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Ratings: Ronaldo and Sancho combine to give Carrick his first victory as interim manager; United though to the knockout stages of the Champions League

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!

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Managed to keep Villarreal out of his goal in the first half, which is a positive based on the attacks they had on United's goal. He's proved himself this evening with his saves and clean sheet. Onwards and upwards from here?

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Lacking confidence and this match will probably help. His passing was not the best and his thinking needs to be quicker as he took a while to offload the ball getting caught at times. Perhaps a period on the bench would help him?

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2 Victor Lindelof

Had a positive first half which showed his determination to see United succeed, making five clearances and one block. Could it be his time to shine? Held his head high in the second half as United got two goals, keeping a clean sheet.

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5 Harry Maguire

Seems to have found some form, but it is a results game, isn't it? He defended well and did what was needed. He needs to keep this form. He's been terrible for over a month now.

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27 Alex Telles

Defensively, he seemed to be caught out at times. Better going forward but needs to focus on his passing as he overhit the ball a few times. Will be rusty having not played many minutes this season.

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17 Fred

Seemed up for the challenge. Raised his game a little, perhaps? Seemed to have hurt his ankle late in the first half but recovered. Provided a lot of work rate and seems to have done what was needed against Villarreal. Positivity perhaps?

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39 Scott McTominay

Got forward at times and could have had a goal in the opening minutes, but hit the side netting. It was a solid performance that he can build on. United needed that.

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25 Jadon Sancho

Got his first goal for the club in the last minute of the match. So pleased for him. Played brilliantly, seemingly playing further back that a right-wing position. Early days in that respect though. He will find much confidence from this performance.

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34 Donny van de Beek

A positive performance. Ran his ground and sought to break through on goal at times. He's a decent player that needs to remain at the club this winter. In the 66th minute of the match he was replaced by Fernandes.

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9 Anthony Martial

Needs to do so much more to regain his starting position. I don't think he showed much in the first half of this match. He will be rusty though. Offered little in the second half and was replaced by Rashford in the 66th minute.

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7 Cristiano Ronaldo

Scored his tenth goal of the season, his sixth in five Champions League matches, which shows what a player his still is at 36. There will be people moaning about United's reliance on him but who cares about them. You can see what scoring for United means to him. Replaced by Matic in the first minute of added time.

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Substitutes

18 Bruno Fernandes

Replaced Van de Beek 66'. Got an assist for Sancho's first goal for the club. Improved United's attack considerably.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Replaced Martial 66'. As soon as he came on, United sparked into like in an attacking sense. The first goal came 12 minutes later.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Replaced Ronaldo 90+1'. Came on with two minutes of added time left. Not enough time to make an impact.

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8 Juan Mata

Replaced Sancho 90+3'. Came on at the death. Not enough time to find much involvement.

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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

Confirmed XI: Donny van de Beek starts against Villarreal; Cristiano Ronaldo leads the line

Manchester United will take on Villarreal at the Estadio de la Cerámica in the UEFA Champions League this evening. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has managed his final match for the club as he was sacked following the 4-1 defeat to Watford which was a new low for the club. Michael Carrick will step into the shoes of Solskjaer for this match as the club looks to appoint an interim manager until the end of the season, which suggests another change could happen during the summer. United will need to get three points in the bag in this match to secure their knockout stage participation in the Champions League this season.

Whilst it is sad to see Solskjaer leave the job he loved, it was time for a change as it seemed clear that there were problems somewhere in the club at playing level, despite the fact there remains a problem with the ownership and the board of the club, who just don’t seem to want the club to achieve what the players and the supporters want the club to achieve. United need to continue building on the same plan that Solskjaer helped to define, returning the club to a position whereby they will be able to challenge for the big honours in domestic and European football. Thanks for everything, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles;

Fred, McTominay;

Sancho, Van de Beek, Martial;

Ronaldo

Substitutes:

Heaton, Henderson; Bailly, Dalot; Mata, Lingard, Fernandes, Matic; Rashford, Amad

Villarreal:

Rulli;

Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Estupinan;

Trigueros, Capoue, Parejo, Gomez;

Pino, Danjuma

Substitutes:

Asenjo, Alvarez, Gaspar, Alcacer, Iborra, Chukwueze, Dia, Raba, Moreno, Pena, Mandi, Pedraza

United and Villarreal have met a total of six times in the history of both clubs with United winning once – the last match between the two teams. There have been four draws and one defeat with the first four matches played in the Champions League group stages with the last match played in the Europa League final. United won 2-1 in the meeting earlier this season, the first goals scored against them in the Champions League. Before that, in the Europa League final last season, it was a 1-1 draw after extra time with Villarreal winning 11-10 on penalties. If United can get a good result in this match, they will have a good change of getting out the group.

There is not much history between United and Villarreal as far as players are concerned. Eric Bailly is the only current United player who came to the club from the Spanish club in the summer of 2016 for €30 million. Since the transfer, Bailly has made a total of 107 appearances, scoring one goal and one assist. United were apparently interested in signing Pau Torres during the summer. Guiseppe Rossi was sold to Villarreal in the 2007/08 season and Diego Forlan arrived at the Spanish club in the 2004/05 season. Both players did well in Spain with Rossi scoring 82 goals in 181 appearances and Forlan scoring 58 goals in 121 appearances.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-3-3] Donny van de Beek is the player that can rejuvenate Manchester United’s midfield

Manchester United will take on Villarreal at the Estadio de la Cerámica in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has managed his final match for the club as he was sacked following the 4-1 defeat to Watford which was a new low for the club. Michael Carrick will step into the shoes of Solskjaer for this match as the club looks to appoint an interim manager until the end of the season, which suggests another change could happen during the summer. United will need to get three points in the bag in this match to secure their knockout stage participation in the Champions League this season.

Whilst it is sad to see Solskjaer leave the job he loved, it was time for a change as it seemed clear that there were problems somewhere in the club at playing level, despite the fact there remains a problem with the ownership and the board of the club, who just don’t seem to want the club to achieve what the players and the supporters want the club to achieve. United need to continue building on the same plan that Solskjaer helped to define, returning the club to a position whereby they will be able to challenge for the big honours in domestic and European football. Thanks for everything, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Previous meetings with Villarreal and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Villarreal have met a total of six times in the history of both clubs with United winning once – the last match between the two teams. There have been four draws and one defeat with the first four matches played in the Champions League group stages with the last match played in the Europa League final. United won 2-1 in the meeting earlier this season, the first goals scored against them in the Champions League. Before that, in the Europa League final last season, it was a 1-1 draw after extra time with Villarreal winning 11-10 on penalties. If United can get a good result in this match, they will have a good change of getting out the group.

There is not much history between United and Villarreal as far as players are concerned. Eric Bailly is the only current United player who came to the club from the Spanish club in the summer of 2016 for €30 million. Since the transfer, Bailly has made a total of 107 appearances, scoring one goal and one assist. United were apparently interested in signing Pau Torres during the summer. Guiseppe Rossi was sold to Villarreal in the 2007/08 season and Diego Forlan arrived at the Spanish club in the 2004/05 season. Both players did well in Spain with Rossi scoring 82 goals in 181 appearances and Forlan scoring 58 goals in 121 appearances.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Villarreal in the UEFA Champions League at the Estadio de la Cerámica on Tuesday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

From my point of view, David De Gea has not had a poor season despite the number of goals conceded. He has shown some improvement in some areas, specifically saving penalties. The defeat to Watford could have been so much worse if he did not save that penalty. The Spanish goalkeeper does need to continue to improve though as he will be playing for his place in the team again, depending what happens with the vacant managerial position at the club, which will be immediately filled by Michael Carrick. That could change later this week because United take on Villarreal around 72 hours following the Watford match.

I would like to see De Gea change his game a little. Dean Henderson was a breath of fresh air last season with his different approach to goalkeeping but De Gea will not change his age as he has become who he is now. Henderson is inexperienced when it comes to playing for United but he could well be the new era in the goalkeeping position under a new manager. De Gea should command his back four like Henderson has, in particularly in a way that Peter Schmeichel did. United need some kind of leader at the back as the current captain has not been leading like the likes of Steve Bruce, Nemanja Matic and Gary Neville would have.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles

United have conceded 29 goals in all competitions this season, and at this early stage of the season it is unacceptable. To blame that on Solskjaer would not be right. United are much better with Raphael Varane in the centre of the defence, but with him enduring his second injury spell at the club, United are left with Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire. Phil Jones is not eligible to feature in the Champions League having not been named in the squad this season – that could change in January if he does not leave the club. Bailly was good in one match ch and terrible in the next, so he’s a wildcard options as you never know what you will get.

Against Villarreal, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Alex Telles should feature in the fullback positions with the former keeping his place from Saturday’s defeat to Watford and needing a positive performance, or it could be the beginning of the end for him at United as he just does not seem to be improving. Telles should play ahead of Luke Shaw, who suffered his second injury in successive matches, so will probably need some time to recover, especially with Chelsea on the horizon. In the centre of the defence, Lindelof and Maguire will keep their places, with Maguire suspended for the Chelsea match. He owes United a brilliant performance after Saturday.

Midfield: Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek, Bruno Fernandes

United’s midfield needs some surgery as it is not as good as it should be, especially in the defensive midfield area. Nemanja Matic has been great but having a player with youth on his side who can put some steel into the midfield is needed and neither Scott McTominay or Fred have done that, so one of them, preferably the latter should be pushed out of the club because it has not worked. That said, United will keep him, give him a new contract and we will have this conversation in a few more years, talking about the same thing. Against Villarreal, Scott McTominay should play in the defensive area of the midfield.

Donny van de Beek proved on Saturday that he needed to play more often as he was the best player on the pitch, which was great to see. He looked determined and possibly was one of Solskjaer’s biggest regrets of his time managing the club. If he had played more, it might have worked out well for him. Bruno Fernandes should also feature in the 4-3-3 formation, providing some addition attacking play but also fortifying the midfield when United are under attack. A 4-3-3 formation seems to be the best with United’s midfield and attack at this time, but it all depends on what vision Carrick has for this match.

Forward: Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford

Saturday’s performance was not the best but if Cristiano Ronaldo wants to achieve something at United this season, he will need to start getting into the swing of things. Granted, United should not be relying on him but he wants to achieve so is it really reliance? He has scored nine goals and two assists in his time back at the club with him scoring five goals in the last four matches in the Champions League, it feels like he could score again on Tuesday evening in Spain. United have a good squad, at least on paper at this time and it will be up to Carrick, then whoever to get the best out of them for the remainder of the season.

Ronaldo is a Champion League player and with Edinson Cavani still suffering from tendon issues an Anthony Martial well out of form, he might have to lead the line again, which is something that won’t faze him. Marcus Rashford should feature on the left of the forward three, where he has excelled over the last few seasons under Solskajer, although he was switched on Saturday, which should not happen here. Jadon Sancho should start on the right, which is his favoured position and the one he was bought in to feature in – he had a good performance at times against Watford and perhaps this could be the start of his finding his feet properly.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson, Tom Heaton; Eric Bailly, Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw; Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Fred, Amad Diallo, Nemanja Matic; Anthony Martial, Edinson Cavani

Five substitutes are able to be used in the Champions League, which will be beneficial for United ahead of the Chelsea match on Sunday and United will benefit from a few extra hours rest with Chelsea playing on Tuesday evening in the 8pm kick off. Not that it will give the much of an advantage with the form that top of the league Chelsea are in right now. I would expect to see both Dean Henderson and Tom Heaton on the bench in the goalkeeper positions with De Gea keeping his place in the starting XI. That may change if Carrick feels that one of those should have the chance to push for De Gea’s number one position.

In defence, Eric Bailly, Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw could be available should the defence need some switching, which you know will be the case. This team are not all of a sudden going to become a steel defensive side – that will take time. If it does happen, will anyone ask any questions of them? In the midfield, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Fred, Aad Diallo and Nemanja Matic should all be available. United will need a change in the midfield at some point in the match. In attack, Anthony Martial, who was not great when he came on against Watford and Edinson Cavani, if fit could be available. Maybe Anthony Elanga could fill in is Cavani is unavailable.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Manchester United need to beat Villarreal to continue rebuild post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Villarreal -v- Manchester United

UEFA Champions League

Estadio de la Cerámica, Villarreal, Spain

Tuesday 23 November 2021, KO 17:45 GMT

Referee: Felix Brych Assistants: Mark Borsch, Stefan Lupp

Fourth Official: Daniel Schlager

VAR: Marco Fritz Assistant VAR: Harm Osmers

Manchester United will take on Villarreal at the Estadio de la Cerámica in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday evening. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has managed his final match for the club as he was sacked following the 4-1 defeat to Watford which was a new low for the club. Michael Carrick will step into the shoes of Solskjaer for this match as the club looks to appoint an interim manager until the end of the season, which suggests another change could happen during the summer. United will need to get three points in the bag in this match to secure their knockout stage participation in the Champions League this season.

Whilst it is sad to see Solskjaer leave the job he loved, it was time for a change as it seemed clear that there were problems somewhere in the club at playing level, despite the fact there remains a problem with the ownership and the board of the club, who just don’t seem to want the club to achieve what the players and the supporters want the club to achieve. United need to continue building on the same plan that Solskjaer helped to define, returning the club to a position whereby they will be able to challenge for the big honours in domestic and European football. Thanks for everything, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Manchester United – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: LLDWLW

Watford 4-1 L, Manchester City 2-0 L, Atalanta 2-2 D, Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 W, Liverpool 5-0 L, Atalanta 3-2 W

Goals: 9 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 4 – Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, 3 – Marcus Rashford, 2 – Jesse Lingard, 1 – Edinson Cavani, Fred, Anthony Martial, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek

Assists: 8 – Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, 2 – Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luke Shaw, 1 – Mason Greenwood, Jesse Lingard, Raphael Varane

Villarreal – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: DWWLDL

Celta Vigo 1-1 D, Getafe 1-0 W, Young Boys 2-0 W, Valencia 2-0 L, Cadiz 3-3 D, Athletic Bilbao 2-1 L

Goals: 7 – Arnaut Danjuma, 4 – Manu Trigueros, 3 – Alberto Moreno, 2 – Gerard Moreno, Yeremi Pino, 1 – Paco Alcácer, Etienne Capoue, Samuel Chukwueze, Francis Coquelin, Boulaye Dia, Pau Torres

Assists: 3 – Daniel Parejo, Yeremi Pino, 2 – Paco Alcácer, Arnaut Danjuma, Boulaye Dia, Gerard Moreno, Alfonso Pedraza, 1 – Serge Aurier, Etienne Capoue, Francis Coquelin, Moi Gómez

Previous meetings with Villarreal and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Villarreal have met a total of six times in the history of both clubs with United winning once – the last match between the two teams. There have been four draws and one defeat with the first four matches played in the Champions League group stages with the last match played in the Europa League final. United won 2-1 in the meeting earlier this season, the first goals scored against them in the Champions League. Before that, in the Europa League final last season, it was a 1-1 draw after extra time with Villarreal winning 11-10 on penalties. If United can get a good result in this match, they will have a good change of getting out the group.

There is not much history between United and Villarreal as far as players are concerned. Eric Bailly is the only current United player who came to the club from the Spanish club in the summer of 2016 for €30 million. Since the transfer, Bailly has made a total of 107 appearances, scoring one goal and one assist. United were apparently interested in signing Pau Torres during the summer. Guiseppe Rossi was sold to Villarreal in the 2007/08 season and Diego Forlan arrived at the Spanish club in the 2004/05 season. Both players did well in Spain with Rossi scoring 82 goals in 181 appearances and Forlan scoring 58 goals in 121 appearances.

Team News: Varane, Pogba and Greenwood ruled out of Villarreal match; Cavani and Shaw both doubts whilst Maguire will be available – Moreno is the only injured player for Villarreal at this time.

Raphael Varane (Thigh), Paul Pogba (Thigh) and Mason Greenwood (COVID) will all be out of the clash with Villarreal on Tuesday evening. Edinson Cavani (Tendon) has a 25% chance of being available for the journey to Spain with Luke Shaw (Head) having a 50% chance of featuring for United. Harry Maguire will be available for the match despite his sending off in the defeat to Watford, but will miss the Chelsea match at the weekend. United will be seeking to overcome the defeat to Watford, ending a turbulent period and ensuring they take their chances to get out of this Champions League group and into the knockout stages of the competition.

Gerard Moreno (Torn Muscle) is the only absentee for Villarreal ahead of he clash with United. They will be upset with the manner of the 2-1 defeat earlier in the season and be seeking to avenge that in their home stadium. The current form is not the best, but neither is United’s so it could be an even match. Villarreal are currently second in the group with the same number of points as United, but the head to head record is in United’s favour at this time. That will all be different with another defeat at this stage of the season, which is not what United will want, even if some of the players have given up performing – that says more about them.

Predicted Starting XI: Donny van de Beek must start against Villarreal; Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho to lead the attack in the Champions Legue.

Following Solskjaer’s departure of the club, Carrick will step into his shoes and pick the team, formation and tactics for this match. It is expected that more of the same will be provided and the players who were supposedly the favourites of Solskjaer’s will continue to feature. However, now is the time for change and the stagnant way in which United have been playing for more than two months. United are back in an uncertain period and many of these players will be playing for their own futures at the club as nothing is guaranteed until there is a permanent manager at the helm – even then they cannot take anything for granted.

David De Gea will most likely keep his place in goal, unless there is going to be an upset coming with Dean Henderson stepping in, but I don’t think that is the case. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Alex Telles could form the back four with Luke Shaw likely to be out after having to come off injured in his last two matches. Scott McTominay could play in the defensive midfield position in a 4-3-3 with Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek in the advanced areas – the Dutchman needs to start as he was the best player against Watford. Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo should lead the attack.

Match Prediction: United and Villarreal have a five match history in European competition with four draws, one defeat (on penalties) and one victory. That needs to become two on Tuesday evening.

United’s history with Villarreal has not been all that impressive. Four matches in the Champions League before this season were goalless. The Europa League final was a 1-1 draw with United losing 11-10 on penalties. Earlier this season, Ronaldo scored the winner with Alex Telles also scoring his first goal for the club to come from behind. Of course, nothing is guaranteed in football and United are not guaranteed success Hard work could bring that but that is not a certain. United need to get back to basics, find a way to use their attacking talent and kick their opposition into touch to get an important three points in the bag.

This will be a hard match for United. Villarreal don’t have an impressive record either, so it will be tough for them too. Not everything that happened at the club was down to Solskjaer but there will be some so-called supporters who will hold everything that happened against him. The Glazer’s, Ed Woodward, Matt Judge and Richard Arnold all have a combined responsibility for what is happening at United and they will continue to do what keeps them all in a job with the money coming in. The players on the pitch will need to dig deep, rise above the challenge and ensure they can bring in the results as they are responsible for this too.

Villarreal 1-3 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Substitutes

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Confirmed XI: Ronaldo to inspire United against Villarreal? Varane, Pogba and Sancho also start; Van de Beek on the bench

Manchester United return to UEFA Champions League action this evening as they welcome Villarreal to Old Trafford in the second group stage match of the competition. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are in poor form, losing three times in the last four matches and are so far winless in this competition. Villarreal are not in great form either, winning just once in their last six matches. Their only win before their recent one was against United in the final of the UEFA Europa League back in May. That said, it does not mean United will get back to winning ways through – but that needs to be the case to nip this awful form in the bud as quickly as possible.

United started the season well, beating Leeds United 5-1, drawing 1-1 with Southampton, beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0, beating Newcastle United 4-1 but then falling to a 2-1 defeat to Young Boys in the first Champions League group stage match, before beating West Ham United 2-1, then losing 1-0 against them in the Carabao Cup. The 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday saw United fall from grace with three defeats in the last four matches, two of which were at Old Trafford. United play two matches at Old Trafford before the second international break of the season and will need to win both of them to stop the negativity.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Dalot, Varane, Lindelof, Telles;

McTominay, Pogba;

Greenwood, Fernandes, Sancho;

Ronaldo

Substitutes:

Heaton, Henderson; Bailly; Mata, Lingard, Fred, Matic, Van de Beek; Cavani, Martial, Elanga

Villarreal:

Substitutes:

United and Villarreal have met a total of five times in the history of both clubs and United have failed to win a single match. There have been four draws and one defeat with the first four matches played in the Champions League group stages with the last match played in the Europa League final. In the Champions League match, there were no goals in four matches with the only goals being scored in the Europa League final with Edinson Cavani scoring in the 55th minute of the match – however, that match went to penalties with United losing 11-10 with David De Gea not making a single save and missing his spot kick.

There is not much history between United and Villarreal as far as players are concerned. Eric Bailly is the only current United player who came to the club from the Spanish club in the summer of 2016 for €30 million. Since the transfer, Bailly has made a total of 107 appearances, scoring one goal and one assist. United were apparently interested in signing Pau Torres during the summer. Guiseppe Rossi was sold to Villarreal in the 2007/08 season and Diego Forlan arrived at the Spanish club in the 2004/05 season. Both players did well in Spain with Rossi scoring 82 goals in 181 appearances and Forlan scoring 58 goals in 121 appearances.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: 4-3-1-2 formation to change the way United attack? Ronaldo and Cavani with Fernandes in support? Three-man midfield?

Manchester United return to UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday evening as they welcome Villarreal to Old Trafford in the second group stage match of the competition. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are in poor form, losing three times in the last four matches and are so far winless in this competition. Villarreal are not in great form either, winning just once in their last six matches. Their only win before their recent one was against United in the final of the UEFA Europa League back in May. That said, it does not mean United will get back to winning ways through – but that needs to be the case to nip this awful form in the bud as quickly as possible.

United started the season well, beating Leeds United 5-1, drawing 1-1 with Southampton, beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0, beating Newcastle United 4-1 but then falling to a 2-1 defeat to Young Boys in the first Champions League group stage match, before beating West Ham United 2-1, then losing 1-0 against them in the Carabao Cup. The 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday saw United fall from grace with three defeats in the last four matches, two of which were at Old Trafford. United play two matches at Old Trafford before the second international break of the season and will need to win both of them to stop the negativity.

Previous meetings with Villarreal and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Villarreal have met a total of five times in the history of both clubs and United have failed to win a single match. There have been four draws and one defeat with the first four matches played in the Champions League group stages with the last match played in the Europa League final. In the Champions League match, there were no goals in four matches with the only goals being scored in the Europa League final with Edinson Cavani scoring in the 55th minute of the match – however, that match went to penalties with United losing 11-10 with David De Gea not making a single save and missing his spot kick.

There is not much history between United and Villarreal as far as players are concerned. Eric Bailly is the only current United player who came to the club from the Spanish club in the summer of 2016 for €30 million. Since the transfer, Bailly has made a total of 107 appearances, scoring one goal and one assist. United were apparently interested in signing Pau Torres during the summer. Guiseppe Rossi was sold to Villarreal in the 2007/08 season and Diego Forlan arrived at the Spanish club in the 2004/05 season. Both players did well in Spain with Rossi scoring 82 goals in 181 appearances and Forlan scoring 58 goals in 121 appearances.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Villarreal in the UEFA Champions League at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea has established himself as the Manchester United number one so far this season and it has given United a new path to travel on to find glory, whether people believe that or not, it is what seems to be happening. De Gea has been in good form this season, despite United losing three of the last four matches, with him not playing in one of them. United needed De Gea to stand up and be counted as it was the main problem at the club over the past few seasons with the Spanish goalkeeper losing confidence and ability but the threat of Dean Henderson and the arrival of Tom Heaton seems to have done some good.

De Gea will be determined to help push noted back on the road to glory this season, which is where the players at the club want to be and more importantly the manager. United have a talented squad but there are some problems within the squad that need to be resolved – the formation is just one of those. United will need to work hard this season and find the way that works for the club. The attacking players are top notch and the defence has been considerably improved over the past two years so the remaining problems are not as big as they once were at the club. De Gea’s form improving will only help the cause this season.

Defenders: Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles

The defence is the problem area for this match with Aaron Wan-Bissaka suspended after his red card against Young Boys and the injury problems that Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw suffered in the 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Saturday. Solskjaer still has the likes of Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof and Alex Telles, who I believe will be that starting defenders against Villarreal, unless either or both Maguire and Shaw are fit, which seems unlikely. It would be better for the duo to sit out this match, which will go a long way to helping avert a longer spell on the sidelines, if that is what is going to happen.

There is strength in depth in the defence this season as United also have Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Teden Mengi in the squad plus the availability of some of the younger players in the academy, such as Alvaro Fernandez and Charlie Wellens, who have been playing well in the fullback positions for the U23s so far this season. Solskjaer may not have to pull players from the academy for this match based on the players he has in the squad but they are a bit short of fullbacks at this time, so you never know. I am sure that the likes of Jones and Bailly, who have both played in the right-back position will be able to fill in, if needed to. Not idea though.

Midfield: Donny van de Beek, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba

I believe playing with a three-man midfield and two strikers could find some good in this team. United seem to be overcome in midfield as there is just one defensive-minded midfielder and that is Nemanja Matic. I think he will start against Villarreal as it is important that United get the better in this area of the pitch as it will make the game a bit more fluid for the team, which needs to be the case. A three-man midfield could help Paul Pogba find his feet again this season, after getting himself seven assists in the first few Premier League matches. Playing a pivot, which involves two midfielder playing defensive positions stagnates the team.

Donny van de Beek should also start as he has some good attributes to his gameplay and is experienced in the Champions League, which is a benefit. The Dutchman and Pogba could playing the mire advanced areas of the midfield, linking the defence up with the attack and Matic could do what he does best – protecting the defence. When needed, Pogba and/or Van de Beek could help out in keeping the Spanish side at bay and I think they could do a good job. Having the likes of Scott McTominay and Fred on the bench could resign up the squad in the second half, if that is what Solskjaer needs to be doing. This trio should have enough to help United win.

Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes is one of the driving forces in this United team and he can be the difference between a win, a draw or a defeat. Granted, on Saturday, he had the chance to draw United level from the penalty spot, but as some players do, he missed the target sending the ball into the Stretford End. It happens in football and it seems to some deluded supporters seem to think he did that on purpose just to get Solskjaer sacked. Imagine these people in charge of decisions at big companies and driving on the roads! No wonder the world has a doom and gloom element to it at this moment in time.

Fernandes is a player that can score and assist for United, as he has proven this season with four goals and one assist to his name, and since he signed for the club, he has been involved in 44 goals and 26 assists – 70 goal contributions in 88 appearances for the club which is good going considering United signed him in January 2020. With his compatriots in the team for this match; Dalot and Cristiano Ronaldo, Fernandes could find his feet with the former providing the width in the match and possibly providing crosses to the attacking players and the latter seeking to find the goals – with strike partner Edinson Cavani.

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani

So far this season, Solskjaer has used formations which only seem to use one striker and with the attacking ability the squad has this season, it is a shame to play those formations. I feel that playing with two strikers will help United find the goal, which is not something they have been able to do in their last two matches in all competitions. United lost their first Champions League match to Young Boys and really need to get three points in the bag this time, or they could face a turbulent time in the competition. Playing both Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo in this match would be wise, based on their experience and ability in front of goal.

There might be a problem with the width in this match, which could, to a point, be provided by Pogba and Van de Beek, who will be playing in a midfield three with Matic, who will be tasked with the defensive midfield duties. The fullbacks, Dalot and Telles could also provide some width with both being kind of attacking, although both need to prove that in this match to get their feet under the table and challenge both Wan-Bissaka and Shaw, who seem to be the first choice options. Ronaldo has four goals since his return to United tis season and Cavani is yet to score, but got himself 17 goals last season. This could work very well for United.

Substitutes: Tom Heaton, Dean Henderson; Eric Bailly, Phil Jones; Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Fred, Scott McTominay; Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho, Anthony Elanga

United will be able to name a 23-man squad for this match with at XI to start the match and 12 substitutes. A total of five substitutes will be able to be used, which gives Solskjaer the chance to change his formation and tactics depending what United needed from the match. Obviously a win is the requirement here, to end the two-match losing streak and get another win on the board at Old Trafford, which will boost the confidence ahead of the Premier League clash with Everton on Saturday afternoon. Both Tom Heaton and Dean Henderson should be on the bench with De Gea starting – Kovar and Heaton were on the bench in the last match.

In defence, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones should give United all they need as both can play in the centre of defence and have played in the right-back position, so offer options should anything happen. There is a chance that Maguire and Shaw could be involved, but that is doubtful at this time. In midfield, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Fred and Scott McTominay could provide something, should it be needed – hopefully with Solskjaer changing the formation. In attack, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga all being available. It gives United a pretty balanced squad for this match with experience, talent and youth.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Solskjaer to change his formation against Villarreal? Cavani and Ronaldo to lead the attack?

Manchester United -v- Villarreal

UEFA Champions League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Wednesday 29 September 2021, KO 20:00 BST

Referee: Felix Zwayer Assistants: Rafael Foltyn, Marco Achmüller

Fourth Official: Sven Jablonski

VAR: Christian Dingert Assistant VAR: Bastian Dankert

Manchester United return to UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday evening as they welcome Villarreal to Old Trafford in the second group stage match of the competition. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are in poor form, losing three times in the last four matches and are so far winless in this competition. Villarreal are not in great form either, winning just once in their last six matches. Their only win before their recent one was against United in the final of the UEFA Europa League back in May. That said, it does not mean United will get back to winning ways through – but that needs to be the case to nip this awful form in the bud as quickly as possible.

United started the season well, beating Leeds United 5-1, drawing 1-1 with Southampton, beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0, beating Newcastle United 4-1 but then falling to a 2-1 defeat to Young Boys in the first Champions League group stage match, before beating West Ham United 2-1, then losing 1-0 against them in the Carabao Cup. The 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday saw United fall from grace with three defeats in the last four matches, two of which were at Old Trafford. United play two matches at Old Trafford before the second international break of the season and will need to win both of them to stop the negativity.

Manchester United – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: LLWLWW

Aston Villa 1-0 L, West Ham United 1-0 L, West Ham United 2-1 W, BSC Young Boys 2-1 L, Newcastle United 4-1 W, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 W

Goals: 4 – Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo, 3 – Mason Greenwood, 2 – Jesse Lingard, 1 – Fred

Assists: 7 – Paul Pogba, 1 – Bruno Fernandes, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Luke Shaw, Raphael Varane

Villarreal – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: DWDDLD

Real Madrid 0-0 D, Elche CF 4-1 W, RCD Mallorca 0-0 D, Atalanta BC 2-2 D, SC Braga 3-2 L, Atletico Madrid 2-2 D

Goals: 3 – Arnaut Danjuma, Manu Trigueros, 1 – Gerard Moreno, Yeremi Pino

Assists: 3 – Yeremi Pino, 1 – Paco Alcácer, Boulaye Dia, Gerard Moreno, Alfonso Pedraza

Previous meetings with Villarreal and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Villarreal have met a total of five times in the history of both clubs and United have failed to win a single match. There have been four draws and one defeat with the first four matches played in the Champions League group stages with the last match played in the Europa League final. In the Champions League match, there were no goals in four matches with the only goals being scored in the Europa League final with Edinson Cavani scoring in the 55th minute of the match – however, that match went to penalties with United losing 11-10 with David De Gea not making a single save and missing his spot kick.

There is not much history between United and Villarreal as far as players are concerned. Eric Bailly is the only current United player who came to the club from the Spanish club in the summer of 2016 for €30 million. Since the transfer, Bailly has made a total of 107 appearances, scoring one goal and one assist. United were apparently interested in signing Pau Torres during the summer. Guiseppe Rossi was sold to Villarreal in the 2007/08 season and Diego Forlan arrived at the Spanish club in the 2004/05 season. Both players did well in Spain with Rossi scoring 82 goals in 181 appearances and Forlan scoring 58 goals in 121 appearances.

Team News: Up to four players injured for United and one suspended; Villarreal have up to four players injured and one suspended too – both will be seeking a win in this match.

Marcus Rashford (Shoulder) and Amad Diallo (Thigh) are both out of action until after the second international break of the season. On Saturday both Luke Shaw (Other) and Harry Maguire (Calf) had to come off against Aston Villa and are doubts ahead of this match, which will mean there could be up to three defensive changes in this match as Aaron Wan-Bissaka is suspended after being sent off against Young Boys a fortnight ago. Solskjaer will have Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Raphael Varane, Alex Telles and Teden Mengi to strengthen the defence should both Maguire and Shaw miss this match.

Samuel Chukwueze (Hamstring), Gerard Moreno (Hamstring), Daniel Raba (Ankle) and Juan Foyth (Knock) could all be out of the trip to Old Trafford, which will be the first match at the Theatre of Dreams for the club since the 2008/09 season, which incidentally was Cristiano Ronaldo’s last season at the club before leaving for Real Madrid and a season that United reached the Champions League final – but were defeated by Barcelona in Rome. Francis Coquelin is suspended for this match. This will be a big match for both teams this season with United seeking to earn their first points in the competition and Villarreal seeking their first win.

Predicted Starting XI: Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo to lead the line, supported by Bruno Fernandes with a three-man midfield consisting of Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek.

Solskjaer should look into changing the formation he uses. United have failed to score a single goal in their last 180 minutes of football, despite having some of the best attacking players in English football this season. Playing two strikers with a player behind them and a three-man midfield might cover some of their problems. There will be a lack of width in this instance, but the fullbacks could offer that going forward and there will be up to five substitutions in the Champions League, so the formation could be tweaked it need be. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that? It is worth a try as there is a chance that it could work out.

I believe David De Gea will keep his place in goal for this crucial Champions League match. There will be changes to the back four with Aaron Wan-Bissaka suspended and possibly both Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw injured, in which case Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof and Alex Telles should start in the back four. Nemanja Matic should be the defensive midfielder in this match with the formation slightly changing. A three-man midfield with Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek could compliment Matic. Bruno Fernandes should play slightly behind the two striker, who in this case should be Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Match Prediction: Getting back to winning ways is important for United and getting points on the board in the Champions League is a necessity – will it be as easy as that though?

This match will be an important one. The result will either see United on a three match losing run, a three match winless run or they will have averted a disaster and gone back to winning ways – which more importantly will be their first three points in the Champions League this season – which needs to be the result. United have failed to score a single goal in 180 minutes of football and have scored once in the five matches played against Villarreal. I like to remain optimistic about United’s matches but there is a lot of pessimism around at the moment, especially with supporting calling for the manager to be sacked again.

The important thing here is to continue to support the club and the players on the pitch. Causing a lot of needless negativity is not the best thing right now, especially when there are supporters in the stadium that fully back the manager. That seems to be the difference between the match-going supporters and the social media supporters – they are two different types of supporter. One will continue to support United win, lose of draw whereas the other will preach negativity when United have either lost of drawn and most of the time say noting when they win. Is this really the definition of a supporter?

Manchester United 2-1 Villarreal

Written by John Walker

Ratings: Cavani equaliser felt good; penalties not so much; I feel for De Gea

Manchester United were beaten 11-10 on penalties after a 1-1 draw playing two hours of football. Gerard Moreno opened the scoring in the 29th minute of the match with Edinson Cavani equalising ten minutes into the second half. Marcus Rashford had a chance to take the lead in the second half but he missed. The penalties were interesting and seeing each team score ten in a row was immense but when David De Gea stepped up, I had a feeling that he would miss, which is what happened. It is unfortunate but it happens. United will now pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get ready for the Euro’s and next season.

It was a pretty even start to the UEFA Europa League final with both sides aiming to start well. I don’t have much confidence in the United defence as Eric Bailly has not really been at his best recently and has spend much of his time on the bench but did play in the final Premier League match of the season on Sunday. Scott McTominay had a chance in the seventh minute of the match but missed the target. There really did not seem to be much aggression from United but any attacks they made seemed to be covered by Villarreal, who had everything covered when they needed to, which was good for them – not for United.

United started to get better on the attack but Villarreal were also progressing forward and giving United many different problems. In the 29th minute of the match, Villarreal took the lead through Gerard Moreno, who had scored his 30th goal in all competitions this season. Daniel Parejo played the ball into the forward with only David De Gea to beat but he did not get a great connection on the ball but did enough to beak the United goalkeeper and put his team in the lead. At that time, United seemed down and out and somewhat dejected. Solskjaer was not all the impressed on the sideline after the goal.

United started to progress into attacking positions again after conceding but Villarreal seemed to have it all covered but United were also not playing to the best of their abilities. Bruno Fernandes looked frustrated, as he is a perfectionist and will be seeking to change the game. It was a hairy last ten minutes or so of the first half with Villarreal playing to a certain swagger and United still not rising to the challenge. The half time team talk was probably going to be something reminiscent of Sir Alex Ferguson’s hairdryer, which was probably not something the team were looking forward to, but something need to give. Villarreal left at the break.

At the start of the second half, there were no changes for either team, when perhaps there could have been at least one for United. Harry Maguire made the bench but it is yet unknown as to how much of a part he could play, if at all but there was a reason that he was put on the bench and perhaps it would be revealed as the game goes on? Ten minutes into the second half, United had got themselves back into the game through none other that Edinson Cavani, who scored his 17th goal of the season. Luke Shaw played a part in the goal after a corner was cleared to him, he found Scott McTominay who had a touch before Cavani took over and scored.

United did have a penalty shout before they scored but VAR looked at it and gave nothing. It seemingly took longer for VAR to give United’s equaliser than it did to look at the possible penalty. Since the equaliser, United had many attacking chances but the finishing was not as good as it should have been. The Villarreal from the first half were not all that present in the second half with United getting more of the chances – I am not saying Villarreal did nothing but there was nothing that could have won them the match. They made some changes but it was not putting them in the position to win and United still had five substitutions to their advantage.

Despite the chances in the second half, there were no further goals in the second half resulting in the match going into extra time. There were still no substitutions for United, which was unbelievable giving the suggestion that the team was in a good period of peak fitness. Marcus Rashford had the best chance in the second half but did not fire his effort on target, which was a shame to see. The luck really is not there for him at this time. Villarreal seemed to be fresh in the first half of extra time with United also looking to cause some damage with Cavani needing a split second to find a goal. Fred replaced Mason Greenwood in the 100th minute.

There were no further substitutions at the start of the second half of extra time. United were under pressure and Villarreal looked the freshest, having made five substitutions in the second half of the match. United made a double substitution in the 116th minute of the match with Axel Tuanzebe and Daniel James replacing Eric Bailly and Paul Pogba. There was so much tension in the match coming to the end of extra time. Luke Shaw seemed to be down with a knock and less then two minutes of time remaining. Juan Mata and Alex Telles were the final substitutions, replacing Scott McTominay and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

It was 1-1 after extra time and penalties would decide the result of this match. Gerard Moreno took the first penalty, finding the back of the net. Juan Mata took the second, finding the back of the net. 1-1. Danial Raba took the third, scoring. Alex Telles took the fourth, scoring. 2-2. Paco Alcácer took the fifth, De Gea almost saved it. Bruno Fernandes took the sixth, scoring it with the goalkeeper close to making the save. 3-3. Alverto Moreno took the seventh, scoring. Marcus Rashford too the eighth, scoring it. 4-4 and into sudden death. Daniel Parejo took the ninth, scoring it. Edinson Cavani took the tenth, scoring it. 5-5.

Proper sudden death. Moi Gomez took the eleventh, scoring. Fred took the twelfth, scoring it. 6-6. Raúl Albion took the thirteenth, scoring it. Daniel James took the fourteenth, scoring it. 7-7. Francis Coquelin took the fifteenth, scoring it. Luke Shaw took the sixteenth, just squeezing in past the keeper. 8-8. Mario Gaspar took the seventeenth, scoring it although De Gea had his hand to it. Axel Tuanzebe took the eighteenth, scoring it. 9-9. Pau Torres took the nineteenth, scoring it. Victor Lindelof took the twentieth, scoring it. 10-10. Gerónimo Rulli too the twenty-first, scoring it. David De Gea took the twenty-second, missing it. Villarreal win 11-10.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

I feel the defence let him down, which says more about the summer ahead. Moreno's goal was a weak one to concede. He did not have much to do from there until the penalty shootout, saving none and missing his penalty. Gutted for him.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Not the best in attacking positions putting crosses into teammates. Needs improvement there or a rival that can do this.

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3 Eric Bailly

Seemed solid in places but clumsy in others. Didn't do much wrong and was not culpable for the goal. Replaced by Tuanzebe in the 116th minute.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Failed to do his job to stop Moreno. Not good enough without Maguire and cannot rely on another player to make him better - needs to do it himself. Scored a good penalty though.

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23 Luke Shaw

Saw the brunt of Solskjaer after the goal with Moreno getting the better of him. His performance level was not as up there as it had been this season. His penalty somehow found the back of the net.

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39 Scott McTominay

Had a good shot on goal but missed. Put in a good disciplined display and helped get things going for United. Got the assist for Cavani's goal.

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6 Paul Pogba

Seemed up for the challenge but soon dwindled. Should have played on the left-wing where he could get amongst it. Replaced by James in the 116th minute.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Tried to grasp the game by the neck and create something. Seemed determined. Put the effort in but was replaced by Fred in the 100th minute,

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18 Bruno Fernandes

Not the best performance. Seemed annoyed at the predicament United were in. Seemed annoyed that his efforts did not see more goals scored. Took a great penalty - he's had plenty of practice this season. He should use this as a driving point.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Seemed well off his game but that has been seen for weeks. Missed a good opportunity to put United ahead in the second half. Scored his penalty.

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21 Edinson Cavani

Was the most capable player of scoring and scored. However there were missed opportunities. Tucked his penalty away on a nervy evening. Will be annoyed and upset a trophy did not come back to Manchester.

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Substitutes

17 Fred

Replaced Greenwood 100'. Used his energy well but did not really help change the game. Scored his penalty.

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Ratings: Cavani equaliser felt good; penalties not so much; I feel for De Gea

Replaced Pogba 116'. Added pace. Scored a great penalty. Will be disappointed United lost.

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38 Axel Tuanzebe

Replaced Bailly 116'. Solid in defence. Perhaps should have started. Scored his penalty.

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8 Juan Mata

Replaced McTominay 120+3'. Came on at the death. Scored his penalty which will mean a lot.

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27 Alex Telles

Replaced Wan-Bissaka 120+3'. Same as Mata. Scored his penalty and celebrated it.

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Goals: Gerard Moreno 29′; Edinson Cavani 55′

Assists: Daniel Parejo 29′; Scott McTominay 55′

Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; Greenwood (Fred 100′), Fernandes, Rashford; Cavani

Substitutes Not Used: Grant, Henderson; Maguire, Williams, Telles, Tuanzebe; Mata, Amad, James, Matic, Van de Beek

Bookings: Etienne Capoue 54′, Juan Foyth 84′; Eric Bailly 82′, Edinson Cavani 113′

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-2-3-1] Cavani, Greenwood, Fernandes and Pogba to inspire United to victory over Villarreal in Gdansk?

Manchester United will contend the UEFA Europa League with Villarreal at the Stadion Energa Gdańsk in Gdańsk, Poland on Wednesday evening. It is the second time that United have participated in the final of the competition in four years. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has previously seen his side stutter in the semi-finals of cup competitions, seeing his side lose four of them before they knocked AS Roma out of the competition with a 8-5 aggregate victory earlier in the month. Villarreal have reached the final of the competition for the first time in the history of the club. Five English clubs have won this cup with four Spanish teams winning.

This match comes after a long and hard season for both teams. United finished second in the Premier League, exited the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, which is where they entered the Europa League, also reaching the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup and the quarter-finals of the Emirates FA Cup. Villarreal finished seventh in La Liga this season, putting them into the new UEFA Europa Conference League play-offs. They started in the group stages in the competition this season, playing 14 matches so far and are undefeated so far, winning 12 matches and drawing twice. They also reached the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey.

How United have faired against Villarreal in European competition.

Manchester United and Villarreal have met four times in European competition. All of the meetings have been in the UEFA Champions League in the group stage with the two clubs meeting in the 2005/06 season and the 2008/09 season. Neither team have won any of the matches with neither team scoring a single goal with four 0-0 draws the result between the two clubs. I makes the UEFA Europa League final even more unknown as both teams will be seeking to be the victors for the first time. Both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Unai Emery will be determined to be the first manager of their respective clubs to win for the first time.

This season in the Europa League, United have faced two Spanish teams; Real Sociedad in which they won 4-0 inn the first leg, which was played at the Juventus Stadium in Turin with Bruno Fernandes scoring a brace, plus goals from Marcus Rashford and Daniel James. The second leg was a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford. United then met Granada inn the quarter-finals, winning 2-0 in both legs (4-0 on aggregate) with Rashford and Fernandes scoring in the first leg and Edinson Cavani and an own goal from Jesús Vallejo. Villarreal will be the third Spanish team United will have faced in the Europa League this season.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Villarreal in the UEFA Europa League final at the Stadion Energa Gdańsk on Wednesday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea is the likely starter against Villarreal on Wednesday evening as the two teams contest the UEFA Europa League for the 2020/21 season. The Spanish number one has played in both the quarter-final and semi-final against Granada and AS Roma with Dean Henderson playing the majority of the matches prior to those. Henderson played in the final Premier League match of the season on Sunday, leaving De Gea fresh for this match, despite the fact that Solskjaer has not been keen on giving anything away regarding his XI until he is obliged to. De Gea has been back in good form recently which could give him the edge over Henderson, who is the future of the club with De Gea’s time seemingly coming to an end. That has not been confirmed by the player, the manager or the club, so is just rumour at this time, but it will have to happen at some point.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Axel Tuanzebe, Luke Shaw

United’s defence has been both a problem and a saviour at times this season but there is no bigger problem than whether Harry Maguire will play on Wednesday evening. He’s walking without a protective boot or crutches but running is a bigger step. Unless Solskjaer is playing mind games, it would suggest that he will be out for this match, or on the bench if he’s fit enough for that. In which case, Axel Tuanzebe, who performed excellently on Sunday could step in for him. He would be partnered with Victor Lindelof, although he played well with Eric Bailly on Sunday too. In the fullback positions, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw will play this match, both rested from Sunday’s match, having just over a week to prepare for this match. This is the biggest game for United this season and carries the reward of the first trophy of Solskjaer’s era at the club.

Midfield: Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay

The midfield is where the problems lie for United. Watching Nemanja Matic against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday saw him do the job of both Scott McTominay and Fred by himself, which is obviously what Solskjaer would like, and be able to play a more attack minded partner to link up the defence with the attack and move forward to create themselves also. Donny van de Beek played a good game on Sunday and I think he has done enough, at least for me, so put him into contention to start in Gdańsk. McTominay could partner him and he could take the role of the defensive player, as long as he’s up for the challenge, as there will be a challenge for him in this match. Fred has been dire this season and it’s hard to see him fitting into this squad for much longer. The easiest tasks seem impossible for him at times.

Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba

Bruno Fernandes has 28 goals and 18 assists to his name in all competitions this season, which is a great return for a midfielder and something that United have been lacking in for years now. What he offers this club is magnificent and everyone will be thankful for him being at the club. Talks of a new contract are just deserved for the Portuguese magnifico. Mason Greenwood has been playing in different roles this season by has 12 goals and six assists in all competitions, which is also a great return from the teenager. Playing on the right-wing is more for him, not Marcus Rashford, whose form has suffered in recent weeks. Paul Pogba has been playing on the left-wing recently but his contribution has waned in this area but there is no reason why it might now work on Wednesday. He has offered six goals and seven assists in all competitions this season.

Forwards: Edinson Cavani

Edinson Cavani is the striker in form at this stage of the season, which is great to see. He has 16 goals and five assists to his name and he will be seeking to add to that against Villarreal to ensure that United head home from Gdańsk with a trophy – Solskjaer’s first of him time managing United. Cavani knows how to get himself into good positions and also create space for other players to get into those positions and score. He also has a very lethal header, which has been shown at stages this season, especially over the past six weeks or so. The Uruguayan has signed a one-year extension at United, which is a good sign for the club and as his season was late to develop, having not played for PSG for a while before he left, the COVID period of isolation then injury and fatigue, next season will be big for him, especially having a full pre-season under his belt.

Substitutes: Lee Grant, Dean Henderson, Nathan Bishop; Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Brandon Williams, Alex Telles; Juan Mata, Fred, Amad Diallo, Daniel James, Nemanja Matic, Shola Shoretire; Marcus Rashford, Anthony Elanga

Solskjaer named a 26-man squad for this match which includes four goalkeepers, which will probably see one or two removed from the match day squad. Harry Maguire was also included, giving him every chance to be fit for the match, which looks unlikely at this time. I have named a 15-man bench but three will probably not make it. Lee Grant, Dean Henderson and Nathan Bishop are the goalkeepers that could feature on the bench. In defence, Eric Bailly, Maguire if he does not start or has enough for a cameo in the game, Brandon Williams, and Alex Telles could be called upon. In midfield, Juan Mata, Fred, Amad Diallo, Daniel James, Nemanja Matic and Shola Shoretire could be available. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga will be the attackers on the bench. Five substitutions can be used in the final in three instances during the match, plus the half time break.

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW