The Europa League enters it’s serious phase as the quarter-finals are finally upon us in Europe’s secondary competition.
England have two representatives remaining and both teams got favourable draws, with the Manchester United coming up against La Liga side Granada, while Arsenal will come up against Czech Republican’s Slavia Prague.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side made it through to this stage after crashing out of the Champions League at the group stages, overcoming Real Sociedad 4-0 on aggregate in the last 32 before beating AC Milan in the San Siro to claim a 2-1 aggregate win to set up this tie. Granada on the other hand had a slightly less comfortable run to this round, beating Napoli and then Solskjaer’s former side Molde 2-0 at home, before losing the away legs 2-1 and sneaking through 3-2 on aggregate both times.
Manchester United’s poor start to the season has somewhat faded away on the results side of the season, as they currently sit in second place in the Premier League and opened up a four point gap over third place Leicester and a nine point gap ahead of fifth place Chelsea.
Granada’s domestic campaign isn’t going so sweetly, as they currently sit in ninth place in La Liga with 36 points from 29 games, their last three games in a row in all competitions and four of their last six.
United’s game plan will be obvious. They have the better individual players and are in far better form, so you would expect them to hold onto the ball and try to carve Granada open through their most creative players in Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford. They have tremendous pace on the counter attacks which Granada will know all about, but they do struggle against more direct and tricky wingers.
The Spaniards themselves tend to attack down the right hand side with Antonio Puertas the key man down that side, while former Valencia and Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado leads the line at 36 years of age. They’re very good at creating chances although taking them has been an issue this season, with only 34 league goals scored in 29 games – although they have scored 12 in ten Europa League games.
They’re also good from set-pieces, with centre-back German Sanchez scoring three times this season already. It’s something Manchester United will need to be aware of, having struggled from set-pieces at times this season including the equaliser for Milan in the first-leg at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils will likely rotate their squad slightly, with the likes of Donny Van de Beek and Axel Tuanzebe potentially getting starts while Mason Greenwood will be keen to carry on his decent form after scoring in each of his last two games.
Ultimately, this is Manchester United’s tie to lose. They’re by far the better team, with the better players and stylistically they should be able to dominate the game in any phase they so choose. Granada will no doubt put up a good fight and in Spain they could well grab themselves a sneaky draw to take back to Old Trafford, but they will need to play the perfect game twice in a week and hope Manchester United don’t show up in order to progress.
Granada 0-2 Man United
Man United 3-0 Granada
(Man United to progress 5-0 on aggregate)