Marcus Rashford’s swerving strike from distance earned Manchester United a 1-0 win at Real Betis on Thursday and passage to the Europa League quarter-finals with a 5-1 aggregate triumph.
The Red Devils and their counterparts from Andalucia played out an entertaining game at a lively Benito Villamarin stadium, with home fans believing for a while they could mount a comeback, despite their three-goal deficit.
Joaquin hit the post for Betis and Juanmi spurned two clear chances for the hosts as they started well.
However Rashford’s brilliant goal early in the second half quelled that idea and United saw the game out comfortably as Betis’ energy levels dipped.
Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag handed 21-year-old winger Facundo Pellistri his first start for the club in sun-washed Seville, after some bright cameos from the bench.
Antony was unavailable because of illness and Argentine forward Alejandro Garnacho is out for weeks with an ankle injury.
The Uruguayan youngster was instantly involved on a bright display, overcooking a cross from the right as United looked to put the game out of Betis’s reach straight away.
Wout Weghorst flung himself at a corner, flicked on by Casemiro, but it was too far for him to reach.
The hosts hit back, sending Juanmi through on goal, but the former Southampton forward dragged his shot wide of David de Gea’s far post.
Betis came even closer through 41-year-old veteran Joaquin, who crashed a drive from distance off the post.
Juanmi had another golden chance to pull Betis back into the tie but was denied by De Gea, who was quick off his line.
Pellistri came inches from putting United ahead moments before the break, with his effort hitting the post and Weghorst was unable to turn it goalwards as he lunged in.
United did not produce a shot on target in the first half but took the lead early in the second, through Rashford’s thunderbolt.
The forward, in remarkable form this season, missed two fine chances after the break but swiftly made amends with a vicious shot from outside the area which flew past Rui Silva and into the bottom corner.
It was Rashford’s sixth goal of the tournament and his 27th across all competitions this season, in 43 appearances.
The England striker netted in the first leg and also at Camp Nou against La Liga leaders Barcelona in the play-off round.
Erik ten Hag took him and Fred off immediately after the goal, for Jadon Sancho and Marcel Sabitzer, while Pellegrini threw on Borja Iglesias, Sergio Canales and Willian Jose, but it was far too late to change the course of the tie.
United’s coach had run a risk by lining up with Bruno Fernandes and Casemiro, who were each a booking away from suspension, but they survived unscathed.
United’s future is a hot topic, with owners the Glazer family in talks with rival bidders this week at Old Trafford to sell the club, but one certainty is that they will be in Friday’s draw for the Europa League quarter-finals.
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