Marcus Rashford’s 27th goal of the season gave Manchester United a 1-0 win over Real Betis at the Estadio Benito Villamarin in the second leg of their Europa League round of sixteen tie on Thursday night.
Rashford’s strike five minutes before the hour mark gave the away side a 5-1 lead on aggregate following the 4-1 victory at Old Trafford a week before, with United progressing into the last eight of the European competition to continue their successful streak in knockout matches this campaign.
It was always going to be an uphill battle for Betis as the trailing side, but Los Verdiblancos gave a great effort in the first half and had chances through the likes of 41-year-old veteran Joaquin, who struck the post from range, and an opportunity either side of that for Juanmi who was denied twice by David De Gea.
The Reds were not without chances of their own in the first forty-five, however, with Wout Weghorst coming close to converting the ball in from the far post on two occasions, the first after Casemiro’s header went wayward and the second after Facundo Pellistri’s miscued volley.
Pellistri, 21, was making his first competitive start and thus his full debut for United since joining under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the start of the 2020/21 season. Bizarrely, the winger started a game at the World Cup last year for Uruguay having had barely any minutes at club level.
The deadlock was broken in the 55th minute through Rashford. The forward collected the ball around 25 yards out on the left-hand side before hitting a powerful, swerving effort that found the net beyond Rui Silva in goal, who had started in place of Claudio Bravo. Rashford scored the hardest of his three chances in the second half; he had been denied one-on-one right at the start of the second period before blazing one over from a similar position just minutes before the goal.
The game passed by rather quickly after the visitors took the lead. The fire went out for Manuel Pellegrini’s men who looked depleted, whilst Ten Hag’s players knew they had the tie wrapped up. Marcel Sabitzer came on to return from injury alongside Jadon Sancho, and Victor Lindelof, Diogo Dalot and Anthony Elanga were all given minutes as United went on to win and earn a clean sheet on the continent.
Final Score: Real Betis 0-1 Manchester United (1-5 agg) (Rashford 55’)
Man of the match
Rashford was the match-winner again for his side and probably did enough to win the Man of the Match award for this one.
The 25-year-old hardly set the world on fire with his performance, but he ultimately scored a belter of a goal to win the game and was definitely the best-attacking outlet for United when looking back on the match.
He had bottled two golden chances minutes before he struck the lead, so it will have been a relief for him. He was taken off on the hour mark, but the academy lad was the standout again.
Special mention to Pellistri, who impressed on his full debut.
The bigger picture
It is a case of job done for United. The performance was a bit of a boring one; it was evident that, whilst the intention was there to win the game, a lot of players looked keen to preserve their energy ahead of a big game this Sunday in the FA Cup.
Nevertheless, with another goal scored for the top scorer and a clean sheet on the continent, fans cannot complain too much as the team enter the quarter-finals of the competition.
Speaking of which, United are just five wins away from another trophy. Juventus have made it through at the time of writing, and Arsenal are expected to get over the line against Sporting Lisbon. Other than the possibility of facing those two teams, United should not be too worried for the semi-finals.
The end goal is in sight now. The Reds are in it to win it.
Club captain Harry Maguire got a full ninety minutes, as did Facundo Pellistri. Malacia was also part of those who came in and got a full match. The rotation was good from the manager, who also gave Elanga some rare minutes.
What is next?
Next up for Ten Hag and United is Fulham at home in the FA Cup final-quarter finals on Sunday, kicking off at 16:30 (BST).
After the international break, United will travel to Newcastle in the Premier League. That one takes place on Sunday 2nd April at 16:30 (BST).