Manchester United qualified for the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday in Spain. The Red Devils started the two-legged tie with a 4-1 victory at home against Real Betis. Because of the first result, United only needed to avoid a complete collapse on Thursday. The visitors would, however, win on the road, as well.
The Red Devils entered Spain a bit shorthanded, particularly in attack. Antony didn’t travel with team thanks to an illness. Alejandro Garnacho, on the other hand, suffered an ankle injury at the weekend’s draw with Southampton. The setback will keep Garnacho on the sidelines for a significant chunk of United’s remaining fixtures.
Because of the absentees, manager Erik ten Hag gave a first senior start to Facundo Pellistri. The 21-year-old was brought in from Uruguay in 2020, but was on loan in previous seasons. Ten Hag opted to pick Pellistri over $100 million Englishman Jadon Sancho.
Betis start strong, but can’t capitalize on chances
The hosts began the match on Thursday on the front foot. Juanmi had a glorious chance to put Betis in front inside the first eight minutes of the match. The winger was played into United’s box by Ayoze Perez, but pulled his shot just wide of the post. Joaquin struck the same post just three minutes later from a long-range shot out of David de Gea’s reach.
Despite the hosts having a majority of the better chances in the opening period, the first half finished scoreless. Pellistri did hit the post for the visitors just seconds from the halftime whistle though. Wout Weghorst couldn’t quite get any contact on the ball to help guide it into the net. Betis finished the first half with seven total shots, compared to just four for United.
Rashford slams United into Europa League quarterfinals
Nevertheless, Marcus Rashford put the visitors ahead in the 56th minute of the match with a wonderful strike from distance. The in-form star sent a perfectly placed shot from long-range passed the diving Rui Silva. Rashford’s strike essentially ended any real chance of a Betis comeback in the tie.
With the goal, Rashford also became the youngest United player to reach 25 major European goals.
Ten Hag decided to make some changes to his team following the goal as well. The manager replaced Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Fred, and Lisandro Martinez with the tie now essentially out of reach. These key players could certainly use a bit of rest with a relatively tough run of upcoming games.
Much like the first leg of the matchup, United played much better in the second half. Although they managed just the one goal, the visitors held Betis in check and kept the hosts from creating much in attack. The lone goal on the night gave United a 5-1 win over their Spanish opponents on aggregate.
Now, United heads to the quarterfinals of the Europa League, and it learns its opponent Friday morning.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Sportimage
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