Marcus Rashford was on target again as Manchester United beat Real Betis 1-0 to secure a convincing 5-1 aggregate win in the Europa League last 16.
The Red Devils headed to Spain all-but assured of progress from this last-16 tie having won the first leg 4-1 in freezing conditions at Old Trafford last Thursday.
Betis made United sweat during the opening stages in the return fixture, but Rashford’s outstanding strike silenced the bouncing Estadio Benito Villamarin and secured a 1-0 win on the night.
The impressive 5-1 aggregate triumph puts them through to the quarter-finals, with Friday’s draw to outline their potential path to the Europa League final in Budapest.
The second leg in Seville had started in unconvincing fashion against Manuel Pellegrini’s Verdiblancos, with Juanmi wasting a glorious chance before Joaquin struck the post from distance.
Facundo Pellistri, making his first United start, hit the post at the end of a poor first half that was followed by a much-improved second-period performance by Ten Hag’s team.
Rashford looked sharp and followed an inexplicable miss moments earlier by unleashing a stunning 25-yard strike that ensured United’s first away trip since their Anfield annihilation ended in a win.
Betis’ 50,000-plus fans were always here in hope rather than expectation given their three-goal deficit and their side flew out of the blocks, wasting a glorious eighth-minute chance.
United were caught out of position and Ayoze Perez sent Juanmi through, only to drag his shot across the face of goal with Harry Maguire breathing down his neck.
It was a huge let-off followed by 41-year-old Joaquin winding back the years to unleash a stunning 30-yard effort that hit the post after a slight Casemiro deflection.
Betis were making life uncomfortable for a strong-looking United side, although Ten Hag’s men eventually managed to slow the tempo and frustrate the hosts without ever looking in control.
The sharp start had waned but David De Gea had to be alert to stop Juanmi, who had raced between the visitors’ centre-back pairing to meet a fine through ball.
Maguire blocked the lively forward’s next attempt as the raucous home support continued to back their team, whose faint hopes were almost extinguished in stoppage time.
Casemiro went down on the left following a foul by Joaquin and Bruno Fernandes swung in the resulting free-kick, with the ball falling to Pellistri to get a shot into the ground that hit the post.
Wout Weghorst threw himself at it in an attempt to prod home but could not stretch to meet it, just as he had failed when trying to reach a Casemiro header at the start of the game.
The sides traded wayward efforts when the second half got under way, with Rashford among those to miss as he played with the bit between his teeth.
Betis goalkeeper Rui Silva denied the 25-year-old after Fernandes played onto him, with the forward furious with himself after uncharacteristically blazing over a brilliant chance.
Rashford quickly let that frustration out in stunning fashion.
Having been found by a sweeping Casemiro pass, he took a couple of touches and then let rip with a fizzing 25-yard strike that flew home to silence the Betis faithful in the 55th minute.
De Gea had produced a fine reaction save to deny Perez from a corner shortly before a brilliant goal that ended hope of an always improbable Betis comeback.
Maguire headed off target as United looked for a second in Seville, with substitutes Jadon Sancho and Marcel Sabitzer both having attempts.
Fernandes, walking a suspension tightrope with Casemiro, was withdrawn and Weghorst had an attempt saved as United exerted the kind of control Ten Hag craved from the start.
More changes took the sting out of a tie that ended with United’s travelling fans calling for the Glazer family to sell the club.
READ MORE: Man Utd to pay £105m for France striker as Arsenal eye cut-price move for ex-Chelsea star
Leave a Reply