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Three things we learned as Man United take commanding 4-1 lead against Real Betis

by Derick Kinoti

Manchester United were looking to put the ghosts of their weekend defeat behind them as they hosted Real Betis at Old Trafford in the first leg of the Europa League Round of 16.

Erik ten Hag surprisingly named an unchanged starting XI from that which started the game at Anfield on Sunday.

Many would have expected the Dutchman to make wholesale changes but he stuck with the same crop of stars.

Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 4-1 victory against Real Betis

Ten Hag was looking for a resounding reaction from his players

As mentioned, the United boss did not make a single change from the Liverpool game.

Before the game, Ten Hag spoke about the need for a reaction and that nothing short of a win would suffice to get fans back on the team’s side.

Undoubtedly, Ten Hag wanted to know whether his trusted starting XI could make things right and take the first step towards putting together another winning run.

Paul Scholes himself alluded to this while giving his reasoning behind why Ten Hag kept faith in the same players who let him down on Sunday.

The United legend said, “Ten Hag has sent the same team out as Liverpool to test a few characters.”

“To see, going forward, can these players play for me when it really matters.”

If the opening 45 minutes were anything to go by, Ten Hag would have been left utterly disappointed. Marcus Rashford gave the Red Devils the lead early into the game.

United looked to be in cruise control until Ayoze Perez levelled matters in the 32nd minute with a superb finish.

What would have angered Ten Hag is just how much his side was lacking in terms of clinical nature in front of goal. So many chances that were begging to be finished were not taken.

The result is that United gave Real Betis an avenue back into the game.

In the second half, as has happened multiple times this season, Ten Hag’s stars came alive and blitzed Betis away.

Goals from Antony and Bruno Fernandes gave the 20-time English champions a greater foothold into proceedings. A late goal from Wout Weghorst ensured United will take a commanding lead to Spain in seven days’ time.

David de Gea is a massive problem for the team

A recurring theme of the game against Betis is just how awful David de Gea’s distribution was.

The Spaniard failed to find his intended target on almost every occasion and whenever he went long, he ceded possession back to Manuel Pellegrini’s men.

The effect of De Gea’s distribution was that he kept putting his colleagues on the back foot as they were required to intervene and correct his errors.

In one instance during the first half, De Gea passed the ball to a Betis player just outside the box. From the ensuing attack, Betis hit the post and would have felt that they should have found the back of the net.

Arguably, Gea should have also done better on the Ayoze Perez goal. He dived early enough but could not keep it out.

Against the Spanish opposition, De Gea proved what many fans have been screaming about – that he holds the team back.

With the 32-year-old’s current contract expiring at the end of this season, Ten Hag has a big decision to make. Will he keep the shot-stopper or let him go and look for someone else to play between the sticks?

Antony and Bruno silencing the critics

No player bore the brunt of the media’s criticism after the Sunday result more than Bruno Fernandes.

The Portuguese was slammed for giving up, whining and constantly whinging at others.

Ten Hag backed Fernandes during his presser and reiterated just how much he is reliant on the playmaker.

It was very fitting that Fernandes got on the scoresheet with a brilliant-headed finish from a Luke Shaw cross.

Another who had a point to prove was Antony. The Brazilian has in recent days elicited extensive debate for his perceived lack of threat and attacking edge.

Antony also scored in classic fashion with a beautifully-curled effort that gave the Betis goalkeeper no chance.

That the two grabbed such crucial goals will do a world of good for their confidence going forward.

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