Erik ten Hag lauded the impact of a player who’s forced his way into his Man Utd plans, and inadvertently put Real Betis down straight after bigging them up.
Man Utd cruised into the quarter finals of the Europa League after sinking Real Betis 1-0 on the night and 5-1 on aggregate.
The Red Devils brought a handy three-goal advantage over to Spain and after a shaky start, soon settled and rarely looked in danger of surrendering their lead.
41-year-old Joaquin did strike the woodwork, though the red-hot Marcus Rashford went one better when scoring the game’s only goal with a beautiful strike early in the second half.
Rashford received the ball 25 yards out and took a few strides towards goal before arrowing the ball into the bottom corner with the outside of his right foot.
The fine finish brought Rashford’s goals tally for the season to 27. His high across his previous six full seasons at Old Trafford was just 22.
Speaking to BT Sport after the match, Ten Hag bigged Real Betis up by acknowledging their fine displays against Spain’s elite this season.
However, that only teed up an inadvertent put-down with Ten Hag quickly pointing out United beat Betis both home and away.
“Happy,” said Ten Hag. “We knew Betis are a really good team, we’ve seen it against Real Madrid and Barcelona.
“But we beat them twice and I think we performed very well.”
It was then put to Ten Hag he looked unhappy during the first half at a time when the game was fairly even.
“I think we could also have gone into the lead, but there were moments in transition where they could break, we had to avoid that.
“We had to keep more control of the ball, to use the overload in midfield. We didn’t always do it, but the second half was much better and you see the energy [drain] out of the opponent especially after you score the first goal.”
Explaining why United improved after the break, the Dutchman continued: “Second half we were much better on the ball.
“We kept the ball in the opponent’s half and let them run, and then you see we create chances.”
Ten Hag lauds Pellistri after full debut
Ten Hag was then asked about the players he gave rare starts to on the night with a specific focus on Facundo Pellistri.
The Uruguayan was called upon to make his first ever start for the club after a series of cameos off the bench since the World Cup.
“I think all the players played very well,” said Ten Hag. “Once again players who come in with us do a good job, give a good performance and so we not only have 11 players but a squad.
“And for Pellistri, yeah, it’s great to come in. He had some good cameos and some good performances in training but the game is different.
“In the start he has to come in, but you saw after [he settled] he grew in belief and had some really good actions.
“Defending, he definitely did his job. I’m really pleased with this performance.”
The draw for the Europa League quarter finals will be made on Friday at 12pm UK time. The route for the semi-finals will also be mapped out and there’ll be no federation restrictions on who can draw who.
As such, a mouth-watering tie between Man Utd and Arsenal – should the Gunners see off Sporting Lisbon – is possible.
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