Manager Erik ten Hag had promised a response and his Manchester United players certainly delivered as they comprehensibly beat Real Betis 4-1 in their Europa League Round of 16 first leg on Thursday.
The Red Devils had chances galore but in the end, they managed to score four courtesy Marcus Rashford, Antony, Bruno Fernandes and Wout Weghorst.
Prior to the game, the trio excluding Rashford had come under intense criticism for their part in United’s 0-7 capitulation at the hands of fierce rivals Liverpool.
Heavily criticised United trio hit back
It was nice to see these three get on the score-sheet and it was a fitting response to their critics who have questioned their place in the side.
Rashford continued his red-hot streak in front of goal as he lashed home United’s opener.
Antony was accused of not tracking back and trying the same trick in so many games but at Old Trafford under lights, it was his signature move that worked wonders.
FT: Manchester United 4-1 Real Betis. Goals from Marcus Rashford, Antony, Bruno Fernandes and Wout Weghorst seal, in the end, a very straightforward victory. The perfect response to what happened at Anfield.
A big advantage to take into the second-leg in Spain next week.#MUFC pic.twitter.com/HYz3q3oCFr
— George Smith (@_GeorgeSmith99) March 9, 2023
Fernandes’ attitude as captain was questioned but it had little effect on the Portuguese as he played a starring role on the night, capping off a fine evening with a headed goal from a corner.
Ever since Weghorst’s arrival, a section of pundits and fans have praised his work ethic while others have pointed out how his lack of goals have hurt the Red Devils.
The Dutch striker did spurn a few presentable chances but once he did find the net, there was an outburst of emotions with all the players rushing in to congratulate him.
Ten Hag will now be hoping the floodgates will open in the coming weeks and Weghorst can get on the score-sheet more often.
Solid cameos all around
There were other positives including the cameo appearance of Facundo Pellistri who created United’s fourth with some smart play down the right wing.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka was a solid presence in the second-half and it seems the United manager turns to the Englishman when United need to dominate proceedings against a tricky opposition.
If not for the result, David de Gea would have come under intense criticism for his lacklustre passing which gave Betis a couple of chances in the first-half.
The tie is now United’s to lose and the manager will be hoping to make some changes in the second leg especially considering Casemiro’s suspension risk.