Manchester United 4-1 Real Betis: Erik ten Hag gets the response he wanted as Red Devils take control of Europa League last-16 tie with Anfield villain Bruno Fernandes scoring and starring
- Manchester United beat Real Betis 3-1 in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 clash at Old Trafford
- Marcus Rashford opened the scoring after six minutes with his 25th goal of the season to settle the nerves
- United were then pegged back before half time by the Spanish side thanks to Leicester loanee Ayoze Perez
- Second half goals from Antony and Bruno Fernandes and Wout Weghorst give United big lead in the tie
After the horrors of Anfield and a day that will never have been forgotten, Erik ten Hag would have taken this. Like the first glass of water to calm the hangover, recovery has begun.
Manchester United just needed to win here. A big score and a statement performance would have been perfect. They got the first if not quite the second. For a time after Real Betis equalised late in the first half, United looked vaguely uncertain. The Spanish team also hit the post during that period.
But a win was good enough and it was also deserved. United were the better team by a distance in the second half and two goals before the hour and a late one from the ever willing Wout Weghorst mean they head to Spain for next week’s second leg almost certain of a place in the next round of a competition they have every right to think they can win.
Only four days since that 7-0 defeat to Liverpool — it still sounds strange to say it — United were out the blocks quickly and led courtesy of a thumping Marcus Rashford shot in the sixth minute.
For a while it felt comfortable but when Ayoze Perez, on loan from Leicester, equalised just after the half hour and then struck a post, the night threatened to get a little nervy for United.
Manchester United got back to winning ways with a 4-1 win over Real Betis in their Europa League last-16 first leg clash
Marcus Rashford opened the scoring at Old Trafford after just six minutes as United went on to win the game 4-1
Wout Weghorst added the fourth goal with his first strike in eleven games and his first-ever goal for United at Old Trafford
Half-time came at a good time, though, and when the Brazilian Antony curled in a beauty at the Stretford End, it was soon followed by a header from captain Bruno Fernandes.
Both players had copped a little stick after Sunday’s shambles but both contributed well here. Fernandes was, on reflection, just about United’s best player on the night.
Same team but different start from Anfield. Here, with the crowd initially vocal and supportive, United were on top almost immediately and a goal up inside six minutes.
They survived a nervous moment inside their own penalty area as an overhit Diogo Dalot backpass caused some alarm for goalkeeper David de Gea.
But from there United swept upfield hungrily and when Bruno Fernandes crossed towards Rashford Betis defender Luiz Felipe could not clear properly and the United striker took a touch, moved inside and lashed yet another goal high into the net above goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
United needed that, it seemed. But what they also needed was to build on a perfect start. What they actually did, slowly and over the course of the first half, was regress and essentially invite the Spanish team back in to the game.
For a while United did continue to press. A lovely cross with the outside of the foot from Casemiro gave Weghorst a headed opportunity that he directed into Bravo’s arms.
Then a lovely low cross from the advancing left back Luke Shaw offered Weghorst another opportunity but his side-footed shot was deflected wide of the near post.
United were on top without being consistently dangerous. With Weghorst playing as a traditional centre forward with Rashford and the Brazilian Antony on either side, the United attack looked to have goals in it.
Betis were not without a threat of their own, though, and this was particularly the case when the Spanish forward Juanmi had the ball. The 29-year-old was ultimately to play an important role in the visitors’ equaliser.
It was a superb goal and just before half-time Betis almost had another. De Gea played a clearance straight to Juanmi under no pressure and when the ball was shifted to Perez his shot was deflected by Shaw and on to the far post.
It had taken only 10 minutes or so to quieten Old Trafford and for the opening moments of the second half United looked as uncertain as they had at any stage of the game. The fluency and certainty of their passing was absent.
On-loan Leicester City star Ayoze Perez did briefly get the Spanish side back into the game by equalising before the break
Antony’s curling effort just six minutes after the break set United on their way to a win that they’ll take to Spain next week
Ten Hag’s team do have quality in some positions, though, and seven minutes into the second half it bubbled to the surface. Fernandes’ turn in centre field was neat as was his pass to Antony. The curling left foot shot that then found the far corner of the goal at the Stretford End was pretty much perfect.
Confidence and purpose restored, United pushed on. Six minutes later they had their third. United won a corner on the left and when Fernandes moved in unmarked he headed goalwards. Bravo should have saved it but didn’t, serving only to push the ball up and into the roof of the net.
United now had the opportunity to put the tie to bed. With more than half an hour to go, they were in total control of a game that had briefly threatened to slip away from them.
Chances then came and went for a period. Antony may have scored a second when played through beautifully by Fernandes. Weghorst then struck a shot down in to the ground and up in to Bravo’s hands.
With eight minutes left the Dutchman did get his goal, slamming the ball in from close range. His ecstatic celebration by the corner flag spoke volumes for what this outcome meant for him and indeed his team.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea, Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw (Malacia 65), Casemiro, Fred (McTominay 82), Antony (Pellistri 82), Fernandes, Rashford (Sancho 65), Weghorst
Subs not used: Lindelof, Maguire, Heaton, Wan-Bissaka, Butland, Elanga, Garnacho, Mainoo
Goalscorers: Rashford 6, Antony 52, Fernandes 58, Weghorst 82
Booked: Weghorst, Fernandes
Manager: Erik ten Hag
Real Betis (4-2-3-1): Bravo, Sabaly, Pezzella, Felipe, Abner, G Rodriguez (Guardado 65), Carvalho, Henrique (Ruibal 59), Joaquin (Caneles 59), Juanmi (Jose 80), Perez
Subs not used: Gonzalez, Ruiz, Iglesias, Rui Silva, Martin, Rodri, Miranda, Dani Perez
Goalscorers: Perez 32
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
Referee: Daniel Siebert
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