(Photo by 1919021/Pixabay)
Manchester United have been drawn with Spanish giant-killers Granada in the Europa League quarter-finals, with the first leg to be played on April 8.
After defeating AC Milan in the quarterfinals at San Siro with a single goal, United reach the last eight, where they'll face Granada, who are making their debut. The La Liga side reached the last 16 of this competition by defeating Napoli and beating Molde in the round of 16.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits Manchester United's Europa League quarter-final clash with Granada will be 'difficult', despite the La Liga club being newcomers to European football.
As a seventh-place finisher in the Spanish top flight in 2019/20, the Andalusian club qualified for Europe for the first time, and have so far defeated PSV Eindhoven, Napoli, Molde and others to make it this far.
In light of this, the Norwegian says, the Nazaríes is a team to be wary of, especially as they have knocked off Sevilla and Real Sociedad, sides United knows well, this season.
“Well, 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! [Smiles]
Even though they lost 2-1 at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, where the game had to be played because of coronavirus restrictions in Norway, Granada defeated the Norwegians 3-2 on aggregate.
In his remarks, Solskjaer explained that his meetings with Molde would assist in United’s opposition analysis of the southern Spaniards, who are eighth in the La Liga standings.
“Yeah I’ll ring them and get the reports as well, but we’ll do our own homework.”
“I know that the analysis side and the scouting side in Molde do a very thorough job as well and I’ll watch those two games back of course because I just want to see Molde play again as well!
“It’s the first time they [Granada] are in Europe and of course it’s a new experience for them and hopefully we can end it here.
“They’re a good side and we know that, as I said, technically the Spanish teams are so good and we’ve got to be so good defensively to win the ball off them.”
Like their Round of 32 tie against Granada’s compatriot, Real Sociedad, United will play the first leg away before hosting the second leg at Old Trafford a week later.
Despite general wisdom that suggests the home game should come second, Solskjaer is being proactive and looking forward to his team performing at its best in Spain on 8 April.
“Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s just important that you get goals. Away goals of course are important and we want a good starting point from the first game."
The quarterfinals will be played on April 8, with returns on April 15, while the semifinals will take place on April 29, and the final will be played in Gdansk on May 26.
While United will fancy themselves as favourites to lift the Europa League trophy, but before that time comes, they have a chance to progress to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, if they can overcome Leicester City this weekend.
"Trophies can hide sometimes what you’re doing in the background but for me, I feel we’re improving all the time and getting closer. To win a trophy could be a boost for everyone, yes, it would be… We’ve had this before, when we won the Carling Cup in 2006 with Nemanja [Vidic] and Patrice [Evra] and it was the first of many [trophies]. We feel, or we hope, a trophy can be a catalyst of more to come.”
“The belief and the attitude is there. I have to say I’m impressed by the way they recover for each game, because it’s relentless. They are preparing at the highest, highest level. It’s not like we’ve had any gimmes in the draws. Every game has been one where you have to dig deep to win. This is another one, Leicester away. Of course, we drew in the league against them and we know we have to defend well against them. They’ve got [Jamie] Vardy and [Kelechi] Iheanacho, with the form they’re showing, and they’ve got quality in other players, the passes of [Youri] Tielemans, the runs of [Ayoze] Perez. So we know we’ve got a game on our hands,” concluded the manager.
EUROPA LEAGUE QUARTER-FINAL DRAW
Granada v Manchester United
Arsenal v Slavia Prague
Ajax v Roma
Dinamo Zagreb v Villarreal
Granada/Manchester United v Ajax/Roma
Dinamo Zagreb/Villarreal v Arsenal/Slavia Prague