Manchester United put their Liverpool mauling behind them to convincingly beat Real Betis 4-1 in the first leg of their Europa League last 16 clash. The Red Devils bounced back to winning ways in defiant fashion on Thursday (March 9).
Erik ten Hag’s side were licking their wounds from their 7-0 drubbing against Liverpool at Anfield last weekend. The Dutch coach had asked for a reaction from his players and he got one.
Marcus Rashford was first on the scoresheet in just the sixth minute. The English forward struck a neat effort past Betis goalkeeper Claudio Bravo after German Pezzella had flicked Bruno Fernandes’ cross into his path. He smashed home his 26th goal of the season.
However, Manchester United were dealt a setback in the 32nd minute. Former Newcastle United striker Ayoze Perez got a sliver of redemption for the Magpies following their Carabao Cup final defeat to the Red Devils. The Spanish attacker struck past the hosts’ goalkeeper David de Gea from a tight angle.
The two sides headed in at half-time all square, but Ten Hag’s side came out all guns blazing in an excellent second-half performance. Antony sent a sensational strike past Bravo in the 52nd minute following Bruno Fernandes’ assist.
Fernandes, who has been criticized throughout the week for his display at Anfield, put his side 3-1 up. Bravo couldn’t prevent the Portuguese midfielder’s bullet header from nestling in the back of his net.
Manchester United weren’t done there as Facundo Pellestri was introduced in the 82nd minute and had an immediate impact. The young Uruaugyan winger sped down the right flank before sending an asking cross into Betis’ box. Wout Weghorst managed to get on the end of it and slotted home from close range. The Dutch striker was another victim of the Anfield calamity and he seemed emotional when celebrating.
The Red Devils took a giant step toward the quarterfinals of the Europa League with a confident 4-1 victory. The second leg takes place at Benito Villamarin on March 16.
One fan wants Ten Hag’s men to replay their clash against Liverpool following their impressive performance tonight:
“We need a rematch against Liverpool, I’m still in denial.”
Meanwhile, another fan reckons the Red Devils could have put eight past Betis:
“It could’ve been 8-1 but we’ll take it great recovery from Sunday.”
Here’s how Twitter reacted to a crucial win for Manchester United:
Manchester United legend Paul Scholes lauds Fernandes and doesn’t want to see him on the wing again
Fernandes was moved back into his more preferred midfield role against Betis and ran the show in the middle of the park. Manchester United’s vice-captain scored, assisted, made five key passes and created two big chances.
It was a flawless performance from the Portuguese midfielder and the perfect response from his controversial display against Liverpool. Scholes was full of praise for the player following the win. He told BT Sport:
“He was brilliant in centre of the pitch, where we know that’s his position. I hope we never see him in a wide area again on the football pitch. It’s just not his strength, he was so good in the center dictating play.”
Fernandes has now scored seven goals and provided 11 assists in 40 games across competitions. Ten Hag may realize that he should be starting him in midfield rather than on the wing.