The past week had not been great for Manchester United and its fans, after the team went to Anfield and suffered a catastrophic 7-0 loss to bitter rival Liverpool in the English Premier League. Erik ten Hag’s side had to endure a tormenting few days, before they march onto the field again and face Spanish La Liga side Real Betis in the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 at home. The Red Devils looked forward to bounce back from their embarrassing defeat to Kop last time out on Sunday in this match, and produced a solid performance to see off their Spanish opponent 4-1 after 90 minutes plus added time.
United Named an Unchanged Line-Up
Surprising to many, Manchester United’s 53-year-old Dutch head coach made a bold move to field an unchanged starting line-up that was humiliated by the Reds in the previous game while former Manchester City boss Manual Pellegrini went for major arrangements to his Real Betis side that held Real Madrid to a goalless draw last weekend, with five changes coming in for this cup tie at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils settled their nerves quickly and scored the first goal of the evening within the opening six minutes. Bruno Fernandes’ cross was repelled by the Real Betis backline, but Marcus Rashford was there to round his defender to score past goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. The first blood was the England international’s 26th goal in 41 appearances in all competitions for his club.
Then, in the 32nd minute, Los Verdiblancos equalised through Ayoze Pérez. The 29-year-old Spanish forward was left unmarked on the right flank, and his shot rolled into the far post. Betis had a chance to go ahead two minutes before the first added time, after David de Gea’s sloppy short pass was intercepted by Juanmi, but Pérez’s deflected effort came off the woodwork and United was relieved not to concede another before half time.
Wand of a left foot 🪄 pic.twitter.com/JIxa6NvVLb
— 433 (@433) March 9, 2023
Devils Hit Three in the Second Period
Man United regained its advantage seven minutes after the restart, when Bruno found Antony around the right wing, and the Brazilian flanker positioned himself to hit the ball with his favourite left foot. The ball fell cleanly into the back of the net at the far corner, leaving Bravo absolutely stranded. Ten Hag’s men increased their margin of the lead via Bruno, who was involved in the previous two United goals. Left-back Luke Shaw’s corner delivery in the 58th minute was met with a charging header by Fernandes, and the unguarded midfielder went on to double the home side’s lead.
Manchester United’s margin of victory could have gone larger, had the team not wasted the many chances it had after its third goal. Antony was cleared in the 63rd minute, but his chip went just over the bar. The replay showed that the 23-year-old State of São Paulo-born player could have squared the ball to the middle and find Wout Weghorst before the empty goal, but the Brazilian chose to go for goal instead. Weghorst had an opportunity of his own 13 minutes later, but the Dutchman could not manage a clean volley after that ball was bounced to his feet. Antony then missed another precious moment in the 79th minute, with Bravo there saving the day for Betis.
Erik ten Hag’s side finally get its fourth of the evening, when Bruno’s set-piece cross found substitute Facundo Pellistri in the central area, before the persistent Uruguayan winger drove to the right side and burst into the penalty box, before firing a pass to another replacement Scott McTominay. The Scottish’s shot was too much for Bravo as the Chilean cannot get hold of it, and the ball fell just before Weghorst to score his first ever Old Trafford goal in front of the roaring home fans at the Stretford End. United ended the game as the 4-1 winner and will be bringing the healthy lead to Spain next week for the second leg of this cup tie.
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Southampton at Home Next
Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United will remain at home to welcome Rubén Sellés’ Southampton to Old Trafford on Sunday for a Premier League clash. The Red Devils are set to regroup and go back to winning ways in the league when they play the second-last Saints, whom they defeated with a 1-0 score line last time around in August 2022.
Weghorst missing chance after chance meant United need to solve its centre-forward problem quickly, do you think Harry Kane should leave Tottenham Hotspur and join Manchester United to provide better finishing for the team? Tell us more in the comment section.