Saturday, June 15, 2024

Real Betis 0-1 Manchester United (Manchester United win 5-1 agg): What Did We Learn As Marcus Rashford Fires United To The Europa League Quarter-Finals?

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, UEFA Europa League 16 Mar 2023

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Simply looking to finish off the job on Thursday evening, Manchester United stormed their way to the Europa League quarter-finals after picking up a 1-0 victory away at Real Betis.

Already putting one foot in the quarter-final draw after breezing their way to a first-leg 4-1 romp at Old Trafford last week, Erik ten Hag’s men would have been glad to avoid a potential European banana skin.

Although the Premier League heavyweights might not have been at their best for large spells here, it was the red-hot Marcus Rashford who proved to be the match-winner as the England international produced a thunderous strike 10 minutes after the half-time break.

With many now tipping them as a genuine Europa League contender this year, some could have been expecting a far tougher test from a Real Betis squad who have continued on a real La Liga flurry.

While Los Verdiblancos might have caused United a host of first-half questions at the Estadio Benito Villamarin, Betis would have been disappointed by a flat departure from the European stage.

On a night when United breezed their way to the Europa League quarter-finals, what did we learn from Thursday’s showdown in Spain?

United are a Europa League contender in 2023

Coming under a huge amount of scrutiny on March 5th as they were hit with that infamous 7-0 drumming at the hands of historic rivals Liverpool, ten Hag has been desperate to prove that was nothing more than a stunning blip.

Likewise, having to settle for a toothless 0-0 stalemate at home against relegation scrappers Southampton last weekend, the ex-Ajax boss would have been glad to see his side claim a welcomed boost here.

However, while fans around Old Trafford might have accepted that a shock Premier League title charge if off the cards this season, Manchester United should still have their sights set on completing a title sweep in 2023.

Ending their six-year wait to lift a piece of silverware last month as they were crowned EFL Cup champions thanks to a 2-0 victory against Newcastle at Wembley, ten Hag’s men should feel that they are a genuine European contender this season.

Not getting their hands on a European crown since lifting the Europa League under Jose Mourinho back in 2017, United should be confident of mounting a real charge over the coming months.

Rashford stands among Europe’s elite

While many might have been shocked to see Wout Weghorst arrive at Old Trafford during the January transfer window on a loan switch from Burnley, it has been Manchester United’s homegrown superstar who has spearheaded their charge this season.

Playing a crucial role as England reached the World Cup quarter-finals out in Qatar over the winter, Rashford has only continued on a record-breaking flurry since returning from the festive break.

Producing a thunderous strike 10 minutes after the half-time interval and only underlining why he is ten Hag’s attacking talisman, the 25-year-old has quickly transformed into one of Europe’s hottest properties.

Unsurprisingly earning a call-up for Gareth Southgate’s England squad earlier in the day, Rashford has now notched a staggering 19 strikes in his 24 appearances across all competitions since returning from the World Cup break.

Breaking a string of personal records this season and really in the form of his career, it is no surprise why the Premier League giants are so desperate to get their academy graduate tied down to a bumper new deal at Old Trafford.

Betis’ March nightmare continues

Although Real Betis might have once again gained plenty of plaudits from across Spain this season, Los Verdiblancos suddenly find themselves in the midst of a real blip.

While Manuel Pellegrini’s men might have marked their return from the World Cup break with their sights firmly set on mounting a genuine top-four charge, Thursday’s hosts have somewhat come crashing back down to earth.

Having to settle for a 1-1 draw away at Villarreal over the weekend and missing out on the chance to break into the Champions League places, Betis are now without a win from any of their last four appearances across all formats.

Although the one-time Manchester City boss might have been more than aware that his side would face a real Europa League challenge here, there should be some frustration within their camp.

While Betis might have caused Thursday’s opponents some issues over both legs, their 5-1 aggregate defeat would have certainly left a bad taste in their mouths.

Now with their full attention on trying to find some March stability and a route back into the La Liga top-four, Pellegrini’s men will know that there are easier tests down the road.

Match Report

Real Betis: Silva, Sabaly, Pezzella, Gonzalez, Abner, Rodriguez, Carvalho, Ruibal, Joaquin, Juanmi, Perez

Subs: Iglesias, Canales, Jose, Miranda, Guardado

Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Martinez, Malacia, Casemiro, Fernandes, Fred, Rashford, Pellistri, Rashford, Weghorst

Subs: Elanga, Sancho, Dalot, Sabitzer, Lindelof

Goals: Rashford 55′

Yellow Cards: Pellistri

Red Cards: N/A

Referee: Srdjan Jovanovic

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom has spent the past six years as one of our senior writers and betting experts. Alongside working with numerous publications from across the globe, Tom also graduated from the University of Falmouth in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Digital Media.
Spending almost the past decade working in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, he has also spent time featuring in sports radio. Tom can be followed on Instagram - @iamtomdunstan

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