It’s the first time Manchester United have ever played Real Betis and the third Spanish opponent they have faced this year in the Europa League. We look ahead to the Europa League last 16 tie with our Opta preview and prediction.
Man United vs Real Betis: The Quick Hits
- Manchester United to celebrate their 60th game against a Spanish team with victory, according to the Opta prediction.
- This game will be Manuel Pellegrini’s fifth against Manchester United in a European competition.
- Betis will be the third Spanish team United have played against this season in the Europa League.
Manchester United might as well just relocate to Spain and change their name to El Manchester United. They have played Spanish opponents every year now since 2017 and with mixed results, including their recent victory over Barcelona, a Europa League semi-final triumph over Celta Vigo in 2017 and Europa League final loss to Villarreal.
This season, they’ll have played three of Spain’s top six teams after being drawn against Real Betis in the Europa League last 16. They played Real Sociedad and, of course, Barcelona earlier in the year.
In total, United have played Spanish opposition 59 times since their first encounter with Valencia back in 1982 in the Europa League. This is the first ever meeting between Manchester United and Real Betis in any competition, with the Andalusian side the 12th different Spanish team the Red Devils have faced in major European competition – the most from a single nation.
Real Betis manager Manuel Pellegrini has managed against Manchester United four times previously in European competition – all four games ended goalless in the group stages of the Champions League in 2005-06 and 2008-09 when he was Villarreal manager. Those goalless draws account for 11% of Manchester United’s total 0-0 draws in major European competition ever.
Pellegrini’s record versus United is slightly better in the Premier League. He faced them nine times, winning five, drawing one and losing three during his spell in England with Manchester City and West Ham.
This is the first time in the history of both clubs that they will play each other. Man United have played Spanish opposition a number of times this season though. They drew Real Sociedad, in the group stages of the competition. They lost 1-0 and won by the same scoreline in their group games against the Basque side. They drew 2-2 with Barcelona at Camp Nou before beating the Catalans 2-1 at Old Trafford.
Real Betis have lost four of their previous six European games against English opponents (W1 D1), with this their first such game since November 2005 when they drew 0-0 with Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League.
Manchester United are coming off an impressive two-legged victory against Barcelona and a Carbao Cup final win against Newcastle United. Erik ten Hag was starting to implement his vision at the club and things were looking up after years in the doldrums. Then they went and got annihilated by Liverpool at Anfield in one of the worst defeats the club has ever experienced. It also ended their slim hopes of catching Arsenal at the top of the Premier League. Erik ten Hag called the display ‘unprofessional’ and the Dutch manager has a job on his hands to eradicate the memory of that performance before travelling to Spain.
Whether that was a blip in what has been an impressive season or a harbinger for bigger problems down the road remains to be seen. Real Betis are one of the in-form teams in Spain though and won’t be a pushover across the two legs.
The good news for United is that they haven’t lost the first leg of any of their last eight European knockout ties (W4 D4). And when their first leg has been at home in a UEFA Cup/Europa League knockout tie, the Red Devils have lost just one of 11 matches (W5 D5), losing 3-2 against Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Club in March 2012, just over 11 years to the day of the date their game against Real Betis will be played.
Real Betis are coming off a heroic comeback win against Elche and a draw with Real Madrid. They found themselves two goals down against Elche and fought back to win 3-2 in the dying minutes to keep their top four hopes alive. They might have ended Real Madrid’s LaLiga title challenge with their performance at the Benito Villamarin last Sunday.
That’s not to say they aren’t without their problems. Nabil Fekir has been ruled out for the rest of the season and beyond with an ACL tear and Sergio Canales is also struggling for fitness – he is back training and hopes to be fit, which would be a massive boost for Betis. Due to injuries, Pellegrini has been experimenting with his line-ups recently too.
Betis have won just one of their last seven knockout matches in the UEFA Europa League (D3 L3), a 3-2 victory against Zenit St Petersburg in February 2022. Their three knockout wins in the competition, however, have all come away from home (vs Rubin Kazan and Sevilla in 2014 & Zenit in 2022).
Players to Watch
Manchester United: To Be Decided
It’s hard to pick a player to watch after the shambles at Anfield on Sunday. There was not one single player who came away from the game having improved their reputation. Bruno Fernandes was labelled a ‘disgrace’ by Gary Neville for his antics, David de Gea conceded seven goals from eight shots on target, Casemiro was sloppy, Marcus Rashford lacked precision and Antony was frustrating to watch as he dallied on the ball.
It will be interesting to see which players Ten Hag sacrifices following the capitulation at Anfield.
Real Betis: Rodri
Real Betis academy product, Rodri, had been filling in for Fekir at times when the French midfielder needed rest this season and was eating into his minutes. But following that ACL tear mentioned earlier, Rodri’s succession plan has been accelerated and the no. 10 role is now his full time. He will have the job of navigating his way through Casemiro at the base of United’s midfield but does tend to drift to the left and right to pick up the ball and Ten Hag will have to always account for his whereabouts. His 1.49 dribbles completed per 90 is the third-highest on the team among players with more than 500 minutes this season.
Man United vs Real Betis Prediction
Our supercomputer had Liverpool as the favourites for United’s visit to Anfield and some fans weren’t happy. But the supercomputer knew better. This time, United fans will be delighted to hear that they are massive favourites to win at the Old Trafford on Thursday night. The supercomputer believes in United’s bouncebackability and gives them a 65.8% chance of winning the first leg.
Real Betis are pushing for a top four spot in LaLiga but their squad keeps getting thinner due to injuries. They are only getting a 14.2% chance of victory at home in the first leg of this last 16 tie with United. It’s the first time they will ever play Manchester United but if this prediction is correct, it won’t be a game they’ll want to keep in their memory.