Rashford is Real deal for United again
MARCUS RASHFORd was 25 yards from goal when Casemiro floated a crossfield pass to him here in Seville last night. Only Real Betis could tell you why one of the hottest strikers in Europe right now was left unmarked.
Maybe it was because it felt like there was no imminent threat to the Betis goal. Maybe it was because Rashford had just missed two one- on- ones in the space of three minutes early in the second half.
But players like Rashford will only let you off so many times. He controlled the ball and used the time and space he had to take one touch and then another. He looked up and unleased a devastating, dipping right-foot shot past Rui Silva and inside the post.
And that was it. Game over. If it wasn’t already over, of course. the three-goal lead built up in the first leg at Old trafford last week meant that many had pencilled United’s name into today’s quarter-final draw and written off the Spaniards some time ago.
Only twice in Europa League history have teams come back from deficits as great or greater than that to progress.
United kept out Betis through a rather frenetic first half and reached the break with that advantage intact.
But the fans here still believed, still roared on their team in this wonderfully atmospheric stadium, particularly in the first half when United’s game management was poor and they offered their opponents a way back into the tie.
then Rashford struck and the life drained out of them. It was his 30th goal of the season, his 27th for United and the 19th in 24 games since the World Cup.
‘Rashy had some chances before and he missed some, but he kept his belief,’ said United manager Erik ten Hag. ‘He kept trying and got his reward.
‘All good strikers know that not every chance you get will be a goal. But at this level, you don’t create five or six chances in a game, so one of the two has to be in.’
It turned out to be good night all round for ten Hag. He saw a promising full debut from Facundo Pellistri. He risked Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes and both avoided the booking that would have seen them banned from the first leg of the quarter-final.
United had their hands full in a first half that was all about stopping Betis from scoring the goal that would re-ignite this tie.
It so nearly arrived in the eighth minute when Juanmi got away from Harry Maguire and touched the ball past david de Gea, but it rolled the wrong side of the post.
United posed little threat until right before the interval as they failed to have a shot on target in the first half for the first time this season, yet could have led at the break. Wout Weghorst hit the post with practically the last kick of the half, the dutchman stabbing the ball against the upright after Pellistri’s volley from a Fernandes free-kick had been deflected.
Fernandes teed up Rashford for back-to-back chances early in the second period, either side of de Gea’s reflex stop to keep out Ayoze Perez’s header.
the first time, Rashford went low and Silva was equal to it. the second time he went high but spooned his effort way over the bar. the third effort a minute later came out of the blue and was quite devastating.
REAL BETIS (4-2-3-1): Silva 6.5; Sabaly 6.5, Pezzella 6, Gonzalez 7, Vinicius 6.5 (Miranda 26min, 6); Rodriguez 6 (Guardado 66, 6), Carvalho 6.5; Ruibal 6 (Canales 59, 5), Joaquin 7 (Iglesias 59, 6), Juanmi 6.5; Perez 7 (Willian Jose 59, 6).
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini 6.5. MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): De Gea 7; Wan-Bissaka 6.5 (Dalot 75), Maguire 6.5, Martinez 7 (Lindelof 75, 6), Malacia 6; Casemiro 6.5, Fred 6 (Sabitzer 60, 6); Pellistri 6, Fernandes 6.5 (Elanga 68, 6), RASHFORD 7.5 (Sancho 60, 5); Weghorst 5. Scorer: Rashford 56.
Manager: Erik ten Hag 7.
Referee: Srdjan Jovanovic (Srb) 7. Attendance: 54,643.