Cristiano Ronaldo broke the deadlock 12 minutes from time before Jadon Sancho netted in the 90th minute to seal three points for Manchester United.
Manchester United defeated Villarreal 2-0 in the Champions League group stage fixture on Tuesday to seal qualification for the last 16.The Red Devils who came into the match after the sacking of Ole Gunnar solskjaer on Sunday and looked low on confidence in the first half. However, two late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho sealed three points for the English club. Elsewhere Atalanta and Young Boys played out a thrilling 3-3 draw in Bern to stay in contention for a knockout berth.
Manchester United’s interim boss Michael Carrick surprisingly left Bruno Fernandes, who has created more chances than any other player in both Champions League and Premier League on the bench. The visitors struggled in the first half in front of a packed El Madrigal. Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea was called into action early on as he was tested by Moi Gomez’ low drive from the edge of the box. Yeremi Pino’s shot from the right of the penalty area side-netted.
Four minutes from the half-hour mark, Manu Trigueros’ attempt from Pino’s cut back was brilliantly kept out by De Gea’s quick reflex save. The opening half was clearly dominated by the hosts and United struggled to get into the game. However both sides went into the break goalless.
Two minutes from the hour-mark, Gomez’ shot deflected off Victor Lindelof and fell to Trigueros, whose volley was once again somehow kept out by De Gea’s exceptional reflex save. Midway through the second half, Carrick brought on Fernandes and the pacey Marcus Rashford in place of the disappointing Anthony Martial and Donny van de beek.
Fernandes soon combined with Sancho to open up the Villarreal defence but the latter’s shot was brilliantly saved by the home goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli’s outstretched right leg. And then, in the 78th minute, United broke the deadlock courtesy of a poor pass from Rulli. Fred put pressure on Etienne Capoue who was trying to collect the pass from Rulli and the ball fell to Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar lifted the ball over an out of position Rulli to take the lead.
It was the 36-year-old’s 140th goal in the competition and 799th in total for club and country. After the goal, United played with more intent and they created a number of chances. Seven minutes from time, Ronaldo missed a glorious chance to double the lead. A minute later, Marcus Rashford’s shot was saved at the near post.
In the 90th minute, Sancho finished off a brilliant team move to seal the victory. Ronaldo and Rashford took the play on before Fernandes laid the ball for Sancho to fire home with a thunderous shot. It was the English winger’s first goal for the club since his GBP 73 million move last summer.
Carrick said after the match “The result obviously is a major plus from the run we’ve gone on – we can’t hide that. To get that feeling of winning a football match for the players is huge, and to keep a clean sheet, David (De Gea) was important again so all round there’s a lot of positives to take.
“The biggest (positive) I’ll take is how everyone adapted, the reaction and how they pulled together.
“In situations like this there’s mixed emotions. It’s a test of people and you find out who the real characters are, who’s there with you and who’s not. I thought everyone stuck together in terms of supporting me and my staff and we managed to get the win which is very pleasing. It was a big one.