Manchester United 4-1 Real Betis: Antony and Fernandes help steer United back on track
Manchester United got back on track with a 4-1 victory over Real Betis in the first leg of their Europa League round of 16 clash at Old Trafford.
Just days after humiliation at the hands of Liverpool, an unchanged United side responded fiercely to put one foot in the quarter-finals.
It was not all plain sailing for Erik ten Hag’s side though, with Ayoze Perez equalising in the first half after Marcus Rashford gave the hosts an early need.
A strong second half put United in control though, as Antony guided home a trademark curler and Bruno Fernandes headed home to ensure a firm lead.
United came out of the blocks flying and, having already seen a Weghorst goal disallowed for offside, took the lead in the sixth minute as Rashford capped off a fine counter-attack to smash into the top corner.
Claudio Bravo was called into action to deny Weghorst and Rashford, before Betis equalised against the run of play when Juanmi clipped a pass to Leicester City loanee Perez, who drilled into the far corner and give David de Gea no chance.
Two minutes before the break, the visitors almost took the lead. De Gea sloppily gave the ball away to Juanmi, who fed a pass through to Perez, but United got away with it as his pass across the face of goal was deflected onto the post by Lisandro Martinez.
United retook the lead seven minutes after the restart, Antony cutting inside onto his left foot and curling beyond the reach of Bravo from outside the box.
The hosts’ advantage was doubled just six minutes later, Fernandes finding space at the near post to head Luke Shaw’s corner home despite Bravo getting both hands to the ball.
Bravo kept the scoreline respectable with a number of crucial saves but could do nothing as Weghorst tucked home on the rebound after Scott McTominay’s effort was saved, with United on course for the quarter-finals.
What does it mean? United respond in style
A torrid few days for United in the aftermath of Sunday’s defeat at Anfield led to plenty of questions about how Ten Hag’s side would respond and whether the result would derail what has been a decent debut season for the Dutchman.
The response was emphatic, having the ball in the net twice inside the opening six minutes, while managing to keep level-headed after Betis’ equaliser and seeing the LaLiga outfit strike the post.
While the second half against Liverpool was cataclysmic, it was the opposite at Old Trafford, with an assault on Bravo’s net that should provide enough of an advantage for next week’s trip to Seville.
United’s opening goal through Rashford was United’s 12th through fast situations in all competitions this season, more than any other side from Europe’s top-five leagues, with Rashford scoring six of them.
The strike took Rashford to 26 in all competitions this season, behind only Kylian Mbappe (30) and Erling Haaland (33), having scored 15 goals in 18 starts since the World Cup break.
Betis’ European woes
Defeat for Betis leaves the Seville club with just one victory in their last seven knockout matches in the Europa League (D3 L3), with a sole win in that run coming in February 2022 against Zenit St Petersburg.
In the competition, their three knockout victories all-time have come away from home – which does not bode well for next week’s return fixture.
United host Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday, while Betis are on the road against Villarreal on the same day.