A 4-1 advantage after the first leg would spell the end of the tie in most fixtures. However, Real Betis vs Manchester United is far from over.
Manchester United have historically struggled to put away Spanish sides, especially away from home.
Combine that with a bruising game against Southampton on the weekend, fatigue accumulating in the legs, and Betis being charged up for revenge after the first-leg hammering, the Red Devils need to do a professional job to avoid a historic upset.
In a game of match-ups all over the field, these 3 battles could decide which way the game goes on the night, even if Betis might find the 4-1 deficit too big to overturn.
Let's get the job done 👊#MUFC || #UEL
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 16, 2023
Sergio Canales vs Casemiro
On the back of a chastening experience in the Southampton game, Casemiro would be chomping at the bit to make his presence felt in Europe. The Brazilian maestro is banned for four games in domestic competitions, making this the perfect game for him to go full-tilt.
However, against him will be a threat United didn’t have to face in the first leg. Sergio Canales has been an instrumental force for Real Betis this season. He missed the first-leg due to injury worries but has since come back into the fold, playing for an hour against Villarreal in a 1-1 draw.
Canales is a nifty operator, who likes to start off wide and roam between the defensive and midfield lines of the opposition. This season, he has majorly played off the right wing, cutting in on his stronger left foot to make raking passes. Casemiro will be tasked to nullify Canales’ creative prowess when he drifts inside. The job will become further important if Erik ten Hag repeats the experiment of playing Fernandes alongside Casemiro as one of the two deeper midfielders in a 4-2-3-1.
Fernandes’ lack of defensive positioning will have to be compensated by Casemiro. Otherwise, Canales could torment the United backline with his progressive passing and chance creation.
Marcus Rashford vs Betis right-side
Rashford was arguably the hottest player in world football before Erling Haaland decided to casually dismantle RB Leipzig with his 5 goals. Betis will undoubtedly be aware of the prospect of facing a motivated Rashford who has gone cold a bit by his now world-class standards. Rashford found a lot of joy down Betis’ right side in the first leg, with Sabaly struggling to contain him, despite being helped by Guido Rodriguez and Luiz Henrique.
Manuel Pellegrini rested Sabaly on the weekend against Villarreal which could mean he will again be tasked with stopping the Wythenshawe prodigy.
A repeat of the first leg, where Betis conceded an early goal to Rashford, could spell doom for Pellegrini’s men.
Looking to build on our first-leg lead 🧱
Will we see another goal from @B_Fernandes8 this evening? ⚽️#MUFC || #UEL
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 16, 2023
Ayoze Perez vs Harry Maguire/Victor Lindelof
Ayoze Perez had never scored against United during his time as a Leicester City player. That all changed when his grounded missile quietened Old Trafford in the first-half of the first-leg.
Capable of playing as a No 10, in a shadow striker role, or playing as an out-and-out forward, Perez is a nightmare to deal with for the opposition centre-backs. He is always on the move and is adept at finding spaces on the pitch during attacking phases. His movement often drags defenders out of position, and with Erik ten Hag likely to rest either, or both Varane and Martinez, the duty to deal with Perez will fall on club captain Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof’s shoulders.
Maguire, especially, can struggle when put up against mobile attackers, so he will probably be tasked with sweeping duties as Lindelof leaves his defensive line to engage with Perez higher up the pitch. A momentary lapse of concentration was enough for Betis to stun United last time. An early goal in this fixture could set the tone for a long 90 minutes for the Mancunians. To avoid that, United’s centre-backs will need to be on their A-game for every second.
Besides these three battles, Real Betis vs Manchester United would be interesting viewing for a number of things. Antony’s absence could see Fernandes line up on the right. However, if the manager wants a ball progressor in midfield, as he did against Southampton, exciting Uruguayan Facundo Pellistri could get his first game as a Man Utd starter. United’s games in the Europa League have been box-office so far and that trend looks set to continue here with these interesting tactical wrinkles.
Get the most important Manchester United news, opinion, interviews and exclusive features with the Stretty Newsletter – Ad Free! Kick off your afternoon with the Stretty News verdict on all matters Manchester United.