Manchester United took a big step towards the Europa League semi-finals with an away win over Granada in the first leg of their last-eight tie.
Marcus Rashford put United ahead when he superbly collected Victor Lindelof’s long pass and slid a finish past home goalkeeper Rui Silva.
Yangel Herrera, on loan from Manchester City, hit the outside of the post for the Spanish side and ex-Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado also fired wide.
United doubled their lead late on when Bruno Fernandes squeezed a penalty past Silva after Yan Brice fouled the Portuguese midfielder.
The second leg is at Old Trafford in a week’s time with the aggregate winners advancing to a semi-final against either Ajax or Roma, with the Italian side leading that tie 2-1 after the first leg in the Netherlands.
United have now only lost one of their past 17 matches in all competitions, but will be without midfielder Scott McTominay, left-back Luke Shaw and central defender Harry Maguire for the second leg as they will all be suspended after picking up bookings in Spain.
Professional United get the victory
United have not won a trophy since winning the Europa League four years ago, when Jose Mourinho’s side defeated Ajax. They have not reached a final in Solskjaer’s two and a half seasons in charge.
With United 14 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City and out of the FA Cup after losing to Leicester last month, the Europa League is their only realistic hope of silverware this season.
And Solskjaer will be pleased with his side’s professional performance in southern Spain as they took control of their 27th European quarter-final.
Rashford, who had earlier curled a shot over, grabbed his 20th club goal of the season, with a superb first touch following Lindelof’s long pass from inside his own half, with the England international then running through and slotting past Silva.
David de Gea, back in goal after Dean Henderson had featured in the past seven games, maintained United’s lead with a save to deny Kenedy.
United looked to kill off the tie against a side who are ninth in La Liga and have the worst defensive record in the Spanish top flight, but captain Maguire dragged a shot well wide, with Paul Pogba also wasting an opportunity.
Fernandes had a shot from the corner of the six-yard box saved, but then doubled United’s advantage in the last minute with a penalty that Silva should have saved but the ball squirmed under his body.
Granada’s dream story coming to an end?
Granada’s run to the last eight in their first season in European competition has been a great story. Their whole team only cost 8m euros and the side were in the Spanish fourth tier 15 seasons ago.
Sadly, the fans were not able to enter the stadium for what was arguably the biggest match in the club’s 90-year history, although that did not stop a large number of passionate supporters gathering outside for the arrival of the team buses.
Granada came seventh in La Liga in 2019-20 and had to battle through three qualifying rounds, then the group phase and then two-legged ties against Italy’s Napoli and Solskjaer’s former team Molde to reach the quarter-finals.
After falling behind, they had chances to equalise but Herrera, Soldado and Kenedy could not take them as they suffered their fourth successive defeat in all competitions.
The match at Old Trafford next week will be their 15th of the season in the Europa League, and if they fail to win by at least a two-goal margin then it will also be their last.
‘Very happy with the result’ – what they said
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told BT Sport: “It’s not a perfect night – we got three yellow cards and suspensions but a 2-0 result is very good. We know how difficult it is to come to Spain to get a result like this and I’m very happy with the result.
“Marcus and Bruno have been exceptional for us and are so important. The first goal was a very good run from Marcus, he took the ball fantastically and a good finish, and Bruno is so good on penalties.
“We want to win every game of football. It’s still a young, learning team and we have to improve all the time. It catches you so quickly if you rest and we can’t have any other approach other than to go forward and try to score goals [in the second leg].”
Another United clean sheet – the stats
- Manchester United 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.
- Granada have lost consecutive games for the first time in their maiden European campaign, after losing just two of their previous 12 (won eight, drew two – including qualifiers).
- Manchester United have registered four clean sheets in their last five games in Europe (one goal conceded), after managing just one shutout in their previous seven (12 goals conceded).
- Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford became the fourth Premier League player to reach 20 goals in all competitions this season after Harry Kane (29), Mohamed Salah (27) and Bruno Fernandes (24).
- 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.
- 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.
- Bruno Fernandes has scored 19 of his 20 penalties taken for Manchester United in all competitions.
Manchester United are away at Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday (16:30 BST), with Granada playing at Real Valladolid. The second leg is at Old Trafford on Thursday, 15 April (20:00 BST).
- 1Dantas da Silva
- 22Coutinho Meneses DuarteBooked at 51minsSubstituted forSánchezat 54′minutes
- 15NevaSubstituted forFoulquierat 74′minutes
- 4GonalonsSubstituted forEtekiat 86′minutesBooked at 89mins
- 10Rodríguez Díaz
- 24KenedySubstituted forMachísat 75′minutes
- 9SoldadoSubstituted forSuárezat 87′minutes
- 1de Gea
- 5MaguireBooked at 72mins
- 23ShawBooked at 42minsSubstituted forTellesat 45′minutes
- 6PogbaBooked at 8minsSubstituted forMaticat 74′minutesBooked at 84mins
- 39McTominayBooked at 40mins
- 18Bruno Fernandes
- 10RashfordSubstituted forCavaniat 66′minutes
- 11GreenwoodSubstituted forvan de Beekat 85′minutes
- 34van de Beek
- Artur Manuel Soares Dias
Match ends, Granada CF 0, Manchester United 2.
Second Half ends, Granada CF 0, Manchester United 2.
Harry Maguire (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Luis Suárez (Granada CF).
Goal! Granada CF 0, Manchester United 2. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner.
Yan Eteki (Granada CF) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Penalty Manchester United. Bruno Fernandes draws a foul in the penalty area.
Penalty conceded by Yan Eteki (Granada CF) after a foul in the penalty area.
Substitution, Granada CF. Luis Suárez replaces Roberto Soldado.
Substitution, Granada CF. Yan Eteki replaces Maxime Gonalons.
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Darwin Machís (Granada CF).
Corner, Granada CF. Conceded by Nemanja Matic.
Substitution, Manchester United. Donny van de Beek replaces Mason Greenwood.
Nemanja Matic (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Nemanja Matic (Manchester United).
Antonio Puertas (Granada CF) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United).
Roberto Soldado (Granada CF) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) right footed shot from the left side of the six yard box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Daniel James.