Ratings: De Gea and Ronaldo to the rescue in Villarreal victory; Telles scored first goal for United


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.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Determined to change United's form. Made four saves in the first half alone. He was let down by his defence for Alcacer's opener. He will be ecstatic with this victory.


20 Diogo Dalot

Weakest player on the pitch. Danjuma got the better of him most of the time. Seemed out of his depth at this level. Imagine what better teams could do. Not sure his future at United looks good - but he has the time to improve.


19 Raphael Varane

The better of the central defenders, Misread a pass here and there and was absent from the defence when Villarreal scored. Having him is better than not having him. Seems more comfortable with Maguire on the pitch.


2 Victor Lindelof

Did not fill in well for Maguire. Seemed to be targeted by the away side and they got the better of him often. A night to forget for the Swede?


27 Alex Telles

Was not targeted as much as Dalot was. Luckily for him that did not happen. Scored his first goal for the club to equalise seven minutes after Villarreal scored. Picked up and injury, so United will be sweating on that ahead of the Everton match with Shaw out too. Replaced by Fred in the 89th minute.


39 Scott McTominay

Not the best performance from him and not the worst either. It just shows that United have problems in the midfield, which if sorted would improve the entire team. Put in a lot of effort though, but people will not be happy with that.


6 Paul Pogba

Not a player that excels in a midfield two. Needs to play further up the pitch but United don't have the midfield for that, after six years. Did not have the best performance. Replaced by Cavani in the 75th minute.


11 Mason Greenwood

Struggled at times in the match and also struggled to get involved much. He did get chances, including drawing a save. Provided Cavani with a cross what was missed. He was replaced by Lingard in the 89th minute of the match.


18 Bruno Fernandes

Needs to go back to the basics. Got wound up at times. Showed his vision when he picked out Telles for the equaliser. This will help him kick on and find improvement in the coming weeks and months.


25 Jadon Sancho

Was bright at times but still needs to be afforded the time to settle into this squad, which some will not give him. There always seems to be problems for players at United with everyone else ignoring problems with players at other clubs. So many are obsessed with United as everyone is interested in them. Replaced by Matic in the 75th minute.


7 Cristiano Ronaldo

He was not provided much service for large period of the match and was unable to cover a lot of the pitch to create himself. He's a magnificent player and proved that by winning the game at the death. So happy he's back at United.



31 Nemanja Matic

Replaced Sancho 75'. Gave balance to the midfield, but this cannot be relied on during each match. Helped United gather up the energy from Villarreal, which worked in the end.


21 Edinson Cavani

Replaced Pogba 75'. Missed a good chance for United, provided by Greenwood. Seemed determined to keep trying. A model professional to have this season. Needs more minutes though.


14 Jesse Lingard

Replaced Greenwood 89'. Got an assist to his name, which will please him. The second time he's been involved in a goal at the death this season. Positive performance.


17 Fred

Replaced Telles 89'. Played a key cross in added time but was not on the pitch long enough to get involved in the game other than that.


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

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