With the snow falling at Old Trafford, Marcus Rashford and Ayoze Perez traded first-half tallies before United hit top gear in the second stanza with goals from Antony, Bruno Fernandes and Wout Weghorst staking them to a comfortable lead ahead of the second leg at the Benito Villamarin Stadium on March 16.
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Manager Erik ten Hag picked the exact same XI as he did for Sunday’s 7-0 Premier League thrashing at the hands of Liverpool and, despite beating Barcelona in the previous round, United went into the match knowing all five of their past European campaigns came to an end at the hands of Spanish opposition.
Recent history aside, the United manager got the response he was looking for when Fernandes set Rashford up in the penalty area and the prolific No. 10 cut to his right and powered a shot into the roof of Claudio Bravo’s net to open the scoring inside of 10 minutes.
United had firm control of the opening minutes and Weghorst had two chances to double the lead before 20 minutes, but the Netherlands international saw Bravo save his first effort and flashed just wide of the near post from a Luke Shaw pass with his second.
Despite their dominance, United found themselves back on level terms in the 32nd minute as Ayoze Perez lashed a low shot from distance that was just past the outstretched arm of David De Gea to make it 1-1.
A woeful ball out of the back from De Gea set Betis up to take lead just before the break, but the United keeper was spared by the post after Perez’s deflected effort from a tight angle clattered off the frame and left the score level at the half.
Ten Hag’s side started the second half the way they began the first, roaring out of the dressing room and quickly going up 3-1 with goals from Antony and Fernandes in the space of six minutes.
First, Fernandes picked out Antony on the right edge of the area and watched as his Brazilian teammate cut onto his trademark left foot and curled an unstoppable shot past Bravo. Then the United captain picked up a goal of his own with a glancing header from Shaw’s whipped-in corner.
Manuel Pellegrini’s Betis, sitting fifth in LaLiga, had no answers as they looked to work their way back into the game and the job in the second leg was made harder when Bravo blocked Scott McTominay’s shot right into the path of Weghorst for an easy finish from close range.
Man United host Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday, while Betis are away to Villarreal in LaLiga on the same day.