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Granada 0-2 Manchester United: Red Devils ease one foot in the Europa League semi-finals


At least there was one happy Spaniard in the Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes, David de Gea’s return in goal coinciding with another good night in the Europa League for Manchester United.

De Gea’s clean sheet on his first appearance since February and two away goals mean United can already look forward to a place in the semi-finals having lost in the final four of this competition to Sevilla last season.

Marcus Rashford became the first United player since Wayne Rooney 11 years ago to score 20 or more in back-to-back seasons, and Bruno Fernandes added a rather fortuitous late penalty to all but end the Granada fairy tale.

Manchester United struck twice to ease to a win over Granada and take full control of their Europa League quarter-final tie

Manchester United struck twice to ease to a win over Granada and take full control of their Europa League quarter-final tie

Marcus Rashford latched on to a long ball from Victor Lindelof before racing in on goal and tucking home United's first

Marcus Rashford latched on to a long ball from Victor Lindelof before racing in on goal and tucking home United’s first

United will take the first-leg lead back to Old Trafford in their hunt for yet another semi-final under boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

United will take the first-leg lead back to Old Trafford in their hunt for yet another semi-final under boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Bruno Fernandes stepped up after United were awarded a late penalty and squeezed the effort from 12 yards into the corner

Bruno Fernandes stepped up after United were awarded a late penalty and squeezed the effort from 12 yards into the corner

The Portuguese star wheels away to celebrate after putting United into a commanding position in the quarter-final tie

The Portuguese star wheels away to celebrate after putting United into a commanding position in the quarter-final tie

Fernandes looked to test LaLiga outfit Granada in Spain and eventually found the target with the stoppage-time spot-kick

MATCH FACTS/PLAYER RATINGS FROM SPAIN

GRANADA (4-2-3-1): Silva 5; Diaz 6, Vallejo 6.5, Duarte 5.5 (Sanchez 54, 6), Neva 6 (Foulquier 74, 6); Herrera 6, Gonalons 6 (Brice 87); Kenedy 7 (Machis 74, 6), Montoro 6, Puertas 5.5; Soldado 6 (Suarez Charris 86). 

Subs not used: Escandell, Fabrega, Molina, Perez. 

Booked: Duarte, Brice. 

Manager: Diego Martinez 6.

MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): De Gea 7; Wan-Bissaka 6.5, Lindelof 7.5, Maguire 6, Shaw 6 (Telles 46min, 7); Pogba 6.5 (Matic 74, 6), McTominay 7; James 6.5, Fernandes 7, Rashford 8 (Cavani 65, 6); Greenwood 6.5 (Van de Beek 85). 

Subs not used: Grant, Henderson, Mata, Fred, Amad, Williams, Tuanzebe, Elanga. 

Scorers: Rashford 31, Fernandes (pen) 90. 

Booked: Pogba, McTominay, Shaw, Maguire, Matic. 

Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 7.

Referee: Artur Dias 6 (Portugal).

A team lying ninth in La Liga have been punching above their weight throughout a maiden campaign in Europe, knocking out Napoli en route to the quarters, but surely now it’s a step too far.

This was the biggest match in their history – hence the thousands of fans who greeted the team bus outside the stadium – but it’s hard to see how they can turn this tie around in the second leg at Old Trafford next week even though United picked up five yellow cards on Thursday night and will be without Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw through suspension.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer refuses to see it that way, of course. His job is not to count chickens.

‘It’s not a perfect night for us,’ said the United boss. ‘I’m delighted with the result, of course, but I don’t think we deserved five yellows.

‘Football catches you so quickly if you rest. We can’t have any other approach than going forward and creating chances and score goals, especially at Old Trafford.’

A Granada side that cost £7million to put together produced a typically spirited performance without ever really stretching De Gea.

The Spaniard’s return in goal was his first appearance in eight games and 39 days since simultaneously becoming a father and losing his No.1 spot to Dean Henderson.

Given that Solskjaer usually plays his second-choice keeper in the Europa League – at least until the semi-finals, on the evidence of last season – it could also be seen as something of a back-handed compliment.

Luke Shaw will miss the return leg after picking up a booking in a slight blow to his hopes of further impressing this season

Luke Shaw will miss the return leg after picking up a booking in a slight blow to his hopes of further impressing this season

Pogba started at the heart of United's midfield and also picked up a caution as Granada looked to test the visitors' backline

Pogba started at the heart of United’s midfield and also picked up a caution as Granada looked to test the visitors’ backline

Goalscorers Rashford and Fernandes stood poised over a promising free-kick, but the effort was blasted over the crossbar

Goalscorers Rashford and Fernandes stood poised over a promising free-kick, but the effort was blasted over the crossbar

He also started Rashford despite saying he was not a ’90-minute-man’ for this one due to a persistent ankle injury that the Granada players appeared to enjoy targeting.

It was clear within the first five minutes that Rashford wasn’t moving well – certainly not as freely as a male streaker who managed to get onto the pitch – yet the England man recovered sufficiently to have United’s first two shots on goal before scoring their opening goal just after the half hour mark.

Until then, Granada had been careful not to make the same mistakes as Real Sociedad in a 4-0 home defeat to United in the last 32 by defending high up the pitch and offering the Premier League side space in behind.

But when De Gea played the ball out to Victor Lindelof, he spotted an opportunity to launch an excellent long ball for Rashford as he peeled away from Domingos Duarte.

Rashford produced an exquisite touch to bring the ball under control with his right foot and steadied himself before sliding a shot past Rui Silva.

Kenedy tried to squeeze a shot in on goal from a difficult angle and proved a constant thorn in United's side down the wing

Kenedy tried to squeeze a shot in on goal from a difficult angle and proved a constant thorn in United’s side down the wing

Daniel James was clattered in a challenge by Domingos Duarte, who was forced off after picking up an injury after the blow

Daniel James was clattered in a challenge by Domingos Duarte, who was forced off after picking up an injury after the blow

Granada coach Diego Martinez (above) urged his team on from the touchline in one of the biggest games in the club's history

Granada coach Diego Martinez (above) urged his team on from the touchline in one of the biggest games in the club’s history

The goal came just as Granada were starting to grow in confidence, even though Kenedy – on loan from Chelsea – volleyed high into the empty stands and former Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado’s effort from a tight angle was always going into the side-netting.

Yangel Herrera, on loan from Manchester City, also volleyed against the outside of De Gea’s left-hand post after the goal and the United keeper made a string of comfortable saves from Kenedy’s long-range efforts.

If that makes it sound like the Spaniards were on top, they weren’t, even though Paul Pogba, McTominay and Shaw were all booked by Portuguese referee Artur Dias in the first half, and Maguire and Nemanja Matic were cautioned in the second period.

For all the yellow cards, this was a disciplined display by United and one that brought a second goal in the 90th minute.

Fernandes went down after taking an innocuous looking hand in the face from substitute Yan Eteki and picked himself up to score from the spot even though Silva should really have saved it.

Harry Maguire marauded forward on a fine run for United but saw his attempt whistle wide of the target to the left-hand side

Harry Maguire marauded forward on a fine run for United but saw his attempt whistle wide of the target to the left-hand side

Mason Greenwood tried to jink inside a crowded penalty area but then saw his deft touch defended superbly by Jesus Vallejo

Mason Greenwood tried to jink inside a crowded penalty area but then saw his deft touch defended superbly by Jesus Vallejo

Was it a penalty? ‘I’ve just seen his eye when he came off and it’s red,’ said Solskjaer. ‘To score with one eye open is also a skill.’

Given that Solskjaer usually plays his second-choice keeper in the Europa League – at least until the semi-finals, on the evidence of last season – it could also be seen as something of a back-handed compliment.

‘David is a fantastic keeper,’ said the United manager before kick-off. ‘I was thinking that I’m sure he’ll want to prove to his fellow countrymen how good he is. You’re probably going to see him more often as well.’

Solskjaer also started Rashford despite saying he was not a ’90-minute-man’ for this one due to a persistent ankle injury that the Granada players appeared to enjoy targeting.

David de Gea was recalled ahead of Dean Henderson in goal and had been on hand to deal with several efforts from distance

David de Gea was recalled ahead of Dean Henderson in goal and had been on hand to deal with several efforts from distance

Re-live the drama from Spain with live commentary from Sportsmail’s KATHRYN BATTE below…



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