By James Ducker, at Old Trafford
It is not an unusual sight to see Bruno Fernandes cupping his hands over his ears when he scores but the celebration seemed to carry an added resonance after the flak Manchester United’s de facto captain has taken this week. No one embodied the wretched manner of Sunday’s 7-0 capitulation at Liverpool quite like Fernandes but the Portugal midfielder and his team-mates kickstarted the recovery process with an ultimately convincing victory over Real Betis that gave them one foot in the Europa League quarter-finals.
There was a rather ugly end to the night with Betis fans seen hurling objects at their United counterparts as stewards fought to hold back some of the travelling supporters from trying to scramble into the home end. But, otherwise, this was the sort of swift response from his team that Erik ten Hag will have hoped for. Hell, there was even a collector’s item of a goal for Wout Weghorst. The relief was etched large on the Netherlands’ striker face as he swept the ball into the back of the net on the rebound and rushed to the corner flag where he knelt and, for a moment, almost looked close to tears with happiness.
It had been a tough night for him up to that point, with a number of missed chances again highlighting his shortcomings at this level, but the goal must have felt cathartic and the same was probably true for United’s other scorers on the night. No one came out of the Anfield debacle with any credit and the goals here all derived from players with a point to prove. Marcus Rashford missed an excellent first half opportunity against Liverpool but fired United into a sixth minute lead against Betis. Antony was generally awful and culpable in United’s first and fourth goals on Merseyside but restored his side’s advantage with a stunning 20 yard strike. And then Fernandes – who had been involved in both goals – got one for himself, heading home Luke Shaw’s corner.
Fernandes was later booked after catching Claudio Bravo with his studs but there was a fight to his game that had been sorely lacking at the weekend.
It would be no surprise if the annihilation at Anfield becomes a sort of Lord Voldemort moment for United, a horror of which few dare come to speak. But Erik ten Hag sent a very clear message with an unchanged team selection: go out and atone. Here was a manager asking the same players who had failed him so badly on Sunday to prove their worth, to show him what they’ve got, to hit the reset button with purpose and intent. So an early goal was the equivalent of a welcome stomach settler after a heavy night. Bruno Fernandes’s low cross was not cleared by Luiz Felipe, leaving Marcus Rashford to dance past the grounded Betis defender and rifle a bullet into the top corner. Unfortunately for Ten Hag, it was not the precursor to a first half of handsome dominance in which United extended their lead as the hosts first let Betis off the hook with some errant finishing before sloppiness began to offer their Spanish opponents encouragement that initially was not there.
Reflecting on the Liverpool capitulation, Ten Hag had explained in his programme notes the perils of not taking “big chances in tight games” and lapses in concentration and there was a bit of that here. No one can deny Wout Weghorst works hard but a striker at a club with designs on the biggest trophies also has to be able to find the net and this really might have been a straight forward night’s work had the Dutchman demonstrated any sort of cutting edge in the first half. As Paul Scholes said at the weekend, Weghorst is very good at “ratting about”; much less proficient at sticking the ball in the back of the net, though. And so after heading straight at goalkeeper Claudio Bravo from Casemiro’s cross, he squandered a golden chance to make it 2-0 in the 17th minute when he directed Luke Shaw’s cross wide of the near post from eight yards out. Harry Kane is not missing that.
There were issues at the other end of the pitch, too. David De Gea’s distribution had been very much of the iffy variety and so when he passed the ball straight to Juanmi shortly before half-time no one in the stadium was much surprised. Juanmi fed Ayoze Perez whose angled shot clipped off Shaw and bounced off the far post before Lisandro Martinez cleared to widespread relief inside Old Trafford. A 2-1 deficit would have been tough to swallow since Perez had already equalised by then. There was a whiff of controversy to it – did Juanmi handle the ball before chipping a pass to the man on loan from Leicester? Perhaps, but there was nothing suspect about his finish, a superb drilled low shot that flew into the far corner.
At that point, the former Manchester City, West Ham and Villarreal manager Manuel Pellegrini must have been dreaming of another satisfying outing against United. He had four wins and five draws from 11 games against United coming into this but they wilted in the second half as United ramped up the pressure to run out deserved winners.
Manchester United vs Real Betis: as it happened
Rashford on fire
Marcus Rashford is the third-leading scorer in Europe this season with 26 goals.
The only two ahead of him? Kylian Mbappe (30) and Erling Haaland (33).
Trouble in the stands
Some reports from Old Trafford suggest some Betis fans have been involved with stewards before riot police were called in.
Manchester United goalscorer Marcus Rashford speaking to BT Sport:
“It is always important to win the next fixture after a loss it is the only way to bounce back and continue to the momentum we had before the game.
“We always try to start quick and a goal always helps that and I think thye defended the box well in the first half but in the second half it opened up more as to be expected with the game at 1-1.
“We started well in both halves, and yeah it is important to try and score the goals and that is the difference.”
On Wout Weghorst’s first goal for Manchester United:
“As a forward he gets joys from scoring goals and he works hard and does all the other stuff but he wants to score goals.”
On if it is the best response to the Liverpool loss:
“It is a step back in the right direction we have to build on it now again but we can’t put too much emphasis on Sunday because it is gone and we can’t change it so we have to keep moving forward.”
Relief, emotion, joy…the lot for Wout Weghorst
Stats from Opta
United have scored two or more goals in 15 consecutive home matches for the fourth time in their history, and for the first time since March-October 2000. Rampant
Perfect night for United
Erik ten Hag needed a good performance from his side tonight and that’s exactly what he got. They were assisted by a dreadful second-half display from Betis but that was much more like it from United.
The Liverpool result can be past firmly in the past now and Ten HAg, his squad and United’s fans can move forward into the rest of this season with plenty of confidence.
FULL TIME: Man Utd 4-1 Real Betis
Great response from United after Sunday’s hammering.
90+3 min: Man Utd 4-1 Real Betis
Bravo gets down to make a decent save from a Pellistri shot. He’s conceded four but he has been far from the problem for Betis tonight.
Could have been a lot worse but for his efforts.
90+1 min: Man Utd 4-1 Real Betis
Martinez has a chance to make it five but it’s an awkward angle at the near post off a corner and the ball flies over the bar.
90 min: Man Utd 4-1 Real Betis
Four minutes of added time here.
WATCH: Weghorst gets off the mark
With his 23rd shot at Old Trafford, Wout Weghorst finally has his first home goal for Manchester United.
87 min: Man Utd 4-1 Real Betis
Felipe is down after a heavy challenege from United sub Pellistri. The replay suggests Pellistri merely slipped. Play on.
84 min: Man Utd 4-1 Real Betis
United have been far superior but I can;t emphasise enough how bad Betis have been in this second half.
GOAL (Man Utd)
Guess who…it’s Weghorst!
The curse is lifted. McTominay has his shot blocked by Bravo but it falls to Weghorst. It’s a scruffy finish but he won’t care and you can see what it means to him.
79 min: Man Utd 3-1 Real Betis
Betis have been woeful in this half but that is a great save from Bravo.
Weghorst does well to peel away from defenders and feed Antony. He’s got time to take aim but Bravo is out fast.
76 min: Man Utd 3-1 Real Betis
It just won’t happen for Weghorst.
Malacia attempts to slide a ball through and the deflection falls nicely for the Dutchman. He’s a shade slow to get there though, allowing Betis to affect his shot.
73 min: Man Utd 3-1 Real Betis
Betis have been completely nullified in this half. I can’t remember them advancing deep into the United half more than a handful of times so far.
68 min: Man Utd 3-1 Real Betis
Bruno Fernandes goes haring after a loose ball and is in the air as he catches Bravo square on the leg.
Betis are incensed, they want Fernandes off but it’s a yellow in the end.
What’s saved him there is that his studs weren’t up but it’s no doubt a reckless challenge.
67 min: Man Utd 3-1 Real Betis
United have upped the tempo here to a level with which Betis can not cope. Sancho is on for Rashford and he’s already causing problems.
Twisting and turning away from defenders, he feeds Fred who gets a shot away but it’s an easy save for Bravo.
WATCH: Fernandes heads United’s third
62 min: Man Utd 3-1 Real Betis
Superb build-up from United as Fernandes slides a clever ball into Antony. All he needs to do is square it to one of the three United players unmarked in the box but he goes for an audacious chip instead.
The ball drifts over the bar and that’s a huge missed chance.
WATCH: A beauty from Antony
60 min: Man Utd 3-1 Real Betis
The reaction to that Fernandes goal was noticable. The United fans are clearly delighted for their skipper.
GOAL (Man Utd)
They’re in control now…
Shaw plays in a corner from the left and Bruno Fernandes peels to the near post and is unmarked and powers a header past Bravo.
It’s right at the Betis keeper but the force of that header was too much for him.
No surprise who Public Enemy No 1 is at Old Trafford
55 min: Man Utd 2-1 Real Betis
Old Trafford is back in song and the hope will be that United can now give themselves a cushion to take to southern Spain next week.
Weghorst is booked for dissent he’s blown for a foul.
GOAL (Man Utd)
What a goal…
We said Antony was one-footed but when he gets this sort of space who cares. Betis back off the Brazilian this time, giving him the opportunity to set a shot out to the right of Bravo who is left with no chance.
Incredible finish and United lead again.
49 min: Man Utd 1-1 Real Betis
Luke Shaw gallops into acres of space. He has Rashford outside him and given the form he’s in you feel that has to be the pass.
He looks to chip the ball forward away from Rashford though and Betis clear. Wasteful from Shaw there.
47 min: Man Utd 1-1 Real Betis
Calm start from United as they look to build some pressure. Lisandro Martinez looks like he’s in a tight spot on the edge of his box but some good skill gets him out of trouble.
The players are out…
…the snow is coming down.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is coming on to replace Diogo Dalot. Not sure whether that’s due to an injury or a tactical change.
Betis nearly took the lead
Weghorst is struggling
One hates to kcik a man while he’s down but Wout Weghorst has not score in 873 on-field minutes for United.
Ten Hag clearly feels he brings value to this side and his work-rate is beyond question. But for a ‘striker’ to play that many minutes without scoring represents a serious case of falling short.
HALF TIME: All-square at Old Trafford
An exciting half for the neutral but you just feel United are showing signs of a slight hangover from Anfield on Sunday.
They failed to take control of the game after Rashford’s opener and you’d have to say that Betis deserved their equaliser when Perez lashed one home from the corner of the box.
Big 45 minutes coming up for Ten Hag’s men.
45+1 min: Man Utd 1-1 Real Betis
This game has little structure at present and you feel that suits the visitors better than United.
43 min: Man Utd 1-1 Real Betis
Betis nearly have a goal at the other end!
A horrendous pass out from De Gea gives Perez a golden opportunity. His shot is deflected onto the post and falls safe for United, away from the oncoming green shirts.
41 min: Man Utd 1-1 Real Betis
Nice work from Weghorst and Rashord down the right and the latter is clear through on goal. His cut back is in the direction of Antony before desperate late defending from Betis clears the danger.
40 min: Man Utd 1-1 Real Betis
The noise in Old Trafford is coming from the away end now. United need to re-calibrate.
They’re not under huge pressure but the same is true the other way and Betis are certainly having the majority of possession here.
WATCH: A delightful finish from Perez
35 min: Man Utd 1-1 Real Betis
The momentum just feels like it’s switched here. Betis are ruffling the United feathers here and you can hear the frustration from the stands.
GOAL (Real Betis)
Excellent build-up play from Betis, who switch the play twice before Ayoze Perez picks the ball up on the right.
He unleashes a fierce low shot with the outside of his right boot. Dea Gea has no answer and we’re all tied up.
29 min: Man Utd 1-0 Real Betis
United fly forward with Rashord getting a shot off from the left drawing a decent save from Bravo. The rebound evades Weghorst and Betis clear for a corner.
27 min: Man Utd 1-0 Real Betis
Third-time not lucky for Weghorst.
Antony whips a beautiful ball in from the right and Weghorst has a golden opportunity to find the net. He’s out of control though and the ball flies over the bar.
The flag was up but that should have been in the back of the net.
24 min: Man Utd 1-0 Real Betis
A horrible mis-kick from De Gea there as the keeper slices a run-of-the-mill clearance wildly out of play.
A look of utter disdain on the face of the Spaniard and rightly so.
Nice stat from Opta
12 and 6
Manchester United have scored 12 goals from fast-break situations this season, the most of any team from Europe’s top five leagues in all competitions; six of them have been scored by Marcus Rashford, also the most of any player in Europe. Rush.
22 min: Man Utd 1-0 Real Betis
United are in charge of this game at present, dictating tempo and enjoying the majority of possession. The amount of space Casemiro is getting in the middle of the park is going to be a big problem for Betis if left unaddressed.
The Brazilian plays a Modric-esque, outside-of-the-boot pass to find Rashord to the delight of the Old Trafford faithful.
17 min: Man Utd 1-0 Real Betis
Weghorst has a big chance to break his duck here but fluffs his lines. The Dutchman makes a good near-post run but can’t direct his effort towards goal. The drought for Wout continues.
Moments later, a loose pass from Betis allows Rashord a sight on goal but Bravo is out quickly and does very well to clear the danger.
14 min: Man Utd 1-0 Real Betis
Is Antony the most one-footed £80 million-plus signing ever?
The Brazilian does well to weave into the Betis box but the defenders are just waiting for him to cut onto his left foot. He duly does just that and gets dispossessed.
12 min: Man Utd 1-0 Real Betis
Betis have settled pretty well here considering they have gone down so early. United appear willing to allow their opponents to have possession before launching the counter-attack.
WATCH: Rashord back in the goals
8 min: Man Utd 1-0 Real Betis
Weghorst is getting in good positions early on and gets on the end of another chipped cross. Bravo deals with the header but United are looking dangerous here.
GOAL (Man Utd)
What a finish this is from Marcus Rashford.
United deal with some danger at the other end and launch the counter. Rahshord keeps his composure inside the Betis box and works enough space to release a powerful shot into the roof of the net.
A trademark finish from a man who has now scored 18 goals in 22 matches since the World Cup.
4 min: Man Utd 0-0 Real Betis
United have the ball in the net after Weghorst got to a Fred cross first after a neat move but he’s flagged for offside. His wait for a first United goal continues.
Support for Bruno
3 min: Man Utd 0-0 Real Betis
Ayoze Perez chases a neat lofted ball over the top but is flagged for offside. He’s been selected over Iglesias tonight primarily for his pace edge you’d imagine.
1 min: Man Utd 0-0 Real Betis
Flood-blooded challenge early on from Dalot draws a corner for United.
How they’d love a quick start here.
United get us underway to huge roar from the Old Trafford crowd.
Stat courtesy of Opta
Following their 7-0 defeat against Liverpool, Manchester United have named an unchanged starting XI for the first time since September. Redemption?
Betis are going to be feeling a long way from Seville right now.
Kick-off moments away
The teams are in the tunnel at Old Trafford.
More Joaquin content
Some tekkers are good…
Snow, or is it sleet, starting to fall at Old Trafford. Tonight, we will get the answer we’ve been waiting for.
Can Real Betis do it on a cold Thursday night in Manchester?
Those from warmer climes appear to be feeling the Manchester chill this evening…
More on the spring chicken…
Both Borja Iglesias and Sergio Canales start on the bench for Betois this evening. For those unaccustomed with Spanish football they are two of Betis’s top players.
Injuries could be a factor but seems a strange selection in a game of this magnitude
‘They get an opportunity for rehabilitation’
Erik ten Hag, speaking to BT Sport:
“We want to win. We need a good performance and we feel this is the best team to get the job done.
“They get an opportunity for rehabilitation but this is more about this evening’s game. This is the most important game for us right now and this team gives us the best chance of winning.
“We lowered our standards in the last couple of games and on Sunday we got hammered for it. We have to get back to our standards tonight.”
The Spanish raiders have arrived
‘We have to take the lessons and start a new run’
Erik ten Hag on bouncing back:
“We all know how important getting back to winning ways and even we have a [lot of] experience with a lot of players who win a lot of trophies, [and] we know in seasons you always have setbacks.
“We know we have won a lot of games in a row and we had a really good run and we know losing is also a part of it. But you don’t want to lose; we hate losing. And now we have to take the lessons and [start] a new run.”
A moment of appreciation
Betis will be led out by Joaquin this evening, just four months ahead of his 42nd birthday.
Club legend is an often overused platitude but in this case I think it very much applies. This will be his 435th appearance for the clubs this evening, just under 23 years after he made his first-team debut.
You got us into this mess, you get us out of it
Erik ten Hag is undoubtedly more eloquent than that but that feels like the general message of his team selection this evening.
Here’s the Betis line-up
United are unchanged
Yes you read that right. Manchester United are unchanged after losing 7-0 on Sunday.
The ultimate retrieval mission…
Arsenal in Lisbon
There is English interest in the early bank of Europa League fixtures this evening, with Arsenal travelling to Sporting Lisbon.
Follow our live coverage HERE.
As previously mentioned, Sunday’s loss to Liverpool was grim for the whole United squad but for none more so than Bruno Fernandes.
Called “embarrassing” by Gary Neville after the game, Fernandes has had to endure a media rollocking over the last four days, with questions over his ability to captain the side moving forward brought into sharp focus.
Ten Hag moved to quell those fears this week, calling Fernandes “an inspiration”.
It’s a big night for the Portuguese.
‘We get the opportunity to redeem ourselves’
Marcus Rashford speaks ahead of this one:
“It’s obviously going to be a massive challenge. We expect them like most Spanish teams to be comfortable on the ball, comfortable in possession,” he began.
“They are going to bring the game to us and they have been in form at the moment in La Liga.
“It’s going to hopefully be an exciting game, but we need to do our best to put ourselves in a good position for the tie.
“Like I said to you, your next opportunity to almost redeem yourself as an individual and as a team is the next game.
“For me, whenever we do lose a game, you just want to be back out on the pitch as quickly as possible.
“We have to be grateful that we get the opportunity to redeem ourselves and we have to try to take that with both hands.”
Inside enemy territory
The travelling Real Betis support has traded sunny Seville for gloomy Manchester…and they’re loving it.
The golden glow in which Manchester United basked at the turn of the year went out like light on Sunday when they lost 7-0 to Liverpool.
Now, they face playing the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie against Celta Vigo in the shadow of their worst competitive defeat for 91 years.
The questions are plentiful. How will the home support react following such a chastening defeat against their bitterest of rivals? Will the loss precipitate a wider downturn in form? Will Bruno Fernandes bounce back after four days of merciless media bashing?
You could make a case that this is one of the biggest games of the season for United so far. That has less to do with what’s on the line and rather how quickly they can right the ship.
A convincing win here against the fifth-placed side in La Liga will at least go some way to getting Erik ten Hag’s side back on course ahead of the business end of the season.
However, a loss could well signal the start of a tailspin of degrading form, which could spell the end of their admittedly thin Premier League title hopes and even jeopardise Champions League qualification.
Despite saying all the right things in the build-up Ten Hag will know this and, by proxy, so will his side.
So what sort of test awaits this evening? A tough one if Betis’s recent form is anything to go by.
With former Manchester City boss Manuel Pelligrini in the dugout, the side from Seville have rallied after a couple of poor results to win three of their last four.
Perhaps most notable in that run was their 0-0 draw with Real Madrid at the weekend. Despite having just 38 per cent possession over the 90 minutes, Betis were resolute in defence and frustrated their superstar opponents.
That characteristic is something that has defined Betis in this competition so far, with four goals conceded in the group stages.
Full team news from 7pm.
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