Manchester United beat Villarreal 2-1 in the Champions League at Old Trafford. It was a cagey first half with chances galore for the away side, however in-between David De Gea saving United’s blushed and poor finishing for Villarreal, United were able to avoid conceding a goal. Eight minutes into the second half, Paco Alcácer opened the scoring, assisted by Arnaut Danjuma. It took United just seven minutes to equalise with Alex Telles getting his first goal for United, assisted by Bruno Fernandes. United needed a win and that is what they got with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring in added time, assisted by Jesse Lingard.
It was not a good start for United, who seem to be able to make themselves look weak at home, much different to the team who has a 28-match unbeaten run on the road in the Premier League. Villarreal were the team in form in the first half, carving out many shots, some of which were saved by David De Gea, others were so poorly played by the home side they offered no threat at all. That said, it was only going to be a matter of time before the away side pressured United enough for them to score. De Gea was the player stopping that as it seemed to be another one of those nights at the Theatre of Dreams again.
It ended 0-0 in the first half with so much more expected from this match. United needed to get the points from this match to give them a chance in the Champions League the season. It tool Villarreal just eight minutes in the second half to find the first goal of the game. Paco Alcácer, assisted by Arnaut Danjuma was the difference in this match, with United seeming so dejected at the time of the goal. That said, United got themselves back into the game seven minutes later with Alex Telles scoring his first goal for the club, assisted by Bruno Fernandes. United needed that.
United had a few chances in a row after the goal and they seemed up for the challenge against the Spanish side who beat them in the Europa League final this season. It was a game that United needed to win to get the benefit of, as the draw will see them at the bottom of the group. Solskjaer made a double substitution in the 75th minute of the match, which could have perhaps been a good ten minutes earlier. Nemanja Matic and Edinson Cavani replaced Jadon Sancho and Paul Pogba, which seemed strange as Sancho was playing well and was part of United’s resurgence after Villarreal opened the scoring.
United were not able to make up the difference against the Spanish side with few chances created. Solskjaer made another double substitution in the last minute of the match with Jesse Lingard and Fred replacing Mason Greenwood and Alex Telles, who had suffered a knock, which was problematic with Luke Shaw already out of action. That said, Aaron Wan-Bissaka is eligible to play so Diogo Dalot could play in that position, or Alvaro Fernandez could be promoted from the U23s. United seemed resurgent in the dying minutes of the second half, which needed to be the case as the three points were needed.
Five minutes were added onto the second half and at 1-1, United still had a lot to do to get the three points. That said, being bottom of the group with one point was better than being bottom of the group with no points. Cavani seemed to be a positive substitution and could have won a penalty towards the end of the half, but nothing was given. There was one man on the pitch who could change the outcome of the match and that was Cristiano Ronaldo. That is what happened – in the last minute of the match, Ronaldo found the winner, getting United all three points with Fernandes and Lingard playing a part in the goal with Lingard getting the assist.
It was Ronaldo’s 123rd goal for United, his fifth since he returned to the Old Trafford club. It was also his 136th goal in the Champions League, a competition where he has a number of records; most goals (136), most appearances (178) and most goals in a season (17). He also has 67 goals in the knockout stages of the competition, winning it five times as a player – the first with United when they beat Chelsea in Moscow in the 2008/09 season, scoring in the match and missing a penalty. He appeared in the final a year later as United fell to defeat to Barcelona with Lionel Messi getting one of his best performances in the competition.
United will face Everton in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, another 12:30 BST kick off at Old Trafford which is a must win match with United needing to keep chase on Liverpool, Manchester City an Chelsea at the top of the table, not to mention Everton, who have the same number of points as United and Brighton and Hove Albion, who could have topped the table on Monday evening if they had beaten Crystal Palace. Solskjaer will be thankful of Ronaldo this evening and their first three points in the Champions League. However, there will always be some discontented fans who will be upset that United did not lose.
Goals: Alex Telles 60′, Cristiano Ronaldo 90+5′; Paco Alcácer 53′
Assists: Bruno Fernandes 60′, Jesse Lingard 90+5′; Arnaut Danjuma 53′
Manchester United: De Gea; Dalot, Varane, Lindelof, Telles (Fred 89′); McTominay, Pogba (Cavani 75′); Greenwood (Lingard 89′), Fernandes, Sancho (Matic 75′); Ronaldo
Substitutes Not Used: Heaton, Henderson; Bailly; Mata, Van de Beek; Martial, Elanga
Bookings: Mason Greenwood 68′, Alex Telles 72′, Cristiano Ronaldo 90+6′; Alberto Moreno 59′, Yeremi Pino 67′, Raul Albiol 69′, Ruben Pena 90+1′
Written by John Walker