Erik ten Hag saluted captain Bruno Fernandes for leading the perfect response to Manchester United’s Anfield humiliation. The under-fire skipper who came in for massive criticism for his display against Liverpool scored and laid on two assists as United eased past Real Betis, winning 4-1 on Thursday night in the Europa League knockouts.
Fernandes received a glowing review from his boss after the win with Ten Hag labelling him “the best player on the pitch”. The United manager said: “He showed his personality, he played a little deeper role tonight and I think he was brilliant, making the game from the back position.
“He led the team with his control of the game and passing, a lot of good passes in between the lines and from there we created a lot of chances, and then he scored a goal.” Ten Hag insisted that one result does not erase the 7-0 Liverpool drubbing from the memory, however.
The Dutchman continued: “We don't ignore it. We made mistakes and we got hammered, we didn't control the standards we have and we showed complacency. You can never do that in top football.
“But sometimes you have to get the bad result where everyone opens their eyes. It is always good to see how the team reacts after a setback. This is not the first time this season we can reset and bounce back. This team has character, so big compliment to the team.”
Similarly, Paul Scholes reflected on BT Sport: “They showed great character tonight. They started the game really well but had a little sticky spell just before half-time. Second half, I thought they were fantastic, with Bruno Fernandes dictating play in the centre of the pitch.”
Marcus Rashford opened the scoring for United and he claimed the win over Betis represented upward momentum at the end of a difficult week. The striker added: “It's always important to win the next fixture after a loss. It's the only way to bounce back and continue the momentum we had before the Liverpool game.
“It's a step back in the right direction and we have to build on it now. We can't put too much emphasis on Sunday, because it's gone and we can't change it, so we just have to keep moving forward.”
United's victory was marred late on by minor crowd trouble involving a small number of Betis supporters who clashed with United fans and police. The Red Devils return to action at home to Southampton in the Premier League this Sunday.