Manchester United showed their character by comprehensively beating Real Betis 4-1 in the Europa League four days on from their humiliating defeat at Liverpool.
Sunday’s 7-0 collapse at their bitter rivals equalled the club’s record competitive defeat and left manager Erik ten Hag calling for a response from an unacceptable loss that he labelled “unprofessional”.
The United boss stuck with the same starting line-up that was annihilated at Anfield and the players repaid their manager’s faith in a 4-1 victory against Betis in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
Marcus Rashford kept his cool to lash the hosts into an early lead as the snow fell at Old Trafford, only for Ayoze Perez to drill home a superb leveller against the run of play.
That moment gave hope to Manuel Pellegrini’s side and David De Gea was breathing a sigh of relief just before the break after his terrible pass led to a Perez effort deflecting off the post.
But United returned strongly from half-time and Antony curled home a lovely left-footed strike before skipper Bruno Fernandes, who faced intense scrutiny for his Liverpool display, headed home.
Wout Weghorst, another criticised after Anfield, scored his first Old Trafford goal to wrap up a comfortable win that means Ten Hag’s men head to Seville next Thursday with a three-goal cushion.
The weather is forecast to be 26 degrees Celsius in Andalusia – a far cry from the conditions at Old Trafford, where Ten Hag donned a woolly hat as the snow fell.
There were early escapes for both sides when play got under way, with Fred straying offside before crossing for Weghorst to chest home an early goal.
Moments later De Gea made a poor attempt to deal with a bad Diogo Dalot pass and the hosts survived the ensuing melee, before Antony won a free-kick that Casemiro took quickly.
The team roared forwards from that set piece deep in United territory, ending in a Fernandes cross into the path of Rashford. The in-form forward kept his cool and lashed home with just six minutes on the clock.
“We want Glazers out” quickly filled the air as United fans chanted against the owners at a time when presentations have begun with potential investors.
United pushed for another as Weghorst met a smart Casemiro cross with a diving header that Claudio Bravo comfortably saved.
The towering frontman then saw a near post strike blocked by a faint Betis touch, with Bravo racing off his line to deny Rashford and got down to stop the forward’s low effort.
Weghorst turned over an Antony cross as United continued in the ascendancy, only for Betis to equalise in the 32nd minute.
Casemiro’s pass was cut out and the ball was played forward to ex-Southampton man Juanmi, who controlled the ball with the help of an arm and continued to clip over to Perez.
The on-loan Leicester forward took the ball down on his chest just inside the 18-yard box and drilled a sensational low shot across De Gea and into the far corner.
United were punch-drunk and fortunate not be behind at the break.
De Gea’s latest poor pass went straight to Juanmi, who played onto Perez to get away a shot that was deflected onto the far post before United cleared to cut Betis celebrations short.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka replaced Dalot as the teams returned for a second half that was seven minutes old when United went back ahead.
Fernandes played the ball to Antony, who was inexplicably allowed onto his left foot by Abner Vinicius and duly curled beyond statuesque ex-Manchester City goalkeeper Bravo.
“Stand up if you hate Glazers” quickly followed, as did further celebrations in front of the Stretford End.
Luke Shaw sent over a corner from the left and Fernandes was somehow allowed to head home at the near post. The captain’s name echoed around Old Trafford – a show of support after a rough few days.
Antony sent an effort onto the roof of the net after a lovely one-two with Fernandes, with Weghorst and the Brazil winger having further chances before Bravo was beaten for the fourth time in the 82nd minute.
Scott McTominay saw his attempt from fellow substitute Facundo Pellistri’s cross saved, but Weghorst was in the right place and reacted quickly to turn home his second United goal.
Trouble broke out in the away end as play wound down.
Published: 10/03/2023 by Radio NewsHub