The only background to this match that really mattered in the end was Manchester United’s two-goal lead from the first leg in Andalusia last week.
Within six minutes at Old Trafford the advantage was 3-0 and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were going through to the semi-finals of the Europa League again where they will meet Roma.
All the talk beforehand of changing the colour of the banners around the stadium from red to black to help his players see one another better against the backdrop was rendered rather academic by the ease with which United progressed at the expense of the underdogs from Granada who have punched above their weight so effectively in Europe this season.
Manchester United beat Granada 2-0 in their second-leg tie at Old Trafford on Thursday
It was Cavani who opened the scoring for Man United in the sixth minute of the game
Indeed, the only person in danger of seeing red here was Paul Pogba who was a little fortunate to make it to half-time after setting up the early goal for Edinson Cavani.
Having been handed the captain’s armband for only the second time since he was stripped of the vice-captaincy by Jose Mourinho in September 2018, the Frenchman was booked in the 17th minute for thrusting an arm into the face of Granada skipper German.
Man United went into the break with a 1-0 advantage before adding another in the second half
Paul Pogba got into dangerous territory, having picked up a yellow card in the first-half
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
MAN UTD (4-2-3-1): De Gea 6.5; Wan-Bissaka 6 (Williams 82), Tuanzebe 6.5, Lindelof 7, Telles 6.5; Fred 6, Matic 7; Fernandes 6 (Mata 73, 6.5), Greenwood 6 (Amad 82), Pogba 6.5 (Van de Beek 46, 6.5); Cavani 7 (James 60, 6). Subs: Grant, Henderson, Fish, Elanga, Rashford, Shoretire.
Scorers: Cavani 6, Vallejo 90+2
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 7
GRANADA CF (4-2-3-1): Rui Silva 6; Foulquier 5.5, Vallejo 6, German 6.5 (Perez 82) Neva 6 (Diaz 75, 6); Montoro 6.5, Gonalons 6 (Molina 32, 5); Kenedy 6.5 (Puertas 46, 6), Herrera 7, Machis 6; Soldado 6.5 (Suarez 46, 6). Subs: Aaron, Arnau, Nehuen, Puertas, Ruiz, Torrente.
Booked: Soldado, Sanchez, Neva
Manager: Diego Martinez 6
Referee: Istvan Kovacs (Romania) 6
It was every bit as forceful as his challenge on Serge Aurier in Sunday’s win over Tottenham which Mourinho suggested could have brought a red card, but Romanian official Istvan Kovacs only produced a yellow.
Minutes later, Pogba trod a very line by hauling down Yangel Herrera in front of the referee who instead booked former Spurs striker Roberto Soldado for protesting that the United man should have been sent off.
Given the size of United’s lead it was a little surprising that Solskjaer did not take off Pogba at that point, especially after he went down following a clash of knees with Kenedy.
One was reminded of the Champions League group tie against Paris Saint-Germain here in September when the United manager chose not to replace Fred even though he was showing all the signs of a man intent on getting himself sent off and eventually succeeded.
Maybe that was in Solskjaer’s mind when he eventually took off Pogba at half-time and sent on Donny van de Beek, who must be wondering what he has to do to get a start these days. It’s almost a month since he was in the line-up at Leicester in the FA Cup.
Solskjaer said he was reluctant to make too many changes and named a strong side to compensate for the loss of Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay through suspension after they were booked in Spain.
Axel Tuanzebe, Alex Telles and Nemanja Matic were the three deputies with Pogba taking the armband from Maguire.
As a result, he was taken off at half-time – despite being named as the Man United captain
Manchester United got their second goal in the final minutes of extra-time (above)
‘Paul is a big character and personality in the group,’ said Solskjaer before kick-off. ‘We’ve got a healthy lead from the first tie but you don’t take any chances. With the enforced changes, we stuck with what we felt was a strong team.’
The United skipper was involved in the opening goal in the sixth minute that effectively put the outcome of the tie beyond any doubt.
The ball was worked out to Telles on the left and Pogba trotted unmarked into the box to meet his cross. He headed the ball back to the equally free Cavani who sized up a volley and despatched it into the bottom corner. It was the Uruguay striker’s 50th goal in European competition and a fine one at that.
It was Granada defender Vallejo (roght) who made it two with an own goal in the 90th minute
Manchester United will now face Roma in the semi-final of the Europa League
Credit to the Spaniards, they didn’t give up and the impressive Herrera was inches away from heading an equaliser when he got in behind the United defence.
The home side went a little quiet and hardly threatened Rui Silva’s goal again before half-time until Matic clipped a lovely pass into Bruno Fernandes who sent a fierce volley swerving over the bar.
The second half opened with a flurry and both teams missed almost identical chances in the 50th minute. First, Granada got forward and Dimitri Foulquier picked out substitute Jorge Molina with a cross but he headed straight at David de Gea.
The game gave the likes of Van de Beek the opportunity to prove himself for United
While De Gea produced an excellent reflex save to deny Herrera in the dying seconds
Next it was United’s turn, Van de Beek marking his introduction by crossing from the right to Mason Greenwood unmarked in front of goal but he also headed into the keeper’s arms.
De Gea produced an excellent reflex save to deny Herrera in the dying seconds before Juan Mata – on as a substitute to make his first appearance in two months – pressured Jesus Vallejo into heading into his own goal.
So in the end this was every bit as routine as United’s convincing win in Spain promised to make it. United are through to the final four of this competition again and their fifth semi-final under Solskjaer. They have yet to reach a final so it’s safe to say this is where the hard work really starts.