Manchester United are gunning for revenge in a Europa League final rematch from last season against Villarreal – this time being their first Champions League group stage game of the season at Old Trafford.
Still reeling from back-to-back losses, United were outclassed by Villarreal in the first half and could’ve conceded 2-3 goals if not for the heroics of David de Gea in goal. Even so, it felt like a Villarreal goal was inevitable – and just that happened when Paco Alcacer finished off a slick move in the 53rd minute to give his side a deserved lead.
That seemed to be the fire that lit up the Red Devils and they got the equalizer through the unlikeliest of sources – when Alex Telles guided a pitch-perfect volley through a sea of bodies to make it 1-1 at the 60th minute.
Just when it looked like the game would flutter to a draw, Mr. Champions League Cristiano Ronaldo came up with a stunning 95th-minute winner to break Villarreal’s hearts.
Did United deserve to win the match after the way they played? Probably not. But Villarreal kinda didn’t deserve to win the Europa final either – and that’s how football is like at times. A big win for United, as it rejuvenates their chances of winning the group & helps regain confidence after a difficult past week.
Manchester United player ratings vs Villarreal
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (4.0)–
Solskjaer’s side might’ve won the game, but their overall performance was really poor. Ironically, he went with a very attack-minded team – which ended up blowing in his face. United were bullied in the first half, over-run in midfield & kept in the game by De Gea’s brilliance. They didn’t really improve by loads in the second half and got the win based on individual brilliance more than anything else.
Ole’s subs were also a bit wonky, as Lingard & Cavani could’ve both been brought on sooner. He gets the win, but Ole needs to really improve how United operate as a whole unit for them to get on a prominent winning run.
David de Gea (8.0) –
De Gea was tested quite early on, but reacted sharply to deny Danjuma in the 6th. Then pulls off a brilliant save in the 9th to keep his side from conceding. His best save comes in the 17th, showcasing incredible flash-like reflexes to deny Alcacer’s header. Again tested minutes before half-time, pulling off a strong save to deny Pino.
Safe to say, United would’ve conceded 2-3 in the first half if not for him. Bit unlucky to concede after that kind of heroics. Pulls off another impressive double save to deny Villarreal a second in the 87th.
Diogo Dalot (3.0) –
With Wan-Bissaka suspended, Dalot gets his chance to impress here. Really struggling against Danjuma and allowed him to create multiple big chances early on. Consistently kept getting beaten & lost confidence as that went on. Completely lost track of Danjuma and made it easy for him to assist the opener.
Not only was Dalot defensively poor, but sloppy on the attack as his crosses went all blaring over the target. Can’t expect to get many chances after this.
Victor Lindelof (5.5) –
Lindelof starts his first game with Varane, but is being forced to support Dalot because of how he consistently keeps on getting beat. Caught badly out of position for Alcacer’s strike. Had a few shaky moments all game long – mostly because of how poor Dalot was – but did well to clear out some of the dangerous stuff Villarreal threw at him.
Raphael Varane (7.5) –
Varane is United’s leader at the back today & looks like the most composed defender. Despite being quite faultless, Varane moving out of position kick-started the move for the opener.
But recovered superbly from that, winning key challenges & making clutch recovery challenges to stop Villarreal’s swift breaks. Won 6 duels, 4 aerial duels & made 10 recoveries and was United’s most compelling defender on the day.
Alex Telles (7.0) –
Telles replaces the injured Shaw and has a big job of supporting Sancho on the left. Like Dalot, he wasn’t the sharpest defensively either and allowed a few attempts to go past him in the first half. But made up for his sloppy work with a fantastic equalizer – hitting a perfect volley from a long way out which was beyond saving.
Makes a nice goal-saving block to deny a Villarreal goal in the 87th. Telles was defensively poor all game long, but made the difference going forward with a smashing goal to salvage something for his side.
Scott McTominay (5.5) –
McTominay’s not really the strongest defensive midfielder and that shows today, as he’s been unable to stop Villarreal’s swift breaks or keep shots from coming into his goal. Didn’t look too comfortable against Villarreal’s pace & struggled to stop their swift breaks. Improved towards the end, making a key block inside the box & even testing the goalkeeper with a late shot on target.
Paul Pogba (5.5) –
Pogba is back in a central role & is playing very advanced to try and get things done. Gets United’s first shot on target in the 37th – an ambitious shot from the left-wing. Sprayed the ball around decently, but not really able to create anything prominent. Lost the midfield battle & looked a bit lost at times – not contributing well enough defensively to help his backline.
Bruno Fernandes (7.5)–
After the Aston Villa disappointment, Fernandes is eager to make up. Struck a difficult shot over the bar in the 2nd. Created a few half-chances in the first half, but seemed frustrated by the lack of effort from his teammates. Set up Telles’ equalizer with a really clever pass from the set-piece.
Apart from his impressive assist, Fernandes created 4 big chances and proved his leadership skills by urging his side to keep going for the winner – resulting in the late strike. A solid recovery from Sunday’s nightmare.
Jadon Sancho (5.5) –
Sancho is determined to get his first goal/assist for United in this one. Lit up the left wing with some sweet dribbles in the first half, but couldn’t create anything prominent. Had a big chance to score in the 61st, but slipped up at the last chance after being 1v1 with the goalkeeper. Made a few exciting forward runs – but his final product is still not refined enough.
Mason Greenwood (5.0) –
Greenwood looks a bit lost on the right-wing and wasn’t really able to be involved in anything big in the first half – despite getting into some nice areas. Improved a bit in the second half, putting in some nice crosses into the area, but still looked frustrated & lost on the right wing for the majority of the time.
Cristiano Ronaldo (7.5) –
With today’s appearance, CR7 becomes the player with the most UCL appearances ever. Got a decent scoring chance in the 8th, but his towering header went over. He had a very frustrating, sloppy game but Mr Inevitable only needs one chance. Kept it (very) late but produced a clinical finish to win the game for United. Moments like those are why he was brought back.
Edinson Cavani (6.0) –
Got a big chance minutes after coming on, but couldn’t convert Greenwood’s impressive cross into the back for the net. Kept things energized in United’s attack even though they looked slow at times & helped open up space for Ronaldo towards the end.
Nemanja Matic (6.5) –
Matic brought more stature to United’s midfield & ensured they didn’t keep getting overloaded in midfield. Dealt strongly with their work, won back the ball on numerous occasions and moved it forward efficiently.
Jesse Lingard (7.0) –
Lingard proved to be a super-sub again & nearly scored minutes after coming on, when his flicked attempt was saved brilliantly. But it was his clever work that helped assist Ronaldo’s late goal.
Fred (N/R) –
Operated as a makeshift left-back late on. Sent in the cross that eventually resulted in CR7’s winner.
MAN OF THE MATCH
United would not have been in the reckoning to get the late winner if not for De Gea’s brilliance earlier in the game. He made 6 saves and turned into Superman today. He gets the MOTM for today.