Villarreal 0, Manchester United 2 (Champions League)
Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho scored the goals to steady Manchester United as they beat Villarreal after a turbulent week.Embed from Getty Images
After the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following a weak defeat at Watford, caretaker boss Michael Carrick made United hard to beat as a cautious Manchester United unapologetically kept it tight until Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford were brought on.
The Reds were once again indebted to David De Gea, who saved from Moi Gomez and Manu Trigueros, as Villarreal failed to take their chances which meant the inevitable sting in the tail for the wasteful Spanish as United needed just one clear chance for Ronaldo before Jadon Sancho made sure of the win in injury time.
Victory meant United confirmed their place in the last 16 of the Champions League and only need a point to top the group in their final match day against Young Boys on December 8.
United captain Harry Maguire was understandable pleased for the win after a turbulent last few weeks at Old Trafford.
He said: “It’s a massive result for our season. The last couple of months have not been good enough and we needed a result here for our season and the fans.
“This is just the start, we need to push on.
He conceded that the gritty performance wasn’t the most attractive way to start the game, adding: “I think the emphasis was getting a result. Our subs came on and helped us.
“You have to set up solid in Europe and not give away goals. We executed the game well, especially after the 60th minute.”
United Caretaker boss Michael Carrick explained that the pre-game circumstances were difficult but United improved after a shaky start and finished well.
He said: “We came here to win the game. I believed we would and we were ready for it tonight.
“It wasn’t an easy game, they were tough. They made us work in possession and the boys had to dig in at times.
“I don’t think we could have hoped to come here and play pretty football from the word go after our recent form.
Acknowledging the sacking of previous boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday, Carrick added: “In many ways it was the best way to get a result as we needed to show some fight.
“The subs made their impact at the end and the boys gave everything.
“Fred’s done fantastic for both the goals, winning the ball back, and Ronaldo put the first chance away.
“To finish it off with Jadon was brilliant but he also put a real effort in defensively for us.
“It’s not been a easy couple of days for us at the club – but that result was for Ole.”
Solid Manchester United survive Villarreal pressure and then hit back with late goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho
Donny van de Beek made his first start for two months – only his third start this season – as he was one of four changes from the side that were destroyed by Watford last Saturday.
The first team selection by caretaker manager Michael Carrick also included Alex Telles, Fred, and Anthony Martial as United to play against Villarreal in Spain.
Dropping out of the side were Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, Bruno Fernandes, and Marcus Rashford.
Caretaker boss Michael Carrick could change little about the side – Shaw’s concussion had ruled him out while he also pointed out pre-match that with five subs available there could be game time for several players during the game.
Harry Maguire captained the side despite being sent off at Vicarage Road but the surprise of the night saw Ronaldo starting on the left wing while Anthony Martial was stationed at centre forward while Sancho produced an excellent performance.
With United’s recent weaknesses in defence, it was no surprise that a solid defence was top of Carrick’s priority list – even to the detriment of attacking play.
The game kicked off 5 minutes late after a communications issue with referee Felix Brych’s equipment.
Scott McTominay headed into the side netting after getting on the end of a cross from Telles.
David De Gea got down to save an early chance for Moi Gomez while Yeremi Pino hit the side netting and later forced a great save from De Gea who tipped the ball away from Arnaut Danjuma after the Reds defence continued to leak.
Little else of consequence happened for United im the opening half hour – probably a good sign for the Reds who were probably pleased to have kept a clean sheet for that long.
Sancho’s cross was headed away by Raul Albiol and Manu Trigueros was outjumped by Ronaldo as he met Telles’ header which was an easy save for Geronimo Rulli as United marked the half hour with two chances.
United won a dangerous free kick in a good position for Ronaldo after Pino brought down Telles near the box but the Portuguese hit his effort into the wall.
Parejo sent a free kick over the bar while Gomez saw his deflected shot trickle wide and Danjuma blazed over as Villarreal continued to press the Reds.
After an unmemorable first half, United started the second half in a similar fashion and Fred at least forced Geronimo Rulli into a save early in the second half as Ronaldo went up top in another reshuffle.
But Villarreal were still dangerous and after 58 minutes Gomez’s shot was blocked and Trigueros hit the rebound into the turf where came off Maguire as it flew goalwards and was tipped away by De Gea.
Danjuma also blazed over as Villarreal started to look like they would greatly regret a United winner.
Changes were due for United and Rashford and Fernandes were introduced for Martial and van de Beek as United came out of their shell for the last 25 minutes.
Rashford was caught well offside while Sancho exchanged passes with Fernandes before having a shot saved by Rulli – United’s best chance of the night 18 minutes from the end.
Ronaldo was caught offside after 77 minutes but a minute later he got himself on the scoresheet after Fred intercepted a ball out by Rulli to score his 140th Champions League goal – 799th career goal for club band country overall – with a half volley past Rulli who had come off his line.
He became the first ever player to score in the first five matches of a single European Cup or Champions League season with his sixth strike of the competition so far.
Fred had a shot blocked while Rulli collected a lob into the area and Ronaldo sent a shot wide of the back post after anticipating a poor Juan Foyth touch in his own area.
Rulli had to save from Rashford and Fernandes’ shot was deflected wide as United continued to pressurise a stunned Villarreal to the end.
And the coup de grace was delivered in the 90th minute when United passed their way upfield after Fred won the ball and United counter attacked with Ronaldo and Rashford before Fernandes touched the ball on to the England winger who opened his United account with an injury time strike which he rifled in off the crossbar.
Both Ronaldo and Sancho were taken off to the acclaim of the relieved travelling supporters in added time.
GOALS – Villarreal 0, Manchester United 2 (Champions League)
Villarreal 0, Man Utd 1: 78. Cristiano Ronaldo reacted quickly and lobbed the ball over the onrushing Geronimo Rulli whose ball out of defence was intercepted by Fred and slipped to the striker.
Villarreal 0, Man Utd 2: 90. Jadon Sancho rifled in United’s second off the underside of the crossbar after Fred won the ball deep in midfield and started off a counter attack involving Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, and Bruno Fernandes and finishing with the England winger.
MATCH STATS – Villarreal 0, Manchester United 2 (Champions League)
Villarreal: Rulli, Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Estupinan, Capoue, Trigueros (Alberto Moreno 73), Parejo, Gomez, Danjuma, Pino (Chukwueze 73)
Villarreal subs not used: Alvarez, Asenjo, Perez, Alcacer, Iborra, Dia, Raba, Pena, Mandi, Pedraza
Booking: Pino 33 (foul on Alex Telles)
Man Utd: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles, Fred, McTominay, Sancho (Mata 90+3), van de Beek (Fernandes 66), Martial (Rashford 66), Ronaldo (Matic 90+1)
Man Utd subs not used: Henderson, Heaton, Bailly, Lingard, Diallo, Dalot
Booking: Van de Beek 41 (foul on Pervis Estupinan)
Goals: Ronaldo 78; Sancho 90
Referee: Felix Brych