Manchester United head into Real Betis Europa League clash chastened by Liverpool drubbing

[09-03-2023 11:44 AM]

Ammon News - Imagine being one of the match analysts on the staff at Real Betis, collating and trying to make sense of information on future opponents during this crucial segment of the season.

Ahead of Real Madrid’s visit to Seville last weekend, they studied the Spanish champions’ preceding matches – and especially the ominous 46 minutes in late February when Madrid thumped five goals past Liverpool at Anfield.

Meanwhile, ahead of Betis’ trip to Manchester United for Thursday’s first leg of a Europa League last-16 tie, they scrutinise footage of United’s last fixture: Anfield, the same venue at which Madrid had run riot; a mere 12 days after Madrid routed Liverpool there, United shipped seven goals against the home team in the space of 45 minutes.

Trying to establish his bearings between these wildly fluctuating sets of data is Manuel Pellegrini, the vastly experienced Betis manager, whose team were solid enough to keep Madrid goalless on Sunday.

He sees United are well above Liverpool in the Premier League table. He is also wise enough to survey United’s dreadful thrashing at Anfield within the broader context of a run of form in which, since the new year, United have defeated Pellegrini’s old club Manchester City, eliminated Barcelona from Europe and lifted, with victory over Newcastle United in the League Cup final, their first trophy since 2017.

Pellegrini knows bad blips can sometimes just happen. He once oversaw a 7-0 defeat, managing Malaga, away at Real Madrid. His Malaga bounced back to win seven of their next 10 matches and within a year were qualifying for the Champions League.

When a thumping defeat interrupts a club’s momentum, it’s about how the players and the management react that counts.

Erik ten Hag, the United manager, may not be as worldly as Pellegrini but he has his own recovery stories. He was the Ajax manager, who, four winters back, lost 6-2 to arch-rivals Feyenoord. In three of the next four games, Ajax scored at least five times.

The rest of their season would feature winning the Dutch title and a run to the Champions League semi-finals in which Ajax eliminated Juventus and Real Madrid.

“We have to reset and bounce back,” said Ten Hag on Wednesday. “We made a mess on Sunday and we have to deal with that. We have seen the game again, talked about it and set out conclusions.”

Some of those conclusions are that, having gone a goal behind just before half time at Anfield, United became too impatient.

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