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Staff Takeaways: Manchester United 4-1 Real Betis

Thoughts from the staff after the 1st leg win in Europe...

Manchester United v Real Betis: Round of 16 Leg One - UEFA Europa League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Colin - Good for Wout, but he’s still not showing that he can be “that guy”

Wout Weghorst scored his first goal at Old Trafford on Thursday, and just second goal in total since joining on loan in the January transfer window. He was understandably emotional, celebrating with vigor in front of the Stretford End after scoring United’s fourth goal of the game to potentially put the tie against Real Betis to bed.

Weghorst has been a constant in the team since his arrival, playing both a typical no. 9 role and dropping in to play the no. 10 position. His movement has been good, opening up space for the wingers to get into scoring positions, and Marcus Rashford in particular has benefitted from the Dutchman’s presence. There’s no doubt he’s been a better team player than the man he replaced, Cristiano Ronaldo, but there is also little doubt at this point that he is anything more than a placeholder.

Weghorst is playing well, but not well enough for United to seriously consider him as a permanent option. If the price was right and he were willing to accept a role off the bench and in early cup games then perhaps he is an option, but his poor goal scoring production and poor shooting are really holding him back. Even receiving the ball in dangerous positions he’s scored just two goals from about as much xG.

He also doesn’t proved as much aerially as some might have expected, and in games against more quality opposition he hasn’t made much of an impact.

Weghorst was brought in as an emergency signing, and with Anthony Martial’s injury he’s gotten quite a bit of playing time and performed well. He just isn’t showing that he’s capable of more, and at 28 years old he probably won’t be in the future.

Chris - Facundo Pellistri deserves more game time

It took Facundo Pellistri all of 14 seconds after being substituted into the match against Real Betis to, yet again, prove that he deserves to regularly play for Manchester United.

Replacing Antony in the 82nd minute, the 21-year-old Uruguayan received the ball at the top of the box from Bruno Fernandes’ corner kick after being on the pitch for just eight seconds. He took a touch to settle the bobbling pass, which invited four Betis players to press him. With great composure, he dribbled to the right side of the box, flew past left back Abner Vinícius and center back Luiz Felipe toward the byline, and delivered a perfect pass to fellow substitute Scott McTominay in the center of the box. McTominay’s blocked shot resulted in Wout Weghorst’s first goal at Old Trafford and was the icing on the cake to a strong second-half performance from United.

A lot of attention was given to the delighted Weghorst after passionately celebrating his first goal in front of the Stretford End, but it’s Pellistri’s instant impact that deserves the plaudits.

This isn’t the first time the Uruguayan made an instant impact off the bench. Earlier this season, Pellistri assisted Marcus Rashford during a six-minute cameo in a 3-0 win against Charlton Athletic in the Carabao Cup quarterfinals on January 10. To make matters even more special that day, it was his official senior debut with United after being at the club since October 2020.Pellistri’s United career—consisting of two loan spells at Spanish side Alaves and a lack of game time for the English club—has always rather confused me given his talent and the fact that he regularly plays alongside the likes of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez in attack for Uruguay since making his international debut in January 2022. It’s not often that a player starts at the World Cup for a talented squad before making his senior debut for his club.

The youngster’s cameo displayed his speed and his courage to dribble at defenders and get past them, a style similar to that of Alejandro Garnacho that we’ve seen throughout this season. It’s an exciting element to see in United’s attack that hasn’t consistently been seen with wingers like Antony and Jadon Sancho.

After Thursday’s performance, I think it’s safe to say that Pellistri has a bright future at United. Erik ten Hag sees a future in him, and his cameos this season speak for themselves. Hopefully this is exactly what he needed to truly get going at the club, and hopefully this is just the beginning of an exciting and successful United career.