Manchester United put themselves into a commanding position in their Europa League quarterfinal tie, with a 2-0 win away at Granada in Thursday’s first leg. It wasn’t a classic, and goalscoring chances were at a premium throughout, but goals from Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes proved enough to overcome a rather mediocre opposition.
The game got off to a predictably sluggish start, with neither side registering a shot on target before Rashford’s opener just past the half-hour. United dominated possession, but did so in characteristically turgid fashion; at the other end, snapshots from former Chelsea man Kenedy, and former Spurs man Roberto Soldado, failed to test David de Gea.
It is hardly surprising, then, that United’s opener was as route-one as they come. In a moment of impressive decisiveness, centre-half Victor Lindelöf launched a brilliant pass over the top of the Granada defence, and picked out a smart Rashford run. The England striker brought the ball down with the daintiest of first touches, and slid past the keeper in the one-on-one.
The goal sparked a reaction from Granada, who looked considerably the better side for the remainder of the first half. Ángel Montoro volleyed a deep free-kick against the outside of de Gea’s post before Kenedy struck a sweet shot straight at the Spaniard from the edge of the penalty area. Both Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw picked up bookings, and will miss the return leg at Old Trafford next week.
The second half was about as unimpressive as the first, and chances remained few and far between. Harry Maguire threatened to do some damage when he shimmied into some space on the edge of the Granada box, though he drilled a low shot just wide. Just past the hour, a Bruno Fernandes corner found Paul Pogba at the back stick, though the Frenchman’s header cleared the crossbar.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær introduced Edinson Cavani for Rashford five minutes later, but the substitution didn’t do much to improve United’s blunt attacking play. With 20 minutes left, Maguire also picked up a yellow card; he’ll join the suspended McTominay and Shaw on the sidelines for the second leg.
With almost nothing in the way of second half goalmouth action, the game looked to be petering out into a drab 1-0. However, with 89 minutes on the clock, the referee did his best to liven things up, awarding United a penalty for an off-the-ball challenge by substitute Yan Brice. An uncharacteristically tame Fernandes penalty somehow squirmed through the arms of Granada keeper Rui Silva, sealing a solid if unspectacular 2-0 win for United.