By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
Ex-Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini enjoyed Manchester United’s shock seven-goal shellacking at Liverpool and is hoping to compound matters as Real Betis visit Old Trafford in the Europa League.
Only a goal down after an even first half at Anfield, Erik ten Hag’s men capitulated after the break and Sunday’s Premier League clash ended in a club record-equalling defeat.
United’s manager and players have spoken about pressing reset and bouncing back from the Liverpool loss on Thursday night, when Pellegrini’s Betis arrive for the first leg of the last-16 tie.
The 69-year-old smiled when asked about Sunday’s 7-0 scoreline upon his return to Manchester, where his three-year spell as City boss brought a Premier League title and two League Cups triumphs.
Asked what his reaction was to the Liverpool result as a former City boss, Pep Guardiola’s predecessor Pellegrini said with a laugh: “Well, really, it was unbelievable.
“I was watching the first 45 minutes because after that we had to play against Real Madrid, so I couldn’t see when Liverpool scored the other six goals.
“But of course I understand immediately what will happen with Manchester United, so the reality between Liverpool and Manchester is that if you have this amount of goals it will not be easy for them.
“But, well, I am a Manchester City fan also, so I was not very sad about what happened.
“I don’t think that they will play with the last game in their mind. I think that they will play in their duty, that they have to qualify for the next round of the Europa League.
“And also we are not going to start the game thinking that they had a defeat of 7-0 inside them.
“We play against a difficult team. We must be the best Betis we can do if we want to have a good result here.”
Thursday will be the first ever competitive meeting of these sides, although this Europa League clash comes just three months after they met in a friendly during United’s winter training week in Spain.
Star man Nabil Fekir – out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury – gave Betis a 1-0 win at the Estadio Benito Villamarin, where they held Real Madrid to a 0-0 draw at the weekend.
Pellegrini’s men are fifth in the LaLiga standings and looking to reach the quarter-finals of a European competition for just the third time in their history.
Progression would be an extra special moment for Betis great Joaquin, who cannot wait to step out at Old Trafford at the age of 41.
“It’s a dream to play somewhere like Old Trafford against Manchester United,” he said.
“When you’re a kid, you always want to play these types of games. We’re delighted to be here and we’re going to give absolutely everything, play the way we know how to play.
“Regardless of the moment tomorrow that we play the game, we need to compete at our best to try and get a good result and then to make us feel comfortable in the second game.”