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Marcus Rashford’s strike earned Manchester United a 1-0 win at Real Betis and a straightforward route into the Europa League quarter-finals as they advanced 5-1 on aggregate.
Erik ten Hag’s side did the hard work last week in a crushing 4-1 victory, leaving Betis with a huge mountain to climb in Thursday’s second leg at Estadio Benito Villamarin.
Betis edged a first half in which both sides hit the woodwork, but Rashford’s 27th goal of the campaign completely killed off the tie shortly after the break.
With their slim hopes punctured, LaLiga’s fifth-placed side offered little in response as United comfortably booked their place in the last eight.
We all know what happens next…#MUFC || #UEL pic.twitter.com/8mqCNhvmiG
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 16, 2023
The sides managed 11 shots between them in the first half, but just one of those efforts was on target – Juanmi, who had earlier shot wide, failing to get the better of David de Gea from a one-on-one.
Joaquin had previously shaved the post with a bending effort from distance, while Facundo Pellistri’s volley pinging the upright at the other end brought a lively first half to a close.
United were far more dominant early in the second period and, after having a shot saved by Rui Silva and blazing one over, Rashford made the breakthrough in the 55th minute, picking the ball up 25 yards from goal and sending an effort swerving past Silva, marking his 25th European goal in the process.
Substitute Marcel Sabitzer had a shot saved by Silva as Ten Hag made the most of the opportunity to rotate his squad ahead of an FA Cup quarter-final against Fulham on Sunday.
What does it mean? A team of two halves
United were far from their best in the first half, with this the first time this season they have failed to have a shot on target in a game before half-time.
Ten Hag clearly had some strong words to say at the interval as his side looked stronger in the second period, scoring from one of their four efforts on target. The Red Devils have stuttered in the Premier League of late, but a treble could still be in the offing, with the EFL Cup already in the bag and Wembley in their sights in the FA Cup.
They will find out their quarter-final opponent in this competition in Friday’s draw.
Rooney record taken by Rashford
Rashford cut a frustrated figure after missing two presentable opportunities early in the second half but, like all good forwards, he responded swiftly with that excellent long-range effort.
He is the youngest United player to score 25 European goals at the age of 25 years and 136 days, and also the youngest Englishman for any club to reach that milestone, taking the record from former team-mate Wayne Rooney (25y, 395d).
Juanmi sums up Betis’ struggles
Juanmi had a game-high five attempts and really should have found the net from one of those.
The Betis forward failed to beat De Gea from a one-on-one and sent another effort off target when played through from the best of his chances. Had he scored it may have been an entirely different game.
Key Opta Facts
– United are unbeaten in their last seven European away games against Spanish sides, winning five (D2).
– Betis have lost both legs of a European knockout tie for the first time since 1997-98, when they lost 2-1 at home and 3-1 away to Chelsea in the Cup Winners’ Cup.
– United have won more games in all competitions than any other side in Europe’s big five leagues this season (32), while only Barcelona (22) have kept more clean sheets (21).
– Casemiro provided his sixth assist of the season, his highest tally in a single campaign for a side in the big five European leagues.
– Bruno Fernandes has created 122 chances for teammates in all competitions this season (including four tonight), at least 19 more than any other Premier League player.
Betis return to LaLiga action on Sunday with a home match against Real Mallorca, while United host Fulham in the FA Cup on the same day.