Real Betis 0 Man Utd 1 (agg 1-5): Marcus Rashford stunner fires Red Devils into pot for Europa League quarter-final draw
WHAT A SEASON Marcus Rashford is having.
His fabulous winner here in Seville was his 27th goal for Manchester United in 43 games this season.
GettyMarcus Rashford scored again as Manchester United reached the quarter-final[/caption]
GettyThe striker has scored 19 goals in 24 games since the World Cup[/caption]
APErik ten Hag has brought the best out of Rashford[/caption]
Of those, 19 have come in his 24 games since scoring three for England in the Qatar World Cup.
To think, last season he scored five in all.
But this is a player reborn under Erik ten Hag’s guidance.
One of the best frontmen in Europe right now.
His 56th-minute effort could have been drawn from the Cristiano Ronaldo scrapbook.
Receiving a crossfield pass from Casemiro he took the ball forward ten yards and then from 25 yards released a thunderous low shot that buried itself in the far bottom corner of then goal.
As ever he pointed to his temple in celebration – ‘mentality’.
That’s what he says it’s all about and he has the right one.
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Confidence flows through him.
The goal was the 25-year-old’s sixth in the Europa League this season, to go with two assists, in eight appearances.
So it was mission easily accomplished for United.
They blasted out ‘It’s a Kind of Magic’ before kick-off but it would only come from the right boot of Rashford.
This last 16 tie was really done and dusted at Old Trafford in the first leg when three second-half goals completed a 4-1 win.
Still, here in Seville, Rashford was happy to make sure of it.
Now for United it’s on to the next step in their bid for a triple crown.
Having bagged the Carabao Cup, their first trophy in six years, they are on for more.
They are now in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
It is the same stage they are at in the FA Cup where they will meet Fulham this Sunday at Old Trafford.
A place that has been rebuilt into a fortress under Ten Hag and where United will be favourites to progress to the semi-finals and return to Wembley where they beat Newcastle 2-0 in that Carabao Cup triumph.
While the title is now out of reach after dropping five points in their last two league games the pots can keep coming.
Ten Hag was taking no chances last night, naming a strong side.
Even though Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes risked a suspension in the next game if booked they were in the starting line-up.
Harry Maguire was back with the armband and both he and Lisandro Martinez needed to be at their best to withstand a first-half onslaught.
Despite the seemingly hopeless nature of the task in front of Betis there was some atmosphere inside the Estadio Benito Villamarin.
The home crowd roared on every attack and an early one almost brought a goal as Juanmi beat David de Gea with an angled shot that rolled just the wrong side of the far post.
Captain Joaquin was in soon after having been put through by Youssouf Sabaly but De Gea saved as he did with an outstretched leg when Juanmi had another effort.
Yet it would be United who came closest to scoring with their first real chance in the only minute of first-half injury time.
Facundo Pellistri making his first start for the club 892 days after signing for the Red Devils, had a shot deflected and Wout Weghorst was there.
But, you probably know what’s coming next, he didn’t score.
His outstretched leg steered the ball onto the post and goalkeeper Rui Silva batted the ball away.
United ended the half having not had a shot on target for the first time this season in the opening period.
That changed after the restart.
They are so often better in the second period and Rashford was at the heart of it all.
Found by Fernandes he was denied by the goalkeeper and also scooped a great chance over the bar.
At the other end Ayoze Perez had a flick header well saved.
Then came Rashford’s moment to silence the crowd.
Well, silence all but the travelling faithful high in one corner of the ground.
It’s been a while, but it’s fun for them to follow their club again.