Edinson Cavani shows his worth as United ease into Europa League last four

Uruguayan striker on target as Red Devils too good for Granada
Edinson Cavani shows his worth as United ease into Europa League last four

Manchester United's Edinson Cavani celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the Europa League, quarter-final, second leg win over Granada at Old Trafford. Picture: AP Photo/Dave Thompson

Manchester United 2 Granada 0 

(United win 4-0 on agg)

Edinson Cavani’s rich vein of form continued with the decisive goal that assured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of the most routine of passages into yet another semi-final.

For the second successive year, Manchester United reached the last four of the Europa League - to go with appearances in the semis of last season’s FA and Carabao Cups and a return to the semis of the latter in the current campaign.

Four semi-final appearances in the past 16 months and, of course, four defeats so far. Solskjaer is all too conscious of the need for him to start delivering silverware to Old Trafford and this season’s Europa League - and a potential Final meeting against Arsenal - looks as good a chance as he will get.

Certainly, Uruguay veteran Cavani appears in the mood to aid Solskjaer in that aim, given his performance here and the weekend win at Spurs, and if, as appears increasingly likely, he leaves United this summer after a one-season stint, a European winner’s medal is not out of the question.

Cavani struck in lethal fashion early, volleying in expertly from a dozen yards after Paul Pogba had guided Mason Greenwood’s cross into his path with a magnificent and intelligent headed assist.

United would actually double their lead in the 90th minute, when Juan Mata met an Alex Telles cross and his glancing header flew in off the shoulder of Granada defender Jesus Vallejo.

But it had been that opening goal after five minutes that removed any hint of drama from proceedings, as good as guaranteed United’s semi-final berth and soon meant that the fate of Pogba was the only element of vague interest in the second leg tie.

Having played such a key role in Cavani’s goal, Pogba was far less impressive when he picked up a yellow card, with only 16 minutes gone, for a flailing arm to the face of Granada captain German Sanchez.

It left Pogba facing virtually the entire game on a yellow and, presumably, had Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thinking back to earlier this season when he made a similar gamble that backfired and saw Fred sent off in a 3-1 defeat at PSG.

Sure enough, five minutes later, Pogba could easily have been sent off himself, for a foul on Yangel Herrera and, by the interval, his manager had seen enough and took off his star, rather than run the risk of having him suspended for the semi.

At least Pogba’s indiscipline allowed Solskjaer to give some game time to Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek, the £40 million Dutch signing who has started just two Premier League games this season.

But that was just about the biggest concern that faced the United manager who must now deal with the much taller order in trying to end his wretched run of form in semi-finals.

First, there were the formalities to go through last night and, in fact, Herrera could have made United pay for their failure to follow up the opening goal with other first half chances and, indeed, by the 20-minute mark, Herrera had seen three glorious chances come his way.

The Venezuelan midfielder, on loan from Manchester City, headed wide from 10 yards, shot over from the edge of the area and then placed a diving header off-target - three chances and three goals being what the Spanish side now needed to come back and beat United.

Veteran Jorge Molina carried on in that vein early in the second half, nodding a cross from substitute Luis Suarez straight at David de Gea, while Greenwood did likewise at the other end, from a van de Beek cross which was slightly behind him.

Cavani, scorer now of nine United goals and keen for double figures, showed great movement to ghost away form his marker and glance a header just wide, while van de Beek’s 20-yard shot also whistled past the Granada post by inches.

There was a last, good Granada chance, from which Victor Diaz forced a solid save out of de Gea, but by then, Solskjaer had sensibly decided to rest Cavani with United firmly on auto-pilot.

MAN UNITED (4-2-3-1): de Gea 6; Wan-Bissaka 6 (Williams 82), Tuanzebe 7, Lindelof 6, Telles 7; Fred, Matic 6; Greenwood 8 (Diallo 82), Fernandes 7 (Mata 73, 6), Pogba 6 (van de Beek 45, 7); Cavani 7 (James 60, 6).

GRANADA (4-2-3-1): Silva 6; Foulquier 6, Vallejo 6, Sanchez 7 (Perez 82), Neva 6 (V Diaz 75, 5); Montoro 6, Gonalons 5 (Molina 31, 5); Kenedy 6 (R Diaz 45, 6), Herrera 8, Machis 6; Soldado 5 (Suarez 45, 6).

Referee: I Kovacs (Romania) 7

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox