Erik ten Hag impressed as Manchester United bounce back from Anfield nightmare
Erik ten Hag was delighted by his players’ show of character and quality against Real Betis as Manchester United bounced back from their seven-goal shellacking at Liverpool with a Europa League win.
Just a week on from ending the club’s six-year wait for silverware by lifting the Carabao Cup came another historic afternoon for the Red Devils as they suffered a 7-0 Anfield annihilation.
Sunday’s loss equalled United’s heaviest ever defeat and Ten Hag stuck with the same starting line-up that lost at Liverpool as they looked to bounce back in the Europa League against Betis.
Marcus Rashford’s early opener was cancelled out by a stunning Ayoze Perez strike, but second half Antony, Bruno Fernandes and Wout Weghorst goals sealed a 4-1 last-16 first-leg victory.
“Definitely (the response I wanted),” Ten Hag said. “We said that we had to reset and we have to bounce back and I think we played quite good first half.
“I think we should have been up 3-0 also, but then we make one mistake.
“Then you go 1-1 into half-time but we bounce back in the second half and I think it was a really good performance in the second half.
“It’s not about ignoring (the Liverpool defeat). We make mistakes and we got hammered for that because we didn’t control the standards we have.
“We showed complacency and you can never do that in top football.”
Asked if he named an unchanged side to offer his players a chance to redeem themselves, Ten Hag said: “Actually, yeah, but also I thought it was the best line-up if I saw Betis.
“But also we played 23 games in a row with one loss and the 24th a huge defeat. But you can’t ignore all the 22 games before where this team played massively good.”
Leading the response.
🎩 @B_Fernandes8 #MUFC || #UEL pic.twitter.com/YbaFw2EJYM
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 9, 2023
Ten Hag admits he was “curious” to know how the Old Trafford faithful would react four days on from the Liverpool loss but was “pleased by the response from the crowd to the team”.
The United fans got behind their players, with under-fire Weghorst’s first home goal cheered to the rafters after scrutinised skipper Fernandes’ name echoed around the ground following his header.
“I think he was the best player on the pitch and it shows his personality,” Ten Hag said of Fernandes.
“He played a little bit deeper role tonight, I asked him to do, and I think he did it brilliant.
“He was the leader in making the game from the back in possession, making the rhythm of the game, a lot of good passes in between the lines and from there we created a lot of chances.”
Quizzed about the Fernandes challenge on Betis goalkeeper Claudio Bravo that brought a booking, the United boss added: “It’s his strength and his passion but you are right sometimes he has to control that.
“He has to bring it that it is his strength and not when it’s too much it becomes a weakness.
“That’s true and he knows that but there’s always small margins.”
Betis boss Manuel Pellegrini admitted United were “very much superior” by the end of the game and could have ended with more.
“I don’t think a knockout game is ever over in football,” the former Manchester City manager said.
“We’ve got 90 minutes to play at home and we have to start from minute one to see if we can turn the game round. I don’t think it will be easy to take on a tough team like Manchester United. We’re going to try.”