Manchester United 4 Real Betis 1
Manchester United have beaten Real Betis 4-1 in the first leg of our Europa League Round-of-16 clash.
Marcus Rashford opened the scoring for the Reds in the sixth minute, with a rifling strike that flew past Claudio Bravo in emphatic fashion. Despite an excellent start by United, our goal would be cancelled out just after the half-hour mark due to the on-loan Ayoze Perez firing across David De Gea into the bottom corner.
Erik ten Hag's men proved too strong for our Spanish opposition in the second half, though. Antony restored our lead with a trademark effort that curled beyond a stranded Bravo, who could only watch as it hit the top corner. Minutes later, Bruno Fernandes got in on the act from Luke Shaw's corner. Our no.8 wasn't picked up as he wandered into the area, heading home to make it 3-1 on the night.
The final goal fell to Wout Weghorst, scoring his first in front of the Old Trafford faithful. Second-half subsitute Facundo Pellistri was at the heart of the move, originally teeing up Scott McTominay whose shot was saved by Bravo, but Weghorst buried the rebound to complete an impressive 4-1 victory.
The Reds will therefore take a three-goal advantage to Spain next week for the second leg of this enthralling encounter.
Ten Hag’s men started tonight’s encounter with a sign of real intent, flooding forward inside the first minute and winning a corner, though Shaw’s teasing ball into the box couldn’t find a team-mate. Weghorst looked to have opened the scoring for United five minutes in, but Fred – who teed up the Dutchman – was deemed to be offside in the build-up to the chance.
Just a minute later, however, Rashford’s rifling strike ensured that we established an early lead. In a sweeping move that started in our own half, the Reds were quick to emerge up field. Fernandes’s pass into the box was deflected into the path of our no.10, who showed great composure to make room for himself before unleashing a thumping effort into the roof of the net.
Weghorst was on the end of a handful of chances inside the opening 20 minutes, the first of which came from a sublime pass courtesy of Casemiro, but his diving header was collected comfortably by Bravo. Excellent work down the left bore witness to a trademark Shaw cut-back into the six-yard area, but Weghorst’s effort flew just past the post after a crucial block from the onrushing defender.
Both sides had the chance to take the lead before the half-time whistle, but for crucial interceptions at either end. Rashford set up Antony but the Brazilian’s effort was blocked. At the Stretford End, Perez was whiskers away from scoring for the second time when a flying block from Lisandro Martinez resulted in his effort hitting the post before it was cleared, leaving things all level at the break.
United came out for the second half with the desire to restore our lead and it would take just eight minutes from the restart for us to do exactly that. Fernandes picked up the ball centrally, before spraying a great pass out wide to Antony who deployed his signature move of cutting inside. Our no.21’s curling effort flew into the top corner – yet another sublime strike in front of the Stretford End.
Not content with just the single-goal lead, though, the Reds were quick to add another. This time it was Fernandes who found himself on the scoresheet, with a bullet header from an undetected run to finish off Shaw’s corner. Ten Hag’s men had re-established the team's dominance, and the renewed confidence was nearly reflected in a brilliant team goal but for the end product. An intricate passing move saw the ball end up in the path of Antony, but his chip over Bravo landed on the roof of the net.
Just as they have done so many times this season, the boss’s substitutes played a big part in crafting our a goal, our fourth of the evening. This time it was Pellistri whose bursting run – 14 seconds into his introduction – saw him pull the ball back to fellow substitute McTominay, but the Scotsman had his effort saved well by Bravo. Weghorst was the quickest to react and made no mistake from close range to bag his first home goal for us.
Despite a comfortable lead late on, we continued to pepper the visitors' goal but to no avail. Still, the Reds have a healthy lead to take to Spain, where we will look to finish off the job and book a place in the last eight of the competition.
United: De Gea; Dalot (Wan-Bissaka 45), Varane, Martinez, Shaw (Malacia 65); Casemiro, Fred (McTominay 82); Antony (Pellistri 82), Fernandes (c), Rashford (Sancho 65); Weghorst.
Unused substitutes: Heaton, Butland, Lindelof, Maguire, Elanga, Garnacho, Mainoo.
Goals: Rashford 6; Antony 52; Fernandes 58; Weghorst 82.
Bookings: Weghorst 56; Fernandes 68.
Real Betis: Bravo; Sabaly, Pezzella, Luiz Felipe, Vinicius; Carvalho, Rodriguez (Guardado 66); Luis Henrique (Ruibal 59), Joaquin (Canales 59), Juanmi (Jose 80); Perez (Iglesias 65).
Unused substitutes: Perez, Edgar, Gonzalez, Ruiz, Silva, Rodri, Martin, Miranda.
Goals: Perez 32.
After a commanding victory from Ten Hag's men, here's what they are saying on social media...
This response was much needed. See you guys at Old Trafford on the weekend! pic.twitter.com/NZkw686eJB— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) March 9, 2023
this is how we do it! 👊🏼— Facu Pellistri (@FPellistri07) March 9, 2023
come on Manchester United! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/RzADwfC5Nx
Great response from the team today against a tough opponent.— Diogo Dalot (@DalotDiogo) March 9, 2023
Good result to take us to the second leg 💪🏻✅
Thank you Old Trafford! 🔴⚫️ pic.twitter.com/u05tGgjo9C
Great performance and win 💪🏼 pic.twitter.com/mQdciXd6q4— Bruno Fernandes (@B_Fernandes8) March 9, 2023
A strong performance in Europe 🔴 pic.twitter.com/7QkPCOicPe— David de Gea (@D_DeGea) March 9, 2023