Manchester United bounced back from a historic thrashing by Liverpool to beat Real Betis 4-1 in the first leg of their Europa League round-of-16 tie on Thursday night. Manchester United completely outclassed a quality Spanish opposition with a clinical performance at Old Trafford. United responded well to their heaviest-ever defeat and worst since 1931 in losing 7-0 at Anfield on Sunday. United manager Erik ten Hag named the same starting line-up and was rewarded with a return to form.
Marcus Rashford and Ayoze Perez traded first-half goals before the hosts hit top gear in the second half with goals from Antony, Bruno Fernandes, and Wout Weghorst taking them to a comfortable lead ahead of the second leg at the Benito Villamarin Stadium on March 16. Despite beating Barcelona in the previous round, United went into the match knowing all five of their past European campaigns came to an end at the hands of Real Betis.
Rashford took United to an early lead with his 26th goal of the season. Fernandes set Rashford up in the penalty area and the English forward cut to his right and fired a shot into the roof of Claudio Bravo’s net to open the scoring in 6th minute. But Betis levelled against the run of play when attacking mid-fielder Perez smashed into the far corner. United had firm control in the first half of the game and Weghorst had two chances to double the lead, but Betis’ keeper Bravo produced good efforts to save those.
United started the second half with pure dominance and quickly went up 3-1 with goals from Antony and Fernandes within a period of six minutes. First, Fernandes picked out Antony on the right edge of the area, who produced an unstoppable shot with his trademark left foot that went past Bravo into the top corner. Then the United captain picked up a goal of his own with a brilliant header from Luke Shaw’s whipped-in corner.
The job for Betis in the second leg was made harder when Bravo blocked Scott McTominay’s shot right into the path of Weghorst for an easy finish from close range six minutes from time. The Dutch striker netted just his second goal in 15 appearances for United. Fernandes was the star of the night as he led the team from the start with his game in possession, making the rhythm of the game, and also scoring a goal.
Manchester United host Southampton in the Premier League on March 12 Sunday, while Betis are away to Villarreal in La Liga on the same day.