the Red Devils did so previously less than a year ago.
Granada on the other hand, 8th in La Liga, were in the game for long periods against United but a 90th-minute penalty by Bruno Fernandes has made the 2nd leg a bit too hard for the Spanish side.
Not that Man United are susceptible to falling short of the job at hand on Thursday night, but the Red Devils do have chinks in their armour and Granada are very capable of exposing them as they showed in the first leg and with key absentees for United in defence, the tie may not be over just yet.
Does Manchester United need to be at their absolute best for the 2nd leg?
In a word, yes. Manchester United albeit being brilliant in recent games will have haunted memories of last year as they had to go through a bludgeoning 210 minutes of football in the quarter as well as semi-finals of the competition, something they are hoping to avoid this time around.
It would require a capitulation on United’s end for this tie to go the other way, but that would’ve been true if United had a completely fit squad on Thursday night. That is not the case as Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, and Scott McTominay are all ruled out by suspension for the 2nd leg while Eric Bailly remains unavailable after contracting Covid-19.
The worrying news, however, would be that Marcus Rashford is having injury problems again and sat out training on Tuesday morning and has been described as a ‘doubt’ for the game on Thursday. Some positive news on the injury end for United would be the return of Juan Mata who is available for the 2nd leg.
Edinson Cavani, has, however, showcased in recent weeks how he can lead United’s line and the Uruguyan will certainly have to do so against Granada in midweek with the 34-year-old the only valid strike option for Solskjaer.
Bruno Fernandes and Pogba will quite likely start the game and continue their good form as both midfielders have been sensational for the Red Devils in the Europa League.
Mason Greenwood is also a heavy favourite to start on Thursday as the young Englishman is making a very good case to be in Solskjaer’s starting lineups week in and week out. The problem area will however be the defence for United as it would be interesting to see who is Nelson Lindelof’s center-half partner with Bailly and Maguire out due to illness and suspension.
Solskjaer has been here before as has his United side, thus, it is only a matter of professionalism that the Red Devils will have to portray on the night if they are to secure a semi-final berth in this competition 2 years in a row.
Will Granada go with a “nothing to lose” attitude to Old Trafford?
Granada manager, Diego Martinez emphasized the importance of the 2nd United goal in the 1st leg and how it changed the complexion of the tie, and the approach Granada will have to use when they visit Old Trafford on Thursday.
While Manchester United did dominate the possession in the first leg, Granada had just as many shots on target as the Red Devils, however, the likes of Roberto Soldado and Kenedy could not affect the game as much as they would’ve liked to, with both players substituted before the 90-minute mark.
Unlike Manchester United, Granada only have a couple of absentees as center-back Domingos Duarte will not be available for the 2nd leg due to suspension. However, Brice Eteki has been named in the 27 man squad selected for the 2nd leg even though the winger has been suspended.
Brazilian winger Kenedy will also be a part of the squad that travels to United despite his niggling injuries.
Granada on Thursday will have to do something they haven’t done before in the competition, and that is scoring 3 goals without a reply. Goals have been few and scarce for Granada this season as they have scored only 12 goals in 11 Europa League games this season while they also only managed 1.2 goals per 90 mins in La Liga this season.
Roberto Soldado, albeit top scorer of the club, has not set the bar very high with the Spaniard scoring only 6 goals all season. Players like Kenedy and Antonio Puertas will need to create more from the wings while Yangel Herrera and Maxime Gonalons will need to provide extra cover and be a box-box threat if Granada are to threaten the United goal frequently.
Granada does have it in them to cause an upset to this injury-hit United, however, it will be a cagey affair and the Spanish side will need to overcome the odds if they want to be one of the last 4 clubs in the competition and it will be quite a feat if they manage to do so, with the club only being promoted again only 2 years ago.
Granda XI: Rui Silva- Victor Diaz; Germán Sánchez Barahona; Nehuén Pérez; Carlos Neva- Yangel Herrera; Maxime Gonalons- Angel Montoro; Antonio Puertas; Kenedy -Roberto Soldado.
Manchester United XI: David de Gea- Aaron Wan-Bissaka; Axel Tuanzebe; Victor Lindelof; Alex Telles- Fred; Donny van de Beek; Bruno Fernandes; Paul Pogba; Mason Greenwood – Edinson Cavani.