Manchester United traveled to Spain to face Real Betis in the second leg of the Europa League Round of 16.
United had the benefit of a three-goal lead arising from their 4-1 victory against Manuel Pellegrini’s men a week ago.
Erik ten Hag took the opportunity to give a few of his regular starters well-deserved rests and also get some minutes into the legs of others who have primarily had to be content with a place on the bench.
Harry Maguire and Tyrell Malacia came in for Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw who both started against Southampton on the weekend.
Jadon Sancho started on the bench and Bruno Fernandes was restored in his playmaking role. Wout Weghorst led the attack with Marcus Rashford and Facundo Pellistri attacking the flanks.
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 1-0 win against Real Betis.
Generally low technical levels within the team
A constant theme during the game against Betis was just how much United struggled in possession against a technically gifted Spanish rival.
So often, the Red Devils cheaply and easily gave the ball away which put them on the back foot.
From De Gea in goal all the way to Weghorst at the tip of attack, Ten Hag’s stars seemed bereft of ideas and any inkling of what to do with the ball.
De Gea, as is mostly the case, showed his limitations with regard to distribution and playing with his feet. He kept ceding possession to Betis’ players or even kicking it out of play.
In the middle of the park, control was lacking and in instances, it felt that between Fred, Fernandes and even Casemiro, the ball was being treated like a hot potato.
The idea seemed to be aimless and speculative balls to Rashford who could not make anything stick before he smashed the ball into the back of the net in the 55th minute with a superb effort that can only be described as world-class.
Even Weghorst, who is usually decent with his link-up work, was below par in his passing and bringing others into play.
It is easy to see why Ten Hag is obsessed with the idea of adding Frenkie de Jong to his ranks. The lack of sufficient technicality is a huge area of concern. Luckily for United, they weren’t made to pay against Betis.
Promising Pellistri performance
Ahead of the game, much of the excitement heading into the game was that Pellistri was starting.
The Uruguayan was knocking on the door for a start and when he was given the opportunity tonight he did not disappoint Ten Hag.
Pellistri was one of United’s best players.
He carried the ball well and always looked to take his man on. The 21-year-old provided width from the right which enabled his teammates to stretch the pitch and find spaces between the lines.
Pellistri showed the burst of pace he boasts of and just how useful his skill set can be to Ten Hag, especially in Alejandro Garnacho’s absence.
The winger had a few promising moments in front of goal and should have done better in one or two moments. However, no one will be too focused on this. He is still a young and developing star with plenty of promise.
Hopefully, he can develop at United and reach his potential.
Casemiro and Fernandes were disciplined
Fernandes and Casemiro needed to avoid being booked so as to be available for the next round of the Europa League.
There was suspicion that both would not start against Betis but Ten Hag assured that the duo would play in the build up to the match.
Ten Hag honored his promise and started the two.
Both players were calm and collected and avoided finding themselves in rash situations that would have needed them to commit cynical fouls or something of the sort.
They did all this while also being defensively astute when required to be.
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