Rashford does it again, Man Utd into Europa League quarters
SEVILLE, Spain — Manchester United are through to the Europa League quarterfinals after a 1-0 win over Real Betis on Thursday night sealed a 5-1 aggregate victory. Erik ten Hag’s side built on their 4-1 win in last week’s first leg at Old Trafford thanks to a stunning strike from Marcus Rashford to book their place in Friday’s draw for the last eight.
United navigated some early pressure from Real Betis before another Rashford goal in the second half put the tie beyond doubt. Ten Hag will also have Bruno Fernandes and Casemiro available for the next round after the pair avoided picking up a booking that would have ruled them out of the quarterfinal first leg next month.
1. Rashford does it again for Man United
The game had drifted into a relatively evenly matched contest before Rashford picked up the ball on 56 minutes, 25 yards from Rui Silva’s goal.
He had missed a golden chance to score moments earlier when his shot sailed over the bar and into the second tier, but his confidence remained high enough for the United forward to try his luck. His shot — almost a nonchalant knuckleball — dipped away from Silva’s outstretched hand and crept inside the far post and, just like that, the tie was over.
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– Europa League knockout round draw: Full details
It was Rashford’s 27th goal of the season — already his most productive campaign — and he’s in the type of form that makes anything possible for United. It’s not often that a striker enjoys a purple patch so good that they can conjure something out of nothing, but that’s exactly what Rashford did against Real Betis. It’s a good skill to have as the business end of the season kicks in and tight games are decided by the tiniest of margins. It said everything about Rashford’s importance to this team that the ball had barely settled in the net before Ten Hag was asking him to come off — there’s another big game to come on Sunday against Fulham in the FA Cup quarterfinals.
2. Real Betis miss chance to make United nervous
They knew they were up against it after losing 4-1 in Manchester, but during a frantic opening 10 minutes here, Betis had chances to put United under pressure. Former Southampton forward Juanmi out-paced Harry Maguire but rolled his shot wide of the far post when he should have hit the target. Then 41-year-old Joaquin hit the post.
At that point, Estadio Benito Villamarin was bouncing and United were rocking, but Ten Hag’s side regained some control in the middle of the first half and got to half-time at 0-0. If Real Betis had scored early on, the hostile atmosphere inside the stadium would have exploded and United might have been in trouble, but instead it was a professional job away from home in Europe and they’re in the hat for the quarterfinal draw on Friday.
Manuel Pellegrini’s team are left to rue a poor second half at Old Trafford when they conceded three times, but they still have the prospect of forcing their way into next season’s Champions League when their La Liga campaign resumes at the weekend against Mallorca.
3. Pellistri makes his case on full debut
Facundo Pellistri had to wait 893 days between signing for United and making his first start. In between, the winger has played in an EFL Trophy game for the under-21s at Barrow in front of a few thousand fans and started for Uruguay at the World Cup in Qatar, but finally he can say he’s started a competitive match for United. He has deserved his chance after a number of impressive cameos from the bench, and with Alejandro Garnarcho ruled out until May with an ankle ligament injury, the 21-year-old might be in line for more opportunities.
He was involved after just 20 seconds here, when he was released down the right to cross for Wout Weghorst — making his 17th consecutive start since arriving in January — and provided a good outlet for most of the night. Right-footed and playing on the right, he’s a different option to Antony — left at home because of illness — because the Brazilian always wants to cut inside on his stronger left foot, and he did enough against Real Betis to suggest he deserves more minutes in the run-in, particularly with Ten Hag’s injury list growing.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Marcus Rashford, Manchester United. Missed a sitter and then a minute later smashed one in from 25 yards to continue his impressive form.
BEST: Joaquin, Real Betis. Even at 41 years old, he was at the centre of Real Betis’s fast start, which almost brought an early goal.
BEST: Facundo Pellistri, Manchester United. Didn’t look out of place on his full debut and helped stretch the game.
WORST: Ayoze Perez, Real Betis. Scored at Old Trafford but was kept quiet by United’s defence here.
WORST: Wout Weghorst, Manchester United. The big Dutchman works hard but rarely looks like a goal threat.
WORST: Juanmi, Real Betis. He looked sharp in the first half but he really needed to take one of his chances in the first half to give Real Betis hope of a famous comeback.
Highlights and notable moments
That’s something special from Rashford. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that goal was struck from a distance of 28 yards, the longest strike Rashford has recorded for United since Oct. 30, 2019.
AN UNREAL STRIKE FROM MARCUS RASHFORD. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/KvWStuTYa5
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) March 16, 2023
After the match: What the players/managers said
Maguire: “It’s been a good two games over two legs, Betis are a good team. They are fifth in LaLiga, they’re doing well this season, so we knew it wouldn’t be an easy draw.”
Ten Hag: “I think second half we were much better on the ball. When you keep the ball in the opposition half, make them run, you see that you make chances.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
– Joaquin’s 395th career start for Betis ties Gordillo for third most in club history across all competitions.
– Rashford’s goal was his fourth from outside the penalty area this season. He had four such goals between the 2019-20 and 2021-22 seasons.
– Rashford now has 27 goals across all competitions. Only Erling Haaland (39) and Kylian Mbappe (31) have more among players from Europe’s Big Five leagues.
Real Betis: Betis will get to remain in the comforts of the Benito Villarmin on Sunday when they take on Mallorca in LaLiga (9 a.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+).
Manchester United: The Red Devils return to Old Trafford for Sunday’s FA Cup quarterfinal against Fulham (12:00 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+).