Preview: United need to send out a firm message after Liverpool debacle by beating Real Betis and go on another winning run this season

Ten Hag needs to send a message to underperforming stars

Manchester United -v- Real Betis

UEFA Europa League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Thursday 9 March 2023, KO 20:00 GMT

Manchester United welcome Real Betis to the Theatre of Dreams on Thursday evening in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg. United will be seeking to come back from that 7-0 humiliation at Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday. It was one of three bad results for United in the Premier League this season; Brentford 4-0, Manchester City 6-3 and Liverpool 7-0. The overreaction from that defeat has been laughable from so-called Manchester United supporters.

To see Ten Hag Out trending on social media was something that I expected from the same people who live thousands of miles from Old Trafford who seem to think that making changes like that can come after defeats. We saw a lot of it during the David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjær eras at the club but these people could not distance themselves from the drama after this result – they were willing to ignore all the good signs this season.

United played their 42nd match of the season against Liverpool and had won 30 matches, drawn five and lost seven in all competitions, already winning the Carabao Cup and having a four point cushion in third place in the Premier League over fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, seven points over Liverpool. The positives are still there to be seen – reaching the Emirates FA Cup quarter finals and into the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League. Still they react like that.

Manchester United – Form, Goals Scored & Assists

Liverpool 7-0 L, West Ham United 3-1 W, Newcastle United 2-0 W, Barcelona 2-1 W, Leicester City 3-0 W, Barcelona 2-2 D

Goals: 25 – Marcus Rashford, 7 – Bruno Fernandes, 6 – Antony, Fred, Anthony Martial, 5 – Casemiro, Own Goal, Jadon Sancho, 4 – Alejandro Garnacho, 3 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 2 – Christian Eriksen, Scott McTominay, 1 – Diogo Dalot, Lisandro Martinez, Luke Shaw, Wout Weghorst

Assists: 9 – Christian Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes, 7 – Marcus Rashford, 5 – Casemiro, Luke Shaw, 4 – Alejandro Garnacho, 3 – Fred, Wout Weghorst, 2 – Diogo Dalot, Anthony Elanga, Anthony Martial, Cristiano Ronaldo, 1 – Antony, Scott McTominay, Facundo Pellistri, Jadon Sancho, Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Real Betis – Form, Goals Scored & Assists

Real Madrid 0-0 D, Elche CF 3-2 W, Real Valladolid 2-1 W, UD Almeria 3-2 W, RC Celta de Vigo 4-3 L, FC Barcelona 2-1 L

Goals: 10 – Borja Iglesias, 6 – Sergio Canales, 4 – Nabil Fekir, Juanmi, 3 – Luiz Henrique, Willian José, 2 – William Carvalho, Rodri, Aitor Ruibal, 1 – Juan Cruz, Andrés Guardado, Joaquín, Juan Miranda, Guido Rodríguez

Assists: 4 – Borja Iglesias, 3 – Luiz Henrique, Juan Miranda, Álex Moreno, Rodri, 2 – Sergio Canales, Nabil Fekir, 1 – Andrés Guardado, Joaquín, Youssouf Sabaly

Previous Meetings & Connections

United have not yet played Betis in a competitive fixture so this will be another new experience for the Red Devils in the Europa League. Erik ten Hag’s side has met them in a friendly match playing during the FIFA World Cup at the end of 2022, which resulted in a 1-0 defeat at the Benito Villamarín with Nabil Fekir scoring. United started with David De Gea, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Scott McTominay and Anthony Martial as the only experienced players on the pitch.

On loan goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and injured midfielder Donny van de Beek were the only experienced players on the bench due to the majority of United’s first team being involved with the World Cup. It was not the best match to watch, neither was the one prior to it; a 4-2 defeat to Cádiz CF but they were friendly matches. United will be tasked with hitting hard in this match to overcome that shocking defeat to Liverpool four days prior to the match at Old Trafford.

United and Betis have no players who have played for both clubs. That may change at some point in the future though. With this being the first competitive meeting between the two sides and Betis coming off a 0-0 draw with Real Madrid and United coming back off a 7-0 defeat to Liverpool, it is going to be a big match for United. The Red Devils will be seeking to get the best of the Spanish side at Old Trafford to reach the quarter finals of the Europa League this season.

Team News

Donny van de Beek and Christian Eriksen are both long-term injuries for United with Eriksen likely to return before the end of the season. Anthony Martial is own his way back to fitness after another injury problem this season and doubts remain as to whether he will be available for this match. Casemiro and Victor Lindelof both have 50% chances of being involved in this match. Both players have received knocks in the last few matches. There will be some changes for United.

It is expected that Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Tyrell Malacia, Marcel Sabitzer, Jadon Sancho and Alejandro Garnacho could all come into the starting XI for this match with Ten Hag needing to send a message to players that the defeat to Liverpool needs to be a one off and not something that comes around time and time again. The likes of Kobbie Mainoo and Zidane Iqbal, who were in action at U21 level on Monday evening, could both have some involvement in this match.

Nabil Fekir is the only player to have been ruled out through injury for Betis after know surgery. Juan Cruz misses out but Sergio Canales has returned to training ahead of this match and will travel with the squad to Manchester. Claudio Bravo, German Pezzella, Luiz Felipe and Aitor Ruibal are all one yellow card away from a suspension in the Europa League this season. Casemiro will need to watch out for United because he is in the same boat as the Betis players.

Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-2-3-1

De Gea;

Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martínez, Malacia;

Casemiro, Sabitzer;

Sancho, Fernandes, Garnacho;

Rashford

Predicted Real Betis Starting XI – 4-2-3-1

Silva;

Sabaly, Felipe, Edgar, Miranda;

Carvalho, Rodríguez;

Henrique, Canales, Juanmi;

José

Match Prediction

United were hit hard by Liverpool and Ten Hag will need to find a way back for his players in this match. Also, the players will need to listen to their manager and ensure the club does not fall into a rut with multiple defeats in sequence, which would make a largely positive season end sourly. United will need to react in this match and raise their game with Southampton on the horizon for United on Sunday and them also needing wins in the Premier League.

It has been suggested that Betis manager Manuel Pellegrini will get his players to ignore United’s defeat to Liverpool as it will not define their season. If Betis went to Old Trafford expecting United to be a pushover, they could be very much mistaken. United have a good record at Old Trafford this season and Ten Hag will not only want to keep that record, but extend it. United need to stand up, dust themselves off and get back to winning matches as that is necessary.

It will be a tough match at the Theatre of Dreams but I would expect United to take a stand, show what they are made of and pay the supporters back for the extraordinary defeat to Liverpool on Sunday. Worse teams have come back from massive defeats like that so for United, it should be easier with the overall quality of the squad available. A message will need to be sent out with this match to stop United falling into some sort of void at this important stage of the season.

Manchester United 3-0 Real Betis

Written by John Walker


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I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.