Opinion: Who will play in United’s attack against Real Betis?

Thursday 16 March 2023 11:00

Manchester United’s squad for this evening's Europa League clash against Real Betis is missing three forwards in Antony, Alejandro Garnacho and Anthony Martial.

Antony started Sunday’s 0-0 Premier League draw with Southampton, but missed out on the trip to Seville through illness. Garnacho came on in the second half as a substitute against the Saints and suffered an injury which has ruled him out of the next two United matches, at least.

Martial is working his way back to fitness, but Erik ten Hag has admitted he is being cautious with the Frenchman’s reintegration.

As we look ahead to the second leg of our Europa League last-16 tie, with the Reds holding a healthy 4-1 advantage from the first leg, it begs the question: who will be in United's attack at Benito Villamarin Stadium?

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Marcus Rashford and Wout Weghorst have both been deployed in the striker position this season, with the duo offering very different skillsets to the role.

Weghorst has also been utilised in the no.10 – a role usually occupied by Bruno Fernandes – with Bruno moving to the right wing, on occasion, to accommodate this.

Jadon Sancho’s return in February gives Erik further flexibility too, and our no.25 has played on both wings and also in the attacking-midfield position under the Dutchman this season.

In Sunday’s clash with the Saints, Fernandes began the match in a deeper midfield role alongside Casemiro – who was dismissed in the first half – to allow Sancho to start as the no.10.

With both Antony and Garnacho out of Thursday’s clash in Seville, Jadon may return to a wide role, with Rashford operating on the other flank and Weghorst spearheading the attack ahead of Fernandes as the no.10.

Of course, Wout could drop deeper with Marcus through the centre, should the boss have a desire to exploit the Betis defence with our no.10’s pace in behind.

He did this during our previous away clash in Spain – the first leg of the Europa League play-off against Barcelona – where Rashford lit up the Nou Camp.

Whichever attacking quartet Erik goes with this evening, it will likely be a moveable feast.

Matchday Q&A | Ten Hag on Real Betis (A) Video

Matchday Q&A | Ten Hag on Real Betis (A)

Erik looks ahead to this evening's second leg and insists our current injuries open the door for others to step up...

While Ten Hag has shown a reluctance to make wholesale changes to the personnel on the pitch, he has a knack for making slight tactical tweaks for specific opponents.

Whether that be using Fernandes deeper, Weghorst in the no.10, or even Luke Shaw at centre-back, the Dutchman isn’t afraid to do the unexpected.

The tactics Erik deployed in the triumphant first leg worked brilliantly, giving us a key advantage ahead of the return fixture.

But with opposition manager Manuel Pellegrini sounding defiant in his pre-match press conference and Betis expected to come out all-guns-blazing, Ten Hag may have to alter his approach this time round.

The opinions in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United.


We spoke to United fans out in Seville ahead of the Real Betis clash, and they offered their thoughts on whether Ten Hag may rotate his squad against the La Liga side:

James, London

"Hopefully we see Pellistri and some of the other players, like a mix of the young players and the more experienced ones. We don’t want to put all the young kids out but giving them experience of a European night is good."

Malcolm, Spain

"I think he’ll have to [rotate], not a lot, but I expect Casemiro to start - that’s a certainty. I think with Garnacho getting injured it’s a chance for Elanga maybe."

Ryan, Essex

"We’ve seen a couple of good cameos in recent weeks. Pellistri has come on off the bench the other day, against Betis in the home leg and got a good assist. You hope that it does open the door for [players like him] to get a chance."