Real Betis 0, Manchester United 1 (Europa League, United win 5-1 on aggregate)
Marcus Rashford scored a second half goal to quell any thoughts of a Real Betis comeback as Manchester United won their Round of 16 Europa League tie.Embed from Getty Images
Europe’s second cup competition has to be a viable target for one of the hot favourites to win it as United target a guaranteed place in the Champions League if they lifted their second trophy of the season on May 31 in Budapest.
A towering lead from the first leg in Manchester last week still didn’t mean that United boss Erik Ten Hag would make wholesale changes to his side despite a 4-1 first leg lead. He made only two changes in the end.
United captain Harry Maguire made the most of a rare start for the Reds this term, praising his team’s performance even though he hasn’t always been able to contribute on the pitch.
He said: “It’s been a good two games, Betis are a good team – 5th in La Liga.
“We knew they would come at us in the first 20 minutes and expected a fast start from them.
“We conceded a few chances but had a few chances ourselves but in the second half we controlled the game well and got the goal we deserved and controlled the game after that.
“I’ve started five or six games since the World Cup but I’m playing my part on and off the field and I’ll do what I can to help this club succeed.”
And Erik Ten Hag was delighted with the performance .
“I’m happy but we lacked chances.
“We could have gone into the lead but they could have counter attacked us.
“We had to keep more control of the ball but we couldn’t always do it.
“We were much better on the ball in the second half. We kept the ball better and made them run.
“All the players did very well, any players who come in can do a job. It was great for Facundo Pellistri to come in after training well – I was really pleased with his performance.”
Casemiro and Fernandes escaped a booking in this game which would have meant a suspension going into the quarter finals and Ten Hag was delighted with his side’s application.
“No red cards and injuries this time! We have depth in our squad but it’s not that big.”
Facundo Pellistri makes his full debut for Manchester United and hits the post
Injury to Alejandro Garnacho meant that Facundo Pellistri made his full debut for the Reds while captain Harry Maguire made a rare start with Raphael Varane rested and Antony ill.
Casemiro might have been expected to get a rest too but a four match domestic ban meant that he would not appear for the Reds again after this game until mid April.
And United were made to work hard for their win on a night where Maguire was afforded scant protection from his team mates with their hosts on the hunt for the first goal in the first half.
Juanmi had two shots on goal, one went narrowly wide while David De Gea was called into action to make a brilliant save.
Evergreen Juaquin hit the post with a long range effort as the home side looked to open the scoring to get the comeback on.
Their chances slowly receded though and United should have taken the lead at the end of the first half when Bruno Fernandes’ free kick was hit against the left upright by Facundo Pellistri in first half injury time with Wout Weghorst unable to tap in the rebound.
United had failed to have a shot on target in the first half for the first time this season and Rashford needed three chances to score early in the second half to end the tie.
Marcus Rashford becomes youngest Englishman to reach 25 European goals with Manchester United
He had a shot saved by the Rui Silva before blazing over soon afterwards and then in the 56th minute hit his 27th goal of the season with a 25 yard rasper which went into the bottom right corner – arguably one of the harder chances he had on the night.
It was his 25th European goal for United, making him the youngest Englishman in history to reach that landmark at 25 years and 136 days.
Marcel Sabitzer and Jadon Sancho were introduced on the hour mark as Rashford got a well earned rest with Fred coming off too.
Sabitzer had a shot saved before Bruno Fernandes got a rest with Anthony Elanga replacing him after 68 minutes.
Weghorst was denied by Silva as the fight had all but drained away from the home side.
Lisandro Martinez and Aaron Wan-Bissaka were replaced by Victor Lindelof and Diogo Dalot with 15 minutes to go.
Sancho had a chance to make it 2-0 in the final 10 minutes but will have been glad to be belatedly flagged offside when he chose to go for glory and saw his shot saved by Rui Silva when Elanga was unmarked to his left and the Reds went on see out the win.