Both teams have had different routes to the last eight of the Europa League, but it’s fair to say that they are both deserving of their places in this stage of the competition.
Manchester United dropped to the Europa League after finishing third in their Champions League group. Granada, meanwhile, came through the group stage of the Europa League before impressively eliminating Napoli and Molde in the Round of 32 and Round of 16, respectively.
For a club that was semi-professional and in the lower tier of Spanish football only 15 years ago, it’s a great achievement that Granada will now face Manchester United in their debut season in the continent.
Manchester United cannot underestimate Granada.
The bookmakers have tipped Manchester United as huge favourites for this clash. On paper, the Reds look superior and have better players compared to Granada.
However, the game is never short of surprises, and it will be a big mistake for Manchester United to underestimate their opponents. Granada have been very impressive in the La Liga this season, punching above their weight.
They currently occupy eighth place in the Spanish top flight and are serious candidates to secure a top-six finish. Moreover, their record in the Europa League this season suggests they'll be no pushovers.
Granada have already beaten Napoli this season, and Barcelona needed extra-time to defeat the Europa League quarter-finalists in the Copa del Rey. Everything suggests that the Spanish side are tough customers and can be underestimated by Manchester United at their own peril.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in desperate need of a trophy
Earlier in the week, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer downplayed Manchester United’s need to win a trophy.
Speaking ahead of the Reds’ Europa League Round of 16 second leg game against AC Milan, the Norwegian said that winning trophies was not a direct indication of a team's progress.
“I’ve been here for two-and-a-half years and, coming in, as I’ve said so many times, I felt a big rebuild had to be made,” Solskjaer said, as quoted by Goal. In the league position, you see if there’s any progress. For me, that’s always the bread and butter of the season that you see how capable you are of coping with ups and downs. Any Cup competition can give you a trophy, but sometimes it’s more of an ego thing for other managers and clubs to finally win something,” observed Solskjaer.
While Manchester United have made progress under Solskjaer, the lack of trophies is beginning to be concerning. The Norwegian is managing a big club that has won trophies in the past.
It is, therefore, unacceptable to welcome mediocrity. No matter the progress they've made, Manchester United need to start winning trophies, and the Europa League this season presents them that opportunity.
If the Reds beat Granada, they will face either AS Roma or Ajax in the semi-final. These will be tough fixtures, but Manchester United have enough in their tank to navigate their way through.
Solskjaer may not admit it, but the Norwegian is in desperate need of a trophy to boost his stock at Old Trafford. He can achieve just that by winning the 2020-21 Europa League.