Manchester United have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League with late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho securing Man Utd a first win under caretaker manager Michael Carrick.
Carrick: “I thought the subs had a massive impact. David [De Gea] has kept us in the game. Terrific night for the players. For the club to go through was amazing. It was a squad [win]. It is a group of good players. I have to say that one is for Ole that.”
Carrick shook up the line up from the last game, keeping De Gea in goal, bringing Alex Telles for injured Luke Shaw, keeping Wan-Bissaka, Maguire and Lindelof, he started McTominay and Fred as the midfield pivot, he dropped Bruno Fernandes for Van De Beek, he kept Sancho and Ronaldo but brought in Martial for Rashford.
Unai Emery lined up Villarreal in a 4-1-4-1 shape, starting: Rulli, Foyth, Albiol, Torres, Estupinan, Gomez, Parejo, Capoue, Trigueros, Pino, Danjuma.
The whole first half was played at a very slow pace, with neither dominating the play and creating good opportunities.
Villarreal had nine shots in the first half, compared to United’s three, but most of the shots were taken in areas where United would want them to come from, with De Gea easily saving the shots in target.
The start of the second half was more of the same as the first half, both teams having periods of possession but neither team maintain possession in the final third.
The game changed in the 66th minute when Carrick brought on Bruno and Rashford for Martial and Van De Beek, the tempo and speed in which United played with and without the ball went up many levels.
There were some good saves from the keepers in the second half, De Gea made a great save to his right to prevent a goal and Rulli prevented Sancho grabbing his first Man Utd goal with a great save with his foot down to his right.
Untied opened the scoring in the 78th minute through Cristiano Ronaldo, a bad pass by Rulli and Fred quickly put the pressure on Capoue, whose pass went straight to Ronaldo who spotted Rulli off his line and scored with a magnificent chip to keep up his record in scoring in every Champions League game this season.
United secured qualification with a beautiful move leading to Sancho’s first United goal, Fred won the ball back in United’s half, good interplay by McTominay found Ronaldo free on the left hand side who played a ball through to Rashford, who squared to Bruno, whose layoff found Sancho and he smashed it in off the bar to secure Champions League knockout football for the first time in two seasons.
With little time to prepare after the Watford game, it was a good turnaround for Manchester United, despite a poor first half, the second half performance with the substitutions working really well and a clean sheet will always give a confidence boost to the players despite the uncertainty of the managerial situation.