Manchester, A rainy night at Old Trafford saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s future as Manchester United coach discussed by fans once again, with only rear-guard action from the hosts helping them to a dramatic late victory against Villarreal on Matchday 2 in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
Unai Emery set up his Villarreal team in an identical manner to the Europa League final against the same opposition although United truly struggled to break down the Spanish side’s low block.
In truth, it was the visitors who had the better chances in the first half, with Arnaut Danjuma giving Diogo Dalot a torrid evening on the left.
David de Gea was forced to pull off a number of magnificent saves, including one from close range from Yeremi Pino.
Danjuma forced a save out of De Gea himself when Raphael Varane misjudged the bounce of the ball when dealing with a routine loose pass.
Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood were the main targets for the hosts, with the team looking to shift the ball wide at pace to keep Villarreal’s resolute backline moving.
Yet, chances were not forthcoming for Manchester United as frustration around the ground grew as the match headed into the break
It was, then, a shock to those in attendance when Villarreal opened the scoring in the 53rd minute of play.
Paul Pogba was left confused by Victor Lindelof charging way out of position to close a loose ball and the French midfielder then failed to track his midfield runner as the Spanish side broke forward.
Dalot failed to cut out a slide rule pass to Danjuma inside the penalty area and he duly cut the ball across the face of goal to Paco Alcacer, who poked the ball beyond De Gea at the near post.
With that being the first goal scored between the two teams in five Champions League matches, few could see United finding their way back into the game, but it actually came rather quickly.
A cleverly taken free-kick near the corner flag saw Bruno Fernandes pick out an unmarked Alex Telles on the edge of the penalty area and the Brazilian fired a well-hit volley into the bottom corner
This goal turned the tide and Fernandes himself had a chance to fire a shot towards Geronimo Rulli minutes later, but he slipped and it rolled harmlessly into the path of the Argentine.
Old Trafford thought their moment had come with 10 minutes left to play when substitute Edinson Cavani had a header at the back post following a Greenwood cross, but the ball flashed wide, seeming to take the veteran Uruguayan by surprise.
Jesse Lingard was next to test Rulli with a chance in injury time as his shot flashed across the near post and forced the Argentine into a quick reflex stop.
It looked as though Manchester United were going to face the difficult prospect of back-to-back games with Atalanta after taking just one point from their opening two games, but there was to be one last moment of drama.
Cristiano Ronaldo did very little throughout the game, even appearing to tire in the latter stages, but an aerial pass into the box fell to Lingard, who lost his footing, but the ball fortuitously to Ronaldo who fired the ball into the back of the net.
Relief reigned at Old Trafford at the full-time whistle, and victory takes United onto three points ahead of two matches against Atalanta, with their hopes of qualification now being much stronger courtesy of Ronaldo, the Spanish MARCA newspaper reported.
Source: Oman News Agency