Marcus Rashford strikes as Manchester United ease past Real Betis in Europa League

Erik ten Hag's side triumph 5-1 on aggregate after 1-0 win in Spain

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford (L) celebrates with Bruno Fernandes after scoring against Real Betis in Seville on March 16, 2023. EPA
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Marcus Rashford fired Manchester United to victory at Real Betis with a rocket of a strike as Erik ten Hag’s side cruised through to the Europa League quarter-finals.

United headed to Spain all-but assured of progress from this last-16 tie having won the first leg 4-1 in freezing conditions at Old Trafford last week.

Betis made United sweat during the opening stages in the return fixture, but Rashford’s outstanding strike silenced the bouncing Estadio Benito Villamarin and secured a 1-0 win on the night.

The impressive 5-1 aggregate triumph puts them through to the quarter-finals, with Friday’s draw to outline their potential path to the Europa League final in Budapest.

"I am happy, we like challenges. This is a good team, we have seen it against Real Madrid and Barcelona. We beat them twice so I think we performed very well," said Ten Hag.

"Second half we were much better on the ball, much more calm. we keep the ball in the opponent's half and let them run. And you see we created chanced.

"I think all the players did very well. Once again the players that came in did a good job and gave a good performance. So you can see we are not just 11 players we are a squad."

The second leg in Seville had started in unconvincing fashion against Manuel Pellegrini’s Verdiblancos, with Juanmi wasting a glorious chance before Joaquin struck the post from distance.

Facundo Pellistri, making his first United start, hit the post at the end of a poor first half that was followed by a much-improved second-period performance by Ten Hag’s team.

Rashford looked sharp and followed an inexplicable miss moments earlier by unleashing a stunning 25-yard strike that ensured United’s first away trip since their Anfield annihilation ended in a win.

Betis’ 50,000-plus fans were always here in hope rather than expectation given their three-goal deficit and their side flew out of the blocks, wasting a glorious eighth-minute chance.

United were caught out of position and Ayoze Perez sent Juanmi through, only to drag his shot across the face of goal with Harry Maguire breathing down his neck.

It was a huge let-off followed by 41-year-old Joaquin winding back the years to unleash a stunning 30-yard effort that hit the post after a slight Casemiro deflection.

Betis were making life uncomfortable for a strong-looking United side, although Ten Hag’s men eventually managed to slow the tempo and frustrate the hosts without ever looking in control.

The sharp start had waned but David De Gea had to be alert to stop Juanmi, who had raced between the visitors’ centre-back pairing to meet a fine through ball.

Maguire blocked the lively forward’s next attempt as the raucous home support continued to back their team, whose faint hopes were almost extinguished in stoppage time.

Casemiro went down on the left following a foul by Joaquin and Bruno Fernandes swung in the resulting free-kick, with the ball falling to Pellistri to get a shot into the ground that hit the post.

Wout Weghorst threw himself at it in an attempt to prod home but could not stretch to meet it, just as he had failed when trying to reach a Casemiro header at the start of the game.

The sides traded wayward efforts when the second half got under way, with Rashford among those to miss as he played with the bit between his teeth.

Betis goalkeeper Rui Silva denied the 25-year-old after Fernandes played on to him, with the forward furious with himself after uncharacteristically blazing over a brilliant chance.

Rashford quickly let that frustration out in stunning fashion.

Having been found by a sweeping Casemiro pass, he took a couple of touches and then let rip with a fizzing 25-yard strike that flew home to silence the Betis faithful in the 55th minute.

Updated: March 16, 2023, 9:03 PM