Erik ten Hag praises Marcus Rashford’s focus, persistence and quality

Erik ten Hag highlighted Marcus Rashford’s focus, tenacity and quality after the in-form striker fired Manchester United to a 1-0 win at Real Betis in the Europa League.

Despite a 4-1 lead from last week’s round of 16 first leg at Old Trafford, the Red Devils boss made just four changes for the second leg after Sunday’s Premier League tie with Southampton.

Betis made life difficult for United in the first half in a bouncing Estadio Benito Villamarin, which was silenced in the 55th minute when Rashford fired home in stunning fashion.

The 25-year-old came off the break with his teeth between his teeth and hammered in a 25-yard shot just minutes after unusually converting a glorious chance.

“The team created a few chances,” said Ten Hag. “Rashy had some chances before and he missed some but he stuck to his belief, he kept trying and got his reward.

“All good strikers know you don’t score every chance, but at this level you don’t create five or six chances in a game, so one of them has to be in there.”

Rashford’s 25th United goal in major European competition was his 19th in 24 games since returning from the World Cup.

“(His form) says something about the team’s performance,” Ten Hag said. “That says something about him.

“If he keeps the focus and makes sure he has the energy, the way he has to play in that system and style, he’ll come into scoring positions and then it’s about him, he has the ability to finish . ”

Ten Hag had always suspected United would have to weather an early storm on Thursday and was pleased with the way his side eventually took control in the second half.

Bruno Fernandes and Casemiro were also able to play significant roles without receiving bookings that would rule them out in the first leg of their quarter-final game.

The latter’s four-game domestic ban made his starting role against Betis less surprising than Fernandes, who has featured in all but three of United’s games this season.

“He’s very strong, very good recovery,” said Ten Hag. “He’s a very good athlete, he has so much energy and he can play so many roles.

“He is tactically brilliant, he can play roles and we can benefit from him, we can overload areas, we can outplay opponents, we create good situations and create chances.

“It is very important in counter-pressing, in pressing or in transitions. He is a good example for the team.

“He’s been in brilliant form for the past few weeks and it looks like he’s getting better game by game.”

Fernandes was added to the line-up in Spain by Facundo Pellistri, who made his first United start since joining the club from Penarol in October 2020.

“I think he deserves to come in,” said Ten Hag of the 21-year-old Uruguay international, who made just six appearances as a substitute before Thursday.

“He’s had a good training performance, you can see him making progress, getting stronger, good game against Leeds, against Betis.

“The beginning is more difficult, we saw that, but as the game goes on he came in and got faith, you see his ability.

“He had some good dribbles, good runs and some good crosses, he did his job as a defender so I’m pretty happy with his performance.

“It’s a step up for him. Now it’s up to him to find rhythm and contribute to the team.”

As for Betis, the focus is all on home action after former Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini suffered a 5-1 aggregate defeat in this round of 16.

“When we drew Man Utd we knew we were going to have a tough game,” said the LaLiga side boss.

“They are a Champions League team playing in the Europa League. We had three good chances to score but I’m proud of this team for the fight they showed.” Erik ten Hag praises Marcus Rashford’s focus, persistence and quality

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