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Starting XI: Granada vs. Manchester United

The Reds travel to Spain to take on Diego Martinez’s European upstarts


Everything that you need to know ahead of Thursday’s match:

(1) Manchester United came from behind on Sunday to defeat Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 to strengthen their grasp on second place in the Premier League. Danny Welbeck, no stranger to Old Trafford, fired the visitors into the lead in the 13th minute, before second-half goals from Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood reversed the scoreline and propelled the Reds to their third straight league win.

(2) Unfortunately, Rashford came off with another knock shortly after his equalizer. After the match, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could offer no assurances that Rashford would be fit enough to play on Thursday. With a tough game at Tottenham Hotspur looming at the weekend, this could be an excellent opportunity to hand the 23-year-old a rare rest.

(3) Rashford’s latest setback couldn’t come at a worse time. Anthony Martial’s knee injury, which initially seemed a minor affair, now might keep him out for the rest of the season. That leaves Manchester United a bit thin on attacking options — and even more reliant on the aging Edinson Cavani to remain fit and sharp down the stretch. On the bright side, it should open up more minutes for Amad Diallo.

(4) The decision to start Dean Henderson in goal on Sunday ignited a firestorm of speculation over David De Gea’s future at Manchester United. To be honest, it feels a bit like the beginning of the end for the long-tenured Spaniard.

(5) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on drawing Granada in the Europa League:

It’s another difficult tie, of course. They’ve done well in La Liga and we know we’re up against a team that will be technically very good and tactically very good. They beat Molde, so they must be very good!

(6) When Diego Martinez took over at Granada, the Andalusian club was spinning its wheels in the Segunda Division. But, despite a shoestring budget, the 40-year-old manager transformed Granada into a defensively-solid, counterattacking outfit that won promotion back to the top-flight and secured European qualification for the first time in club history with a seventh-place finish last season.

(7) Much like the man he learned under — Unai Emery — Martinez has taken to the Europa League like a duck to water. In their first-ever European competition, Granada have reached the quarterfinals after a shock upset of Napoli in the first knockout round and then a 3-2 victory on aggregate over Molde to set up their showdown with Manchester United.

(8) Granada do not enter this match in the best form. Los Nazaries have lost three straight matches, including a 3-0 reverse on Saturday against Villarreal. Those results leave Granada ninth in La Liga, putting them at risk of missing out on Europe next season after this maiden voyage. The biggest problem? Granada’s defense has crumbled. They’ve already allowed more goals this season than all of last year.

(9) Some familiar faces: Granada’s top goal threat is Roberto Soldado, who played two seasons for Tottenham Hotspur. He didn’t exactly light up it up at White Hart Lane during his brief stay, but has been a remarkably consistent scorer everywhere else with over 125 career goals to his name. Plus, keep an eye on 25-year-old winger Kenedy. He’s on loan from Chelsea and playing the best football of his career at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes.

(10) Another loanee making his mark is Yangel Herrera. This is his second season on loan from Manchester City and has emerged as one of the top defensive midfielders in La Liga. He’s adept at intercepting the ball and launching attacks from a deep position — and has even chipped in with five Europa League goals. It’s unlikely that Herrera has much of a future at Manchester City, but he’s giving Pep Guardiola plenty to think about.

(11) Diego Martinez on playing Manchester United:

As we cannot choose our opponents, all we can do is prepare as well as we can and enjoy a tie against a European great like Manchester United. As always, the objective is to be our best, to try to improve ourselves, and be as faithful as possible to our identity and our values, competing without nerves. Being here is already something unique.