Chelsea against Manchester United is on television on Monday night, 8.45pm on Teledeporte, so here’s the question: who’s getting the food in? Andreas Pereira grins, nods to the right and thumbs in the direction of Victorien Angban. Sitting to the other side of him, Jérémie Boga agrees. “Him,” he says, smiling, signalling across the table. As for Victorien, he looks a little blank at first, which is not entirely surprising considering the question was asked in English, and then he starts giggling while the other two crack up. Again.

It is a big FA Cup tie and free-to-air in Spain, but that is not why they will be watching, or not the only reason: it is a game they aspire to appear in and soon. All three play for Granada in La Liga, but Angban and Boga, both 20, belong to Chelsea while Pereira, who is 21, is a United player. All of them, who get on well and converse in French, are here on loan. At the end of the season, they will return to England. For good, they hope, but they know the decision may not be theirs.

When Angban is asked who chose to come here, he replies: “Chelsea.” Boga says: “For me, it was both; it wasn’t just Chelsea.” The decision was logical and it helped to come together. Angban landed in London in 2015 from Ivory Coast and struggled at first; Boga had moved there from Marseille with his family and supported this young footballer suffering with the cold and alone. “In Africa, everything’s done with your family and I didn’t have mine: he and his family helped me,” Angban says. “They told me I’d go to Granada with Jeremie, so I knew I wouldn’t get bored.” Boga adds: “It’s good to have people helping you.”

Pereira explains the process in United’s case. “I spoke to Mourinho about it. I was honest with him and he was honest with me. I like this about him. He said: ‘If you stay, you’ll get a game, you’ll play in the cup’, but that’s not what I needed and he thought that as well, so it was better to go on loan. I told him I would go anywhere he thought fit. He would like me to go to Fulham but it didn’t go through and then I had this option. Spain is my kind of football, I was happy Granada were interested.

“The manager said: ‘Look, if you go there and play all season, that’s very important’. I wanted to feel what it is to play a whole season, have it in my legs, then come back. I didn’t want it to be: ‘You’re a young player going through the youth team’; I didn’t want that excuse. Now I’ve played 30 games, I have experience I can use in Manchester. When you’re young on the bench you can’t show yourself really. Here, I’m showing I am a good player, ready to play.”

They arrived with optimism but realism too. Angban talks about coming to a good championship and the way Granada’s ambitions were explained to him, while Boga says: “Chelsea is a very big club, but here the facilities are good. We’re footballers: we just play.” Pereira sees it as an education, citing the benefits of a club where things are harder – once you accept and assimilate your new reality.

He says: “When I came, I told myself: it’s not Manchester United. It’s a good club, a good league, but not the best in the world. At PSV we were always attacking and at United we always wanted the ball, then I came here and we’re defending. It’s hard to adapt, but it is good for me: I learnt a lot.

“I couldn’t defend at all,” he says smiling. “Now I’m a lot better. It’s a mental process and I would never have had this in Manchester. I know what it is now to have difficult games in a relegation team. I know what it is to have pressure for 80 minutes and then maybe in one counterattack need to score. Normally, it is the other way around at United.”

There is talent there, Granada’s coaching staff confirm. In terms of individual quality, Boga probably stands out, but he has to improve his decision-making to have more of an impact on games. Pereira is the most consistent and competitive, mature. Angban has the quality to make it, although language is a barrier and there is a belief that he needs more minutes to develop. “Minutes” is a recurring theme: that, above all, is what they came for but getting them has not been easy.

Their experiences have varied this season and before that. While Angban headed to Chelsea from Africa, a leap he describes as huge, Boga was born in Marseille to Ivorian parents before joining the London club at 12 and Pereira, the son of a Brazilian footballer, was born in Belgium. At Granada, Pereira has started 23 times as an attacking midfielder. Boga, whose preferred position is wide, has started 10, plus seven as a sub. A central midfielder, Angban has made three starts and has not played in 2017.

The three team-mates will have divided loyalties during Chelsea’s FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United.
The three team-mates will have divided loyalties during Chelsea’s FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United. Photograph: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images for the Observer

Back home they are taking note. Paulo Ferreira is in contact with the Granada manager, Lucas Alcaraz, as well as Boga and Angban. Pereira maintained regular communication with Warren Joyce, United’s under-23 coach before he left for Wigan. “He is busier now,” he says, but there have been conversations with Mourinho and fluid communication with Rui Faria. “That’s important for me. If no one said anything, I would feel a bit left alone,” Pereira says.

The news has not always been good. There was optimism to begin with, although the expectation was always that they would be in a relegation battle. Now, they are on the second coach of the season, Lucas Alcaraz’s profile the opposite of his predecessor, Paco Jemez, and the sporting director has been sacked.

The former Arsenal central defender Tony Adams is now in Granada, overseeing the club on behalf of their Chinese owner, John Jhiang, and his DDMC company, preparing the ground for a new sporting director. The team are in the bottom three.

Seventeen footballers joined Granada in the summer and a recent starting XI included 11 different nationalities. Communication has not been easy. This conversation, in English, French and Spanish, assisted by a member of staff, provides a glimpse of that. Here, and in the dressing room, Pereira is a godsend. Bright and articulate, he speaks English, French and Portuguese, plus Spanish now, as well as some Flemish. “I’m the translator,” he says, laughing.

Andreas Pereira ( left), Victorien Angban (centre) and Jérémie Boga in action for Granada this season.
Andreas Pereira ( left), Victorien Angban (centre) and Jérémie Boga in action for Granada this season. Composite: Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty Images

It is an international group and it is also a young and transient one. Of those 17 summer signings, 13 joined on loan. Is that problematic? Who cares about fighting relegation if you’re leaving anyway? “It is difficult for a club like Granada: a lot of loan players, a lot of nationalities, a language barrier at first,” Pereira concedes. “We try to be a team, even though I know I am going to leave, even though Angban and Boga are going back.

“For some players it can be a problem. It’s easy to think: ‘Ah, yeah, I’ll go back. Why should I run here?’ But it’s a mindset: if you can’t run here, you’re can’t go back to United and decide: ‘Now I’m going to do it.’ It doesn’t work like that: if you can’t give everything here you can’t at United.”

Boga puts it simply. “You have to play well here to go back there.”

Easier said than done and the questions always linger. What next? What does the future hold? What is a realistic goal? These are young men, talented, exciting footballers playing in arguably Europe’s strongest league, but they are also people who had already left home once and did so again this summer, still unsure where the game will take them next. On Monday, they will watch their parent team play not knowing if it will become their team or not.

Pereira made his senior debut for United in the League Cup in September 2015. Boga and Angban have yet to play for Chelsea’s first team and are two of 37 Chelsea players out on loan. Can they really aspire to get there or is Chelsea an apprenticeship for a professional career somewhere else, always useful on the CV? “It is difficult to say but for all loan players the main goal is to play for Chelsea,” Boga says. And what if at the end of the season, Chelsea say: “Go on loan again? “I don’t know …” he says. “I don’t ask this question in my head.”

Soon he will have to think about the next step, they all will. “I have thought about it,” says Pereira, who has one year left on his United contract after this. “I would love to go back and play at Old Trafford, but if they say: ‘Andreas, we would like to loan you out again,’ or ‘we don’t want you any more,’ I don’t know what I am going to do. But the focus now is Granada.”

“I want us to leave a good impression here, for people to remember us fondly and then go back to Chelsea next season,” Angban says. Boga adds: “The perfect ending is avoid relegation and maybe go back. I don’t know what happens next: we’ll see at the end. But the first thing is Granada survive.”