Marcus Rashford’s 27th goal of the year gave Manchester United a 1-0 victory in Spain, advancing them easily into the quarterfinals of the Europa League with a 5-1 overall victory over Real Betis.
With a magnificent long-range strike just before the hour mark, Rashford broke the draw and put an end to Betis’ chances of an unlikely comeback. Up until that point, the Spanish side had appeared to be the more deadly.
Betis nearly took an early lead through Juanmi, but the attacker missed the net when in a great position to score as United struggled to maintain control in the first half. After United wilted under the initial Betis onslaught, Joaquin, 41, diverted a shot and it also struck the upright.
Rashford put a terrible miss behind him to put the final touches on United’s victory as they advance in the Europa League in search of a second trophy this year, but wastefulness from Manuel Pelligrini’s former Man City team allowed United to weather the storm and advance.
On Friday, March 17, at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, the draw for the Europa League quarterfinals will take place at 12 p.m. UK time. There will also be a draw for the semifinals.
Man Utd: De Gea (7), Wan-Bissaka (6), Maguire (7), Martinez (7), Malacia (6); Casemiro (7), Fred (6); Fernandes (7), Pellistri (6), Weghorst (6), Rashford (7).
Subs: Sancho (6), Lindelof (6), Elanga (6), Dalot (6), Sabitzer (6).
Player of the match: Marcus Rashford.
- Facundo Pellistri started his first Manchester United game as Erik ten Hag made four changes from the side that drew 0-0 against Southampton on Sunday.
- Captain Harry Maguire was restored to the starting line-up as he and Tyrell Malacia came in for Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw in defence.
- Marcel Sabitzer returned from injury to make the bench, before coming on in the second half.
How Man United beat Betis in Spain by a slim margin
Under heavy pressure from Betis, United made a hasty mistake as they looked for an early goal to cut the aggregate deficit. In eight minutes, Juanmi received a golden opportunity to score when he was passed through on goal, but he missed the goal with his shot.
Joaquin’s long-range attempt hit the post, forcing De Gea, who struggled in possession, to be alert, and he had to be quick off his line to stop Juanmi when United were caught in behind again after 30 minutes. Despite having the visitors on the ropes for the whole of the half, fifth-placed Betis in LaLiga was unable to capitalize.
Facundo Pellistri’s goal in stoppage time could have given United a 1-0 lead despite being outplayed in the opening period. However, the shot hit the post and bounced out. Wout Weghorst, who was advancing, could have given United the advantage if he had connected with the ball.
Betis continued where they left off, but they weren’t able to get better in front of goal. As Rashford was fed by Bruno Fernandes in the area, United started to gain control and came close to scoring, but the team’s leading scorer was unable to beat Betis goalkeeper Rui Silva from close range.
Only two minutes later, Rashford uncharacteristically mishandled the ball when he had Silva to beat and was in on goal after a wobble took it away from him. But he immediately recovered from the humiliation and broke Betis’ determination by scoring with a spectacular long-range strike.
When Rashford’s strike increased United’s advantage over Spain to four goals overall, the Spanish team fell flat, but Juanmi still had time to blow another fine opportunity in the dying minutes. Despite playing poorly at the Benito Villamarin, United prevailed in the match at Old Trafford a week earlier.
Ten Hag was “very thrilled” with Pellistri’s debut for Manchester United.
“I am glad, but we like challenges, and we knew that Betis is a good squad, we saw it against Real Madrid and Barcelona,” Man Utd manager Erik ten Hag said to BT Sport. But, we defeated them twice, so I believe we did a great job.
“I believe we should have taken the lead, but there were a few lapses in our defensive transition and rest defense where they could have broken. We have to prevent that, maintain better ball control, and make use of the midfield overload. Not always did we do it.
The second half was considerably better, but they too ran out of steam, especially after conceding the first goal. We were considerably calmer, far better on the ball, kept the ball in the opponent’s half, and made a lot more successful passes.
In response to a question regarding Pellistri’s performance during his first United start, he added: “All the guys played very well, the people that come in can do a job and deliver fantastic performances so we not just have 11 players, we have a squad. It’s nice to have Facundo back; he made some positive statements and had some solid performances in practice, but a game is different.
Maguire: I’m doing my part on and off the field
Man Utd captain Harry Maguire, who started against Betis after spending the last three games as a substitute, says “I’m doing my part on and off the field” despite reduced minutes under Erik ten Hag this season.
He told BT Sport: “It’s been a good two games over the two legs. Betis are a good team, they’re fifth in LaLiga. We knew it wouldn’t be an easy draw.
“They came at us and threw everything at us, but we expected a fast start from them. We knew if we didn’t concede in the first 20 minutes it would have been a big part of the game well done.
“In the second half we controlled the game really well, we got the goal we deserved and after that we played well.”
Asked about his reduced minutes this season, Maguire added: “Listen, I work hard at training and that’s all you can do. It’s not been too long since my last game it was only a couple of weeks ago. And I’ve started five or six games since the World Cup.
“Obviously I want to play more and start more but I’m doing my part on and off the field.
“I have an important role at this club and every day I try and make this club succeed whether I’m playing or not.”
Opta stats: Man Utd’s unbeaten run in Spain continues
- Manchester United are unbeaten in their last seven European away games against Spanish sides, winning five (D2). They’d only won three of their first 26 such games in all European competition (D11 L12).
- Real Betis have lost both legs of a European knockout tie for the first time since 1997-98, when they lost 2-1 at home and 3-1 away to Chelsea in the quarter-final of the Cup Winners’ Cup.
- Manchester United have won more games in all competitions than any other side in Europe’s big five leagues this season (32), while only Barcelona (22) have kept more clean sheets than the Red Devils (21).
- Casemiro provided his sixth assist of the season in all competitions for Manchester United, his highest tally in a single campaign for a side in the big five European leagues.
- Man Utd’s Bruno Fernandes has created 122 chances for team-mates in all competitions this season (including four tonight), at least 19 more than any other Premier League player.
When are the quarter-finals?
The first legs of the quarter-finals will be played Thursday April 13.
The second legs will be played Thursday April 20.
When are the semi-finals?
The first legs of the semi-finals will be held on May 11, and the second legs on May 18.
When is the final?
The final takes place on May 31 at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, Hungary.
Manchester United host Fulham on Sunday in the FA Cup quarter-finals in their final game before the international break.