Old Trafford witnessed a Champions League classic as Manchester United beat Villarreal 2-1, with a last gasp winner being scored by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo. In a replay of the 2020/21 Europa League final, was the visitors Villarreal who took the lead, going ahead through Paco Alcacer early on in the second half, after he converted Arnaut Danjuma’s cross.
United’s equaliser came from Alex Telles. The left-back’s first goal for the club was a stunning left-footed volley in front of the Stretford End. After working hard and pressing well for the final 30 minutes of the game, United’s reward came in the form of a dramatic winner courtesy of Ronaldo.Embed from Getty Images
Story of the game
United made a strong start to the first half, seeing the majority of the ball in the first five minutes. Bruno Fernandes had an early chance from range after he was found by Ronaldo on the edge of the box. However, the stand-in United captain sent his shot flying over the crossbar.
This was, unfortunately, about as good as it got for United over the next half an hour or so, other than Ronaldo heading Telles’ corner over the bar after just eight minutes. Villarreal found a lot of joy down United’s right-hand side. Diogo Dalot started tonight at right-back following Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s red card on matchday one.
The Portugal international went up against former Bournemouth winger Danjuma, who enjoyed great success against Dalot. Danjuma had three shots in the 28 minutes that followed Fernandes’ early attempt, and whilst none resulted in a goal for the visitors, there were certainly some nerve-wracking moments for United. He was causing some real problems for United.
Villarreal forced David de Gea into four excellent saves in the first half, the highlight undoubtedly being his tip over the bar following a powerful header from Alcacer, who rose well to meet Danjuma’s cross.
United rode their look in the first half but almost had the opening goal on the stroke of half-time after a miscommunication between left-back Alberto Moreno and goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli. Instead of leaving his goalkeeper to collect Paul Pogba’s overhit pass, Moreno attempted a clearance himself and almost sliced the ball into his own net.
The result was a corner for United, but it could’ve been a lead late on in the first half, where they ultimately struggled to create any chances. Only Pogba had a shot on target, and even this was a long-range effort from the left-hand side.
In the second half, Villarreal opened the scoring through Alcacer, who gave his side a deserved lead. Danjuma once again found space on the left, after Dalot missed a crucial interception, and he squared the ball for Alcacer, creating a chance the Spaniard couldn’t really miss; unfortunately, he didn’t, slotting the ball home from just a few yards out.
After conceding the goal, United began to press Villarreal high up the pitch, and soon saw results, winning the ball back in places they previously hadn’t so far. Just before the hour mark, Mason Greenwood won a freekick for United.
It was Fernandes who took it, and in a routine straight off the training ground, found the awaiting Telles on the left-hand corner of the box. The Brazilian unleashed a phenomenal low volley, which left Rulli well and truly beaten, finding its way into the Villarreal net. A sublime way to open his United account.Embed from Getty Images
After going level, United continued in the same fashion, pressing the visitors so high up the pitch they could barely get out of their own box. There was another tense moment for United, however, as De Gea pulled off a remarkable double save. The latter was arguably save of the night, as he tipped away Boulaye Dia‘s attempt with incredible reflexes, even though he was almost lying down on the pitch.
United’s unrelenting pressing was only helped by the introductions of Edinson Cavani, and later, Jesse Lingard. Although Cavani missed a relatively routine chance with his head not long after coming on, both he and Lingard played a huge part in the goal.
With just seconds remaining for United to find a winner, Cavani’s relentless pressing once again saw him win the ball back. The ball found its way to Fred, who had come on to replace Telles at left-back. The Brazilian put in a wonderful cross to Ronaldo, who leapt high to win the header, finding Lingard in the six-yard box.
The substitute got a crucial touch to find Ronaldo again, who didn’t hesitate to smash the ball past Rulli and wheel away in celebration, amid incredible scenes in the Stretford End.Embed from Getty Images
Ronaldo sealed a vital three points for United, who move up to third in the group after two games. Next up in the Champions League, Atalanta visit Old Trafford on October 20th.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Inevitable
This was the dream end to Ronaldo’s first Champions League game back at Old Trafford as a United player since 2009. Whilst he didn’t have a lot to do tonight, it always feels like Ronaldo will score if he has even half a chance.
It has been an incredible start to his second spell at United, scoring five goals in his first five games, a run that only seems like it has an upwards trajectory. Ronaldo is once again showing why he is arguably the greatest player ever.