How did Pellestri fare on his first start?
Facundo Pellistri can be well pleased with his first senior start for Manchester United, as he helped the Reds win 1-0 at Real Betis.
Erik ten Hag's side sealed a convincing 5-1 aggregate success to clinch a place in Friday's Europa League quarter-final draw.
The boss decided to hand Pellistri a spot in the side, in place of Antony, who missed out due to illness, as a reward for his impressive contribution in training and it was clear the 21-year-old was never going to let anyone down as he produced a promising display, almost capped by a goal as he hit the woodwork in the closing stages of the first half, and played the full 90 minutes.
Pellistri was involved in the first action of the evening, charging down the right after a few seconds, only to overhit his cross slightly and see it drift beyond the far post. It was a show of intent, though, as he looked to position himself very wide, hugging the touchline like an old-fashioned winger, but his next attempt at a run ended with him being crowded out.
There could have been a glorious opportunity for the South American when Marcus Rashford overhit a through pass, as he streaked in behind the defence, but some of his work was less heralded, completing a couple of simple passes to Bruno Fernandes, one despite being barged in the back. An example of his defensive nous was provided when he robbed Aitor Ruibal to nudge the ball back to Tyrell Malacia and, as the home side started to get on top, he appeared to move inside more often, again finding Fernandes on a couple of occasions, the second of which led to a chance that Rashford chested goalwards from an offside position.
After he latched onto a Casemiro pass, he was held up by Edgar Gonzalez and the youngster then slipped as he attempted a pass to Wout Weghorst, and then saw another ball cut out when looking for a one-two. There was incredulity when he did well to combine with Fred but slipped and, despite clearly kicking the ball clear, was booked for catching Guido Rodriguez, surely only because of the complaints from the Betis players.
Much of his probing was intricate, trying for neat, swift passes on the edge of the box, and one cross was cut out at the near post comfortably by keeper Rui Silva, with the flag up again in any case. After being outmuscled, and not earning a foul, when latching on to a Harry Maguire header out, he was unable to reach a swerved pass by Fernandes but he regained his momentum.
Keeping possession wisely, when feeding Casemiro, he was awarded a free-kick when Bruno hooked the ball to him, and then did well to complete a one-two with Casemiro and won the ball back to keep it in our hands by finding Fernandes. The key moment for Facundo came in the second minute of stoppage time in the first half. A Fernandes free-kick fell to him and he did well to catch it on the bounce but the ball hit the inside of a post, with Weghorst unable to get a touch to divert it home.
After the interval, his first real involvement was a daring one, nutmegging Miranda and just about getting a shot away, but, under pressure and off balance, it was never going to get near the goal.
Pellistri was heavily involved in creating a big chance when beating Juanmi and passing to Fernandes, who squared it to Rashford, only for Rui Silva to make the save. The Uruguayan started to impose himself as the spaces opened up in the Betis half, moving into the right-back position to ferry it up to Aaron Wan-Bisaka and, once again, feeding Fernandes.
After Rashford's goal, the former Penarol man operated centrally for a spell, virtually alongside Weghorst up front, before reverting to a wide role. Miranda should have been booked for tugging his shirt, with the referee eventually awarding a free-kick, and he continued to perform with confidence. When controlling a pass by Jadon Sancho, he played it just a little behind the onrushing Marcel Sabitzer, but he showed defensive diligence in knocking a long ball back to David De Gea, following a Miranda header away.
By now, he was playing with the same level of control as his team-mates, working a great opening for Diogo Dalot, only for the substitute's cross to be blocked, and releasing Sancho, although the forward was clearly offside. As the clock ticked on, the South American nonchalantly kept the ball by picking out Harry Maguire and then Fernandes, as United eased our way to a comfortable two-legged success.
With four minutes to go, he completed a series of passes, even if we ultimately lost possession, when Weghorst was unable to keep hold of a difficult ball, but his evening's work was rounded off with a defensive header inside his box, ensuring he is likely to earn the thanks of his manager afterwards.
In our post-match assessment, former United forward Danny Webber told MUTV: "I thought he [Pelli] was great. He could have had more end product, at times, but this will be invaluable for him, playing a game of this magnitude, with something on the line. He'll take a lot from it. There is loads more to come from him."