Manchester United… 4
Real Betis… 1
Anybody that has been around sport for long enough will have endured days similar to that which this corner endured last Sunday. Meath scrambling a disappointing against Limerick and then Manchester United getting absolutely humiliated by an awesome looking Liverpool side later in the same day.
I say awesome looking because if one was to believe the current Premier League table, United are a bit ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s team but, as much as the Red Devils have markedly improved under Erik ten Hag, even this ardent red would concede the Anfield outfit have been the better for the last good while.
But seven goals better? Hardly. To me, the abomination of a performance was down to a (metaphorical) hangover from the League Cup win, at best, or, at worst, cocky arrogance on the part of the United players.
You’d get hard to believe the latter scenario would be allowed prevail under ten Hag but it’s obvious that’s what the Dutch man thought it was that way himself, describing the display as “Unprofessional” and “Unacceptable”.
Now, chances are he meant those terms collectively, referencing the whole group. However, all and sundry appeared to zero in on Bruno Fernandes. Look, the team Captain is an interesting character, to put it mildly.
Certainly his football acumen is beyond reproach. His arrival was the catalyst upon which United’s revival – albeit slow and gradual – has been constructed. But yes, he is petulant and plays on the edge and sometimes over it. Traits I love to see in a player. Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Cristiano Ronaldo and even spoilt brat Beckham were the exact same. They didn’t work out too bad, did they?
Ultimately, however, the skipper and his colleagues let their boots do the talking against Real Betis of Spain in the Europa League. With the currently scintillating Marcus Rashford putting them in front after six minutes. Admittedly, even with Harry Maguire blessedly out of the team (hopefully permanently), they are still prone to bouts of ramshackle defending. Such as that which gifted Betis an equaliser prior to half time.
Make no mistake though, it wouldn’t take a genius to see United were like wounded lions after the Anfield debacle and proved as such with an emphatic second half as goals from Antony and Fernandes himself and Wout Weghorst left the job as close to being done and dusted as could possibly be before the second leg even kicks off.
Vindication for the manager and his players. The last-named pair in particular. The least all and sundry deserved.