Opinion: How United shone in sunny Seville
From the moment I checked in for our departure from Manchester Airport on Wednesday, there were small markers that really hammered home the importance of Manchester United's trip to Seville to face Real Betis.
For the team, it was a chance to seal a place in the quarter-finals for the Europa League. For me, it was an opportunity to report on the club overseas for the first time since I began working with the Reds.
Whether it be sitting on the same flight as legends such as Andy Cole or Bryan Robson, or interviewing our travelling supporters in the lead up to the game, it became clear just how important this football club is to so many people.
The Benito Villamarin Stadium was the venue for the second leg of our last-16 tie, and it promised to harbour a hostile atmosphere come kick-off, with Los Verdiblancos looking to overturn the 4-1 defeat they suffered in the first leg at the hands of Erik ten Hag’s men.
The Real Betis fans were bouncing from before the start of the match, with their cheers outside the stadium still managing to penetrate the pre-match proceedings inside it.
During the game itself, the home supporters backed their team passionately and the United players had to be resilient, in the early stages especially.
Yes, the tie could have played out differently had Betis been more clinical in those opening minutes. But United managed to weather the early storm professionally and were good value for the lead after coming out in the second half and matching the home side's energy and urgency.
When Marcus Rashford fired home what turned out to be the winner after 55 minutes, you could feel the barefaced optimism being drained from every Betis supporter simultaneously.
Ten Hag’s side ran out 1-0 winners on the night to finish the tie 5-1 aggregate winners, booking our place in the quarter-finals of the competition.
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The Reds guarded against complacency, battled hard, and were clinical when it counted.
As I wrote this article on the plane back from Seville, I was overcome with privilege - first to have travelled there in the first place, and have been afforded the opportunity to speak to our fans around the city and take in what was a wonderful stadium not once but twice, on both matchday and the day before.
But I was also incredibly satisfied with the maturity and game management skills United showed on an evening when the stadium was hostile to say the least.
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Surely the manner of the triumph in Seville dispels any doubts about the mentality of this United team, as we march on in Europe once more.
The opinions in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United.