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Full Time Analysis: Man-United 2 – 0 Granada

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Manchester United booked a Europa League semi-final with Roma after Edinson Cavani’s early strike sent them on their way to a 2-0 victory over Granada at Old Trafford, completing a 4-0 aggregate win.

Goals from Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes secured a 2-0 first-leg triumph at Estadio Los Carmenes last week, and United assumed control of the tie once more within six minutes at Old Trafford.

Cavani had underlined his predatory instincts during the 3-1 success at Tottenham, and the in-form Uruguayan scored his first European goal in United colours and 50th overall after meeting Paul Pogba’s knockdown to volley his low drive into the bottom corner.

Jesus Vallejo’s own goal in the final minute of normal time compounded Granada’s night with the Spaniards missing a spate of opportunities to keep the tie in the balance, but United progress to face Roma following their 3-2 aggregate win over Ajax.

Player ratings

Man Utd: De Gea (7), Wan-Bissaka (8), Tuanzebe (7), Lindelof (7), Telles (7), Matic (7), Pogba (7), Fred (7), Fernandes (7), Greenwood (7), Cavani (7).

Subs: Mata (6), Diallo (n/a), James (6), Williams (n/a), Van de Beek (6).

Granada: Rui Silva (6), Foulquier (6), Vallejo (6), German (7), Neva (6), Montoro (6), Gonalons (6), Kenedy (6), Herrera (7), Machis (6), Soldado (5).

Subs: Suarez (6), Puertas (5), Diaz (6), Molina (6), Ruiz (n/a)

Man of the match: Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Can United break semi-final curse?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now prepares for his fifth semi-final in two years hoping to go one better than he managed in his previous four, and Roma will provide a much stiffer test than the side eighth in La Liga, whose adventure in the Europa League was all but ended on home soil.

In the absence of the suspended Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay, Solskjaer fielded a strong side as he looked to ensure there would be no upset in the second leg, and Cavani waited little time in ending the contest.

He provided United with the dream start, as Pogba flicked on an Alex Telles cross to the 34-year-old, who volleyed into the bottom corner from inside the box. It was the 413th goal for club and country in Cavani’s illustrious career and further evidence towards extending his stay beyond the end of the season.

This was Granada’s first visit to England, and their head coach Diego Martinez will have been encouraged by his team’s response to the early set-back. Yangel Herrera missed two presentable opportunities in quick succession, glancing his header wide from an immediate set-play before doing likewise midway through the second period when unmarked.

Granada simply lacked the necessary quality in the final third, while United were happy playing in first gear as Bruno Fernandes met Nemanja Matic’s pass with a speculative volley that cleared the crossbar.

By then, Pogba had seen yellow for the use of a high arm on Granada captain German Sanchez – and the Frenchman was perhaps a little fortunate not to be punished for a second bookable offence when catching Herrera. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer kept him on until the interval, before withdrawing the captain for the night and replacing him with Donny van de Beek.

The Dutchman has been a peripheral figure for United this season, making just two Premier League starts, but he looked eager to impress during a relatively eventless second period. He came close to extending his side’s lead when the ball fell kindly for him from Mason Greenwood’s driving run, but his dragged shot failed to trouble Rui Silva.

Cavani departed on the hour-mark, shortly after glancing another Fernandes delivery just wide with David de Gea down the other end a mere spectator. That nearly changed when Sanchez collected Angel Montoro’s cross but the veteran defender dragged his effort wide.

Fernandes made way for the final 15 minutes as United confirmed their place in the last four with plenty to spare, with De Gea forced into a late save to keep out Victor Diaz’s long-range shot and preserve his clean sheet.

De Gea wasn’t done there, as he smothered another Herrera effort to set United on the counter-attack as Telles’ cross towards Juan Mata was inadvertently glanced into his own net by Vallejo.

United continue proud tradition – Opta stats

  1. Manchester United have reached their 18th semi-final in all European competitions (including Fairs Cup) – only Liverpool (19) have appeared in more amongst English sides.
  2. Manchester United have won three consecutive knockout stage games without conceding in major European competition for the first time since April 2008.
  3. Granada have lost their last three matches in the UEFA Europa League, having lost just two of their first nine in the competition (W5 D2 L2).
  4. Since losing their first two home games in the UEFA Europa League back in the 2011-12 season, Manchester United haven’t lost any of their last 17 games at Old Trafford in the competition (W13 D4).
  5. Following Granada’s 0-2 defeat to Man Utd, Spanish sides are winless in their last six away games against English teams (D3 L3), failing to score in each of the last five matches.

What’s next?

Manchester United return to Premier League action on Super Sunday as they host Burnley at 4pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event. Granada host Eibar in La Liga next Thursday at 8pm.

Europa League semi-final draw

First legs: April 29 | Second legs: May 6

Manchester United vs Roma

Villarreal vs Arsenal

When and where is the Europa League final?

The Europa League final takes place on Wednesday, May 26 at the Gdansk Arena in Poland. The stadium was due to host the 2020 final, but after the tournament was delayed due to Covid-19, the showpiece took place in Cologne, Germany as Sevilla beat Inter 3-2.

 

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Former Manchester United captain Antonio Valencia announces retirement

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Former Manchester United captain Antonio Valencia has announced his retirement at the age of 35.

 

Valencia spent 10 years at Old Trafford before returning to his home country with LDU Quito, where he played for one season prior to joining Mexican side Queretaro in November.

 

The ex-Ecuador international also represented El Nacional, Villarreal, Recreativo and Wigan Athletic during an 18-year career that will be best remembered for his time with United.

 

He amassed 277 starts for the Red Devils in all competitions and a further 61 outings as substitute, scoring 25 goals.

 

Valencia, who won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, two EFL Cups, three Community Shields and the Europa League, took to Twitter on Wednesday to thank United

At the age of 14, as a child, I left my village and my first team to travel to the capital of my country. I travelled with a lot of nostalgia bug full of hope,” he said.

 

“A few years later I was able to travel to Europe, something I had never dreamed of. I played in Spain, and then came to my second home: England.

 

“Wigan was a unique experience, and then God gave me the opportunity to join Manchester United. I will never forget everything I experienced at Old Trafford.

 

“I will never forget every goal, every trophy and the wonderful fans.

 

“I did not think this moment would come so soon, but my body has asked me to make this decision. I am announcing my retirement from football.

 

“I want to thank everyone who has been part of my career and life. God in the first place, for always blessing me. Zoila and my daughter Domenik who have been my pillars.

 

“My parents for giving me so much. To fans of all the countries where I have played, I always tried to give my best. Thank you for your affection and support.”

 

Valencia was voted United’s Player of the Year in 2011-12 and won the Players’ Player of the Year in that same campaign and again five seasons later.

 

The 2011-12 season was a particularly memorable one for the versatile right-sided player as he assisted 13 goals in 27 Premier League appearances.

 

Only Nani (14 in 33 appearances) and David Beckham (15 in 31) have assisted more Premier League goals in a single season for the club.

 

Valencia also holds the record for the most appearances of any South American player in the competition with 325, followed by Pablo Zabaleta (303) and Nolberto Solano (302).

 

The El Nacional academy product scored 23 Premier League goals for United and was not on the losing side in any of those matches, the Red Devils winning 95.7 per cent of them.

 

Only two players to have scored in at least 20 matches have a better such win percentage – Chelsea pair Pedro (96.3 per cent) and Florent Malouda (96.7 per cent).

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sends strong message to Man United board about summer signings

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has warned Manchester United’s board that the Red Devils will need to significantly strengthen their squad this summer if they are to challenge for the title next season.

Solskjaer’s side suffered a 2-1 home defeat by Leicester City in the Premier League on Tuesday night, a result which handed Manchester City the Premier League title with three games to spare.

 

Manchester United have shown signs of improvement under Solskjaer this season and they are currently second in the table and 10 points behind their bitter local rivals.

 

However, Solskjaer feels that the Red Devils will have to invest heavily in their squad this summer if they want to be able to challenge Manchester City for the title next term.

 

Speaking to BT Sport after Manchester United’s defeat by Leicester on Tuesday night, Solskjaer said: “If you want to take up the challenge with them we need to strengthen our squad.

Congratulations to them. They have had a fantastic season.

 

“I am very pleased with my boys that have made it to the last 10 days with a Manchester City side ahead of us that are lauded as the best in Europe.

 

“We want to take the next step and it might be that we need a couple more to strengthen the squad.”

 

Manchester United can still end this season with a trophy when they take on Villarreal in the Europa League final at the end of the month.

 

The Red Devils are back in Premier League action on Thursday night when they host Liverpool FC at Old Trafford in their rearranged fixture.

 

 

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Current West Ham player highly likely to return to Man Utd

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Jesse Lingard is allegedly set to return to Manchester United next term, as West Ham United can’t afford to sign the midfielder outright.

The 28-year-old star has managed to get his career back on track since signing for the Hammers on loan in January and has even caught the eye of England head coach Gareth Southgate, who has reintegrated the player into his first team squad ahead of this summer’s UEFA Euro 2020 tournament.

David Moyes is keen for Jesse to stay beyond this term, but according to the Daily Mail, the Irons cannot afford his £100,000 per week wages, as they have suffered financial losses over the past year caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Hammers recorded losses of £65 million last season and a greater financial hit is set to follow for this season.

The West Ham United hierarchy are unwilling to negotiate new big-money contracts with current stars or new signings at present until they receive more clarification from the Government of the United Kingdom about the return of fans to stadiums.

Lingard has made 13 top-flight appearances during his loan spell with the London Stadium outfit, scoring nine goals and providing four assists.

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