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Manchester United is a step closer to a second successive Europa League semi-final after defeating Granada 2-0 in the opening leg in Spain.
A first-half strike from Marcus Rashford and a late penalty from Bruno Fernandes gave the Reds a comfortable victory.
With two away goals heading back to Old Trafford next week the Reds are in the drivers seat in this tie.
In the first-ever meeting between these teams, it was no surprise to see a prolonged start to this one as both sides looked to get a feel for one another.
The first decent opportunity came Man United’s way in the 19th minute.
Marcus Rashford’s free-kick didn’t dip as much as he would have liked, and his effort sailed over the bar.
Rashford came close again in the 27th minute.
A Bruno Fernandes shot deflected back to the United striker, who curled his effort just wide of the far post.
Granada had an excellent opportunity in the 29th minute.
Kenedy, who’s on loan from Chelsea, ran onto a lovely lofted through-ball down the inside-left channel.
The Brazilian took a very ambitious first-time strike from inside United’s area, but his effort sailed over the bar.
United took the lead a minute later.
A near-perfect long ball from Victor Lindelof sailed over the top of the Granada defence straight to Marcus Rashford.
The Reds striker timed his run perfectly, took two touches, and then raced in on goal before side-footing his shot into the corner past Rui Silva.
The Spanish side came close to equalising 10 minutes later.
An excellent free-kick delivery towards the back post found Yangel Herrera, who looked to try and side-foot it back across goal.
Instead, though, the ball sailed towards David de Gea’s goal and struck the outside of the post.
Los Nazaries pushed hard for an equaliser for the remainder of the first half.
A Granada corner flicked on by Antonio Puertas found Roberto Soldado.
However the team’s leading goalscorer in La Liga dragged his close-range effort wide.
In the 44th minute, a smartly worked corner to the edge of the box was met by Kenedy.
His volley however went straight at de Gea.
It was a relatively quiet second half with no real quality scoring opportunities.
Paul Pogba met a lovely corner from Bruno Fernandes in the 62nd minute.
Unfortunately the Frenchman couldn’t keep his header down, and the ball sailed over the bar.
Then in the 67th minute, Kenedy hit a shot from a distance, but his low left-footed strike was saved by de Gea.
United came close to doubling their advantage in the 83rd minute.
A quick counter from Daniel James, who played a clever reverse pass into Fernandes.
The Portuguese international fired a shot from a few yards out that was saved by Silva.
Fernandes iced the game in the 90th minute.
An Alex Telles cross into the box came towards Bruno Fernandes, marked closely by Yan Brice Eteki.
The Granada substitute was adjudged to have obstructed Fernandes on the challenge, and United were given a penalty.
Fernandes stepped up and was fortunate to score as he mishit his shot, but it slipped underneath Silva.
Man of the Match
He played just over an hour, but in his time on the pitch, Marcus Rashford was a difference-maker.
He touched the ball a total of 37 times, created a chance and got the all-important opening goal just past the half-hour mark.
Rashford joined some exclusive Man United company when he scored his eighth goal in European competition this season.
He’s the first English born player for the Reds to score that many times in Europe in a single season (excluding qualifiers) since Sir Bobby Charlton did it in 1964-65.
Rashford is the fourth Premier League player this season to score 20 goals in all competitions after Harry Kane (29), Mo Salah (27), and Bruno Fernandes (23).
He’s also the first player to score 20+ goals in back-to-back seasons in all competitions for the Reds since Wayne Rooney in 2009-10.
United may have the advantage heading into the second leg, but tonight’s victory came at a cost.
Captain Harry Maguire, along with Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay, will miss the second leg from Old Trafford after each receiving yellow cards.
A First time for everything
It’s the first time these teams have met, but each team achieved some other historic firsts with tonight’s result.
Man United have won consecutive away games in Spain for the first time in their history, winning tonight’s game and beating Real Sociedad 4-0 in their opening round of 32 tie.
In their maiden European campaign, Granada has lost consecutive games in Europe for the first time.
Before tonight they’d lost just two of their previous 12 matches in this competition, including qualifiers.
Cleaning up the competition
Since arriving into this competition, Man United have been a solid defensive unit.
The Red Devils have now registered four clean sheets in their last five games in Europe.
They’ve only conceded one goal in that span.
That’s a significant improvement given they managed just one shutout in their previous seven games in Europe before that, conceding 12 goals.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said afterwards getting a second goal could prove vital.
“It’s a clean sheet, and David wasn’t really that troubled. There were moments in there that could have been chances, but I thought we defended well when we had to, and I think 2-0 is a good lead. Bruno’s goal is a vital goal because 2-0 is a big, big difference to 1-0.”
The Reds will head to London this weekend to face Jose Mourinho and Tottenham on Sunday in Premier League action.
The kickoff from Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is at 4:30 pm.
United and Granada will play the second leg of this quarter-final tie next Thursday from Old Trafford at 8 pm. (JSL).