Manchester United beat Villarreal 2-0 in the Champions League, securing a round of 16 place in the competition this season, which is an improvement on last season. Michael Carrick will be happy with the victory and the clean sheet. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 78th minute of the match, scoring his tenth goal of the season, his sixth in five Champions League matches and his 799th career goal. Jadon Sancho doubled United’s lead in the 90th minute of the match, scoring his first goal for the club since his arrival in the summer. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s work at the club is over but look at what he’s helped to build.
United started positively in their first match led by Michael Carrick following the departure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Scott McTominay had a header on goal in the early stages but was it was into the side netting. David De Gea was up for the challenge with Villarreal having two chances on goal in the opening ten minutes of the match. Villarreal started to take charge of the game in the first half hour, having the Lion’s share of possession and getting another shot on goal, which De Gea has to make a diving save to deny. United were playing cautiously and so far had kept their heads, which was a positive sign.
During a positive period of play, Fred seemed to injure himself, which on the replay look like he twisted his foot with his boot rooted into the pitch. He immediately went down and required treatment. However, he did not look like he was in agony and managed to get to his feet and walk off before coming back onto the pitch. Seconds later. Victor Lindelof was down with an apparent knee injury after a collision with Arnaut Danjuma, but he was fine to continue. Donny van de Beek was booked for a foul, despite winning the ball, in the 41st minute with De Gea needing to weather a free-kick, which was no real threat on his goal.
There were no changes at the start of the second half for either team, which bodes well for Fred, who must not be feeling anything from the suspected injury in the first half of the match. Villarreal were trying to get ahead in this match, as with the head to head record, with United winning earlier in the season, it would be a positive for United in the final match of the group stage regarding qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition. The Spanish side were finding it hard to break United down. Likewise for United trying to get ahead but Villarreal were enjoying a large spell on the ball with United in their own half for much of the second half so far.
De Gea made another save in the 60th minute of the match, keeping United in the match. He also weathered the corner, because he sent the ball out of play, but Villarreal were still in possession of the ball and seeking to get ahead in this match. Carrick had a number of players warming up on the sidelines after the hour mark of the match, so the time for a change was coming. Danjuma had a strike on goal in the 63rd minute of the match but his attempt was well over the crossbar and into the crowd. In the 66th minute, Carrick made a double substitution with Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford replacing Donny van de Beek and Anthony Martial.
After the changes, United seemed a but more determined to get up into Villarreal’s half and threaten, which has not been the case for much of this match. Perhaps it was the right time for the changes. Jadon Sancho broke into the box in the 71st minute, but as soon as he unleashed his for the goalkeeper made the save and Villarreal were back in possession of the ball. It was the best United have done so far in the match, which is such a shame. Cristiano Ronaldo was in the Villarreal box controlling the ball with his chest, the referee suggested it was his arm and stopped play with Ronaldo unimpressed.
In the 78th minute of the match, Ronaldo found the lead for United with a sublime finish from range, scoring his tenth goal of the season so far, his sixth goal in five Champions League matches this season. It was a confidence builder for United and they will need to keep their heads and ensure it stays that way. Ronaldo almost scored his 800th career goal minutes later, hitting a diagonal ball across the face of the goal. Bruno Fernandes then had a chance on goal, which was not going to give United a two-goal cushion at this stage of the match. United got what they needed, which was the bare minimum.
Jadon Sancho got United’s second goal in the 90th minute with Bruno Fernandes getting the assist. It was a great finish from the winger, his first for the club which might take some pressure off him. Carrick made two further changes; Nemanja Matic on for Ronaldo and Juan Mata on for Sancho in added time. United will face Chelsea in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon, which will be an important match for United to get right which could see them in a position to claw back some points and better their position in the league at this sage of the season. Come on United!
Goals: Cristiano Ronaldo 78′, Jadon Sancho 90′
Assists: Bruno Fernandes 90′
Manchester United: 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′)
Substitutes Not Used: Heaton, Henderson; Bailly, Dalot; Lingard; Amad
Bookings: Yeremi Pino 33′; Donny van de Beek 41′
Written by John Walker