Manchester United travel to Seville in Spain to take on Real Betis in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg on Thursday evening. United beat Betis 4-1 in the first leg at Old Trafford with goals from Marcus Rashford, Antony, Bruno Fernandes and Wout Weghorst scoring the goals. Erik ten Hag’s side bounced back well following the defeat to Liverpool in the Premier League five days previously. United have a good chance in the Europa League.
Betis have not had a win since they beat Elche 3-2, earning a 0-0 draw against Real Madrid, losing to United and more recently a 1-1 draw against Villarreal. That said, United drew 0-0 with the Premier League’s bottom club – Southampton on Sunday which saw Casemiro sent off and suspended for the next four domestic matches and Alejandro Garnacho receive an ankle injury, which will keep him out of action for the foreseeable future – two big blows for United.
United have two matches left before the first international break of 2023 with this visit to Seville to face Betis and a visit of Fulham to Old Trafford in the quarter final of the Emirates FA Cup on Sunday – which will be the first match Casemiro will miss, along with the Premier League fixtures against Newcastle United (A), Brentford (H) and Everton (H). At least he will be rested for the end of the season – which looks set to be just as busy as it is now.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1
Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw;
Antony, Fernandes, Rashford;
Goalkeeper: De Gea
I am sure that David De Gea will continue to start in goal for United for much of the remainder of the season. I can’t see Jack Butland given an opportunity in such an important match as this one, or the one against Fulham at Old Trafford on Sunday. Perhaps when United have attained what they want to in the Premier League this season, Butland could make his debut for the club and also Tom Heaton could perhaps feature for United again.
Heaton will be out of contract at the end of the season, although he does have a further year as an option which will need to be activated by the Old Trafford club. United will need to look at the goalkeeping positions at the club in the summer with De Gea also out of contract – although reports suggest he will be retained by the Old Trafford club this summer. United have had a positive season but there has been some major blips on the way – something that needs to end.
De Gea is a good player for United but there are some major problems in hims game that need to be rectified – but they say you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. That will be something for Erik ten Hag and his goalkeeper coaches to work on though but the work will need to be done. United are in the market for a new number one at United but I can’t see a player who is getting games at a club come in to be behind De Gea next season – which is a big problem for United.
Defenders: Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw
United have conceded nine goals in March so far and during the next two matches, both in cup competitions, United will need to ensure they progress into the next round of both the UEFA Europa League and the Emirates FA Cup. For that reason, and with the international break coming up, Ten Hag could select a strong back four, at least for 60 minutes or so before making changes. Diogo Dalot could start at right-back – he will need to put in a strong performance.
On the left, Luke Shaw should start as the other fullback. His experience is key for United and even against Southampton on Sunday, he was the main attacking outlet in the first half of the match, which shows what he is capable of. Dalot and Shaw were once considered the first-choice fullbacks for United but Aaron Wan-Bissaka has shone this season, taking on Dalot for the right-back role. He will be available on the bench to come on if need be.
In the centre of the defence, Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez should once again be partnered as they are the best central defenders for the club this season. Ten Hag seems to like Victor Lindelof, who could replace Varane providing he is over his recent illness, but I would prefer to start the best defenders, then make changes as and when United score more goals. That will be the key in this match. United have a three-goal lead heading into the match – which is a positive.
Midfield: Casemiro, McTominay
United’s midfield will have a big job ahead of them this season. Casemiro will be eligible to feature in the UEFA Europa League but he will then serve a four-match domestic ban missing the Emirate FA Cup quarter final against Fulham and the Premier League matches against Newcastle United. Brentford and Everton. It will be a massive loss for United – especially with Christian Eriksen and Donny van de Beek also out of action. United will need to prevail without him.
I think Casemiro will start this match because he’s going to get some rest from Sunday. He has been selected for Brazil’s match during the international break but between the 2 April and the 8 April, he should serve the remaining three matches of his suspension which should see him back from the clash with Nottingham Forest at the City Ground. Fred has been a player that has played alongside his compatriot this season but I think another should get a chance.
Scott McTominay showed his ability coming on late against Southampton at the weekend and giving him a chance to play alongside Casemiro, then perhaps with Fred or Marcel Sabitzer during the four matches Casemiro will be suspended for, could put him on the pedestal to achieve more this season for United but also to show the player that United will most probably sell in the summer transfer window. It could be good for both United and the player.
Attacking Midfield: Antony, Fernandes, Rashford
United will need to start this match with the strongest players, at least on paper to try and get the job done for United. With a three-goal cushion heading into the match, one more goal scored for United would give United a great chance of reaching the quarter final stage of the UEFA Europa League. Antony has a lot to prove at United this season. He has scored seven goals and one assist so far but could provide a lot more in his debut season for the Old Trafford club.
Bruno Fernandes has had an on and off season and last week against Betis, he worked hard and helped to get the win for his club. This is the Fernandes that everyone wants to see this season. He has eight goals and ten assists so far this season, which is a good figure for the attacking midfielder and he will be seeking to score and assist more goals. If he could get a goal in each of the two matches before the international break, it could be good for him and United.
Marcus Rashford is the top scorer for United this season with 26 goals and seven assists. In this attacking midfield three, the players selected are responsible for 40 goals and 18 assists – 58 goal contributions. Rashford will be annoyed that he could not score against Southampton at the weekend and he will want to get that elusive goal in this match to make up for it and help guide United into Friday’s UEFA Europa League quarter final, semi final and final draw.
Wout Weghorst has two goals and three assists so far this season and despite not being able to score in his 44 minutes against Southampton at the weekend, he did have some good chances from that game. It all seems to have gone wrong for United with Weghorst playing in a deeper role from the start of the match and perhaps it is time to revert back to what did seem to work well for United with Weghorst leading the line? It is a simple things to chance but a positive one.
The Dutchman has been a workhorse for United this season and few seem to recognise that. Granted, he’s not the prolific striker that United need but in terms of freeing up space, creating space and holding up the ball – that is a major positive for United. He has played 1,165 minutes of football for United in the 16 matches he’s been available for – starting all of them. He’s not picked up an injury and seems to want to continue fighting for United after winning his first trophy.
What more could anyone ask for from a player? Granted, I would like to see him score more goals and I do believe that will come. He has brought some experience to the club this season and in terms of performances, he has given everything he has on the pitch. He scored his first Old Trafford goal last week and it was such an emotional occasion for him and a long time coming. Hopefully he can start to find more goals for United in the next two matches.
Substitutes: Heaton; Lindelof, Maguire, Malacia, Wan-Bissaka; Fred, Sabitzer, Mainoo; Martial, Sancho, Pellistri, Elanga
Ten Hag will be able to choose from a maximum of twelve substitutes against Betis, using five of them throughout the match. The 4-1 victory at Old Trafford gives United a three-goal cushion in Seville, which should make them favourites to win this match. Scoring a goal to put the match to bed should be a priority. With De Gea starting, I think Tom Heaton will be on the bench. It could well be that Jack Butland is on the bench too, but that could be a wasted chance for fringe players.
In defence, United could have Victor Lindelof, providing he has recovered from his illness, Harry Maguire, Tyrell Malacia and Aaron Wan-Bissaka available. That is a strong defensive bench, which could be needed for this match, especially if Betis open the scoring. That could change the game. In the midfield, Fred, Marcel Sabitzer, providing he has recovered from his knock, and Kobbie Mainoo could all provide something in the midfield, should changes be required.
United’s attack is perhaps one of the stronger areas, at least on paper this season. Against Betis, United could have Anthony Martial, as long as he has recovered from his latest injury, Jadon Sancho, Facundo Pellistri and Anthony Elanga. Granted, Sancho is not in good form and Elanga does not seem to offer goals but Pellistri is a player that brings excitement to the squad. With Alejandro Garnacho injured, the Uruguayan could get a good opportunity to shine.
Written by John Walker