Manchester United have reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League without winning a home game in the competition this season, albeit having only entered after the group stage.
That is still consecutive home knockout games against Real Sociedad and AC Milan, ties which United obviously won overall on aggregate, without being victorious at Old Trafford. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have got to the last eight based on their ability to win away from home instead.
It is perhaps fortunate then that United’s first leg against quarter-final opponent Granada is being played in Spain. Two rounds ago, United ran out 4-0 winners on neutral soil in what should have been Real Sociedad’s home leg, before drawing 0-0 at Old Trafford.
On that occasion, the work was effectively already done at the halfway stage and there was no pressure on United to get a result at Old Trafford. The fact they didn’t is almost irrelevant but still felt like a bit of let-down from one of the favourites to lift the trophy.
Against Milan, the onus was on United to get a result in Manchester in the first leg. Instead, they were laboured, particularly in the first half – a pattern of so many games this season – and Milan were the better team and arguably deserved to win.
The visitors had one goal from Franck Kessie harshly ruled out for a questionable handball in the first half, before Amad Diallo eventually gave United the lead and Simon Kjaer snatched a late equaliser, which was the absolute least that Milan deserved.
That result and Milan’s away goal meant United were slightly on the back foot for the return leg and it was a returning Paul Pogba whose strike only three minutes after coming off the bench at half-time ultimately decided the closely fought tie. The first leg result meant the aggregate lead remained precarious until the final whistle eventually sounded at San Siro.
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Because the away leg is first, this Granada tie is more a repeat of Real Sociedad than Milan. But it would be to United’s advantage to put together a good performance in Spain and take a comfortable lead back to Old Trafford next week, rather than risk having to rely on a home result that hasn’t yet been forthcoming in the Europa League this season.