United looking to bounce back from Anfield thrashing
Manchester United v Betis
Thursday 09 March, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 1
After Anfield humiliation, United must show grit
It's one thing to lose to your most bitter of rivals, but it's another to be completely undressed by them on the world stage. Despite arguably looking the more dangerous side for much of the first half at Liverpool on Sunday, Manchester United went on to deliver one of the worst 45-minute displays in the club's long and illustrious history.
The team lost its shape, its discipline and in some cases its temper, as Liverpool sliced and diced on their way to a record 7-0 victory. This was United's worst ever defeat to the Merseyside giants, and their worst defeat anywhere since 1931.
United boss Erik ten Hag described it as a reality check, an unprofessional performance that he hadn't seen coming. However, ten Hag has bounced back from setbacks before, and it's important to remember what the former Ajax boss has already achieved.
Victory over Newcastle in the League Cup final ended the Red Devils' trophy drought, a Champions League qualification place is United's to lose, and this generally seems a more cohesive and competent unit than it ever did under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Now attention turns to a competition that Manchester United can genuinely win. With Arsenal distracted by their Premier League challenge, and neither Juventus nor Roma consistently strong enough to be seen as favourites to lift the trophy, United have been installed as the favourites to win the Europa League at 3.259/4.
Given that they dumped out La Liga leaders Barcelona in the playoff round, it's hard to argue with United's status.
Full-backs Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot were overwhelmed at Anfield, and could make way here for Tyrell Malacia and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Christian Eriksen is still out with an ankle injury, while Anthony Martial is short of full fitness.
It remains to be seen whether ten Hag will freshen up his midfield and given starts to Scott McTominay and Marcel Sabitzer, but Marcus Rashford is expected to start in attack.
Pellegrini returns to scene of joy
Manuel Pellegrini has had an extraordinary career as a manager. The Chilean has coached in six countries, winning league titles in four of them. He took Villarreal to within a penalty kick of reaching the 2006 Champions League final, he won the Premier League with Manchester City and last season he lifted the Copa del Rey with Real Betis.
Pellegrini did some of the groundwork that Pep Guardiola benefited from in Manchester, and he added a couple of League Cups to his top-flight success. His City teams largely played excellent attacking football, and he is well regarded by City fans, not least because he handled himself with such dignity when he knew Guardiola was coming to take his job. He'd had some practice, having lost his position at Real Madrid to Jose Mourinho.
Pellegrini's work in Seville with Betis has been in keeping with the impressive nature of his career in general. The former engineer has won 68 of his 132 games in charge, and has led the team to fifth and sixth-placed finishes in La Liga, as well as delivering the club's first major trophy since 2005. They are once again in the mix for European qualification - the weekend's lively 0-0 draw with title-chasing Real Madrid left them fifth, just three points off the top four.
Talismanic midfield creator Nabil Fekir is out for the rest of the season with a cruciate ligament rupture, but Sergio Canales hopes to be involved after a hamstring injury.
United rightful favourites, but price needs boosting
It remains to be seen what effect that drubbing on Merseyside will have on United, and I can't quite get excited about them being 1.454/9 here in the Match Odds market. I suspect they will win (they have delivered 16 victories from the last 17 competitive games at Old Trafford), but what will the margin of victory be?
Betis created some excellent chances against Real Madrid at the week, only to be foiled by a stubborn Thibault Courtois display, and I think they can score here. Betis have found the net in ten of their last 12 competitive games, and they have won five of their last six games on the road, so they will have confidence.
I'll back United to win and both teams to score at 3.259/4 on the Exchange, which seems a big boost from the 1.454/9 for the straight home win. Both teams have scored in seven of United's last ten home games in all competitions.
Rashford to roar back into life
Marcus Rashford's unusual struggles on Merseyside continued on Sunday (he has never scored away to either Liverpool or Everton), and he blew his team's best chance with the score at 0-0.
However, his overall form remains superb, and he has scored in 15 of his last 21 matches. On that basis alone, I'll back him to score here at 2.1211/10, but only if he starts.