Man Utd secured a 4-1 win over Real Betis in the first leg of their Round-of-16 tie at Old Trafford.
From Anfield to Antony. This was a night of atonement for those Manchester United starters involved in the Anfield aberration only four days earlier.
Marcus Rashford, Antony, Bruno Fernandes and Wout Weghorst, all guilty of specific transgressions in the humiliation by Liverpool, exorcised some demons to restore normality at a club whose upward trajectory suddenly dipped at the weekend.
Antony, one of the most feckless participants at Anfield, was decisive on another European night at Old Trafford. Defenders show the Brazilian inside at their peril. and the nonchalance with which Antony curled the ball out of the reach of Claudio Bravo is partly why Erik ten Hag prioritised his acquisition.
Abner Vinicius, the Real Betis left-back, had not got the memo. Bravo watched the ball fly past him as though it were a bird gliding by. For all Antony’s flaws, his left-footedness has redressed a lopsided United attack and he is the scourge of Spanish defences after deciding the previous round against Barcelona.
Fernandes was deliberately the first to be serenaded by those in the militant singing section; vocal backing for the de facto captain who has led impeccably all season, bar Sunday. Fernandes claimed an assist and a goal.
Fernandes was so selfless he accepted the blame for one of David de Gea’s umpteen appalling kicks, patting his chest to publicly accept responsibility. Fernandes’s body language was improved by his redeployment as the No.10 while Weghorst assumed the No.9 role he was bought to fulfil.
A goal seemed certain to elude Weghorst again yet this was the night and he got his Old Trafford goal at the ninth attempt. Weghorst had the ball in the net before Marcus Rashford’s sixth-minute goal only Fred had strayed offside. The former United trialist Luiz Felipe superbly diverted a goalbound prod by Weghorst wide and blocked another effort. The Dutchman skied a cross from Luke Shaw that the errant linesman failed to notice he was offside.
Finally, Bravo’s parry from a Scott McTominay shot gifted Weghorst a tap-in on 82 minutes. Weghorst has a meagre two goals in 15 United games but his work rate continues to draw appreciation from the matchgoers. He owed them a shift after his act of blasphemy in the Anfield tunnel. Weghorst turned to the Stretford End and punched the air as his name was announced as the goalscorer.
Weghorst’s durability at 30 years of age should not be underestimated. He has been overplayed and overexposed by the 27-year-old Anthony Martial, back in squad training on Wednesday. He was absent for the 15th matchday squad running on Thursday.