Real Betis 0 Manchester United 1
Manchester United are into the quarter-finals of the Europa League after beating Real Betis 5-1 on aggregate.
A frantic, end-to-end second leg would see both goalkeepers playing key roles, but, ultimately, it was a stunning strike from Marcus Rashford that would prove to be the difference-maker tonight.
Erik ten Hag’s side are now into the hat for the next round, with the draw scheduled to take place on Friday at 12:00 GMT.
Both United and Betis were welcomed into a roaring Estadio Benito Villamarin in Seville, and while the hosts were the side in need of a fast start, it was the Reds who surged forward from the first whistle. Facundo Pellistri, in his first start for the senior side, saw his cross float just over where Rashford was waiting. The pair were involved again a few minutes later, this time it was Rashford looking to play in the young Uruguayan but Rui Silva was quick off his line to gather the ball.
Despite a strong statement from Ten Hag’s men, Betis grew into the game and began to carve out chances going forward in search of a potentially game-changing opener in the first 10 minutes. Arguably the best of those fell to Juanmi; the first saw a heavy touch force him wide, before cushioning an effort beyond David De Gea that bounced just outside the post. The second came from a brilliant defence-splitting pass on the half-hour mark, but our no.1 read the situation well and was quick on his feet to deny Betis’ no.7. Joaquin was also unlucky with a fierce drive that clipped the outside of a post, with a corner awarded, presumably for the slightest of touches off Casemiro.
Although the Reds engineered a comfortable aggregate lead coming into the second leg in Seville, the first 45 minutes proved to be a frantic, end-to-end affair in true knockout fashion as both sides sought the opening goal. In the minutes leading up to the break, the home side tested the United defence but our back four were resolute. Frustratingly, we failed to score in the last action of the game as Wout Weghorst couldn’t quite get on the end of Pellistri’s scuffed shot, before a thumping clearance was met by the whistle to signal half-time with the score at 0-0 on the night.
The second half picked up where the first left off, with an electric atmosphere and enthralling action from both the hosts and visitors. Rashford saw a huge chance saved by Rui Silva, before De Gea’s point-blank save denied Ayoze Perez a goal for Betis, fisting it away to safety. Minutes later, a sublime move from the Reds saw the ball fall to Rashford once again, but our no.10 uncharacteristically blazed his effort over.
Rashford needed mere seconds to make up for those missed efforts, though. Picking the ball up on the edge of the area, the England international, named in Gareth Southgate's latest squad earlier today, unleashed a powerful, winding effort that moved ferociously in the air before settling into the bottom corner of Rui Silva’s goal for the opening goal of the second leg.
With a four-goal lead on aggregate, Ten Hag turned to his bench for fresh legs to see out the win away from home. Marcel Sabitzer had an almost instant impact, just five minutes after his introduction, when he was on the end of a great pass from Bruno Fernandes, but the Austrian was denied by the Betis keeper.
Our opener seemed to deflate the hopes of the Spanish outfit, with Manuel Pellegrini's side unable to create many clear-cut chances in the wake of it, despite some intricate play in and around the box. Meanwhile, the introduction of both Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga spurred us on, with the former put through on goal one-on-one with the goalkeeper in which Rui Silva got the better of our no.25, though the offside flag followed soon after.
The Reds saw out the game comfortably, resting some legs in the process, and will now feature in Friday's draw to determine the quarter-final ties for the competition, before welcoming Fulham to Old Trafford for the Emirates FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday.
Real Betis: Rui Silva; Sabaly, Pezzella, Gonzalez, Abner (Miranda 26); Carvalho, Rodriguez; Ruibal (Canales 59), Joaquin (Iglesias 59), Juanmi; A. Perez (Jose 59).
Unused substitutes: Bravo, Garreta, Martin, Rodri, Guardado, Henrique, Ruiz, D. Perez.
United: Dea Gea; Wan-Bissaka (Dalot 75), Maguire, Martinez (Lindelof 75), Malacia; Casemiro, Fred (Sabitzer 60); Pellistri, Fernandes (Elanga 68), Rashford (Sancho 60); Weghorst.
Unused substitutes: Butland, Heaton, Shaw, Varane, McTominay.
Goals: Rashford 55.
Bookings: Pellistri 29.