Wednesday’s rather insane victory against Spanish foes Villarreal, capped off by a 95th-minute winner from Cristiano Ronaldo, was one to savour. It was one of those games where you forget what really happened beyond the big moments. Alex Telles scoring a screamer, David de Gea making some incredible saves and Ronaldo being… well, Ronaldo.
However, the performance was not all roses and dandelions. It wouldn’t be outrageous to say it was United’s worst performance so far this season, with the Red Devils conceding 15 shots and 7 on target.
As with always in football, a good performance doesn’t equal a win. You can score 4 goals from 1.2 xG, you can concede goals to freak deflections, and you can have 73% possession and not get anywhere near the opposition goalline.
One of the main reasons that was highlighted post-match was how brilliant the fans were, almost sucking those two second-half goals into the net via sheer willpower and a lot of (possibly drunk) shouting and chanting. A lot of the players talked about the fans in their post-match interviews:
Bruno Fernandes, despite having been at the club for over a year and a half now, had never played a Champions League fixture at Old Trafford in front of the United faithful, and speaking after the match he highlighted how much of a difference it made.
He told MUTV, “It was my first Champions League night here with fans and it was unbelievable. It’s a great feeling, the atmosphere was unbelievable, but for me, Champions League or not, the atmosphere at Old Trafford has been fantastic.“
He wasn’t the only one. After the match, Cristiano Ronaldo, the night’s hero, took to his Instagram story to say “Without you it was impossible #mufcsupport”. Another Portuguese Red, Diogo Dalot, also highlighted after the game how important the fans were.
“The fans bring great support when they get behind us. It gives us extra energy that is clear for all to see. It was great to have them back on European nights.”
Fans have been missing from stadiums for the majority of the last 18 months. It has been tough on everyone involved in football, but from the perspective of a fan, it couldn’t have been harder than it was on those who were used to appearing every week at Old Trafford, going with their friends and family and making the football match a real and enjoyable experience.
I think this had an impact on the atmosphere on Wednesday – it was like 18 months worth of celebrating goals all went into that one massive roar as Ronaldo hooked the ball around Gerónimo Rulli to grab all three points in Manchester United-like fashion.Embed from Getty Images
One of our own at UtdDistrict, @ASI19i, went to the match and described the scenes around Old Trafford at full time. “The vibes were just unreal,” he told us. “People running around ‘SIU’ing, singing the Ronaldo chant whilst everyone at the same time was rushing to get the tram back!“
“The tram was the best. It was so crowded and we were singing different chants non-stop! One minute it’s ‘Ole’s at the wheel’, then the Martial chant, then Bruno, then Stevie G slipping… It was incredible.“
It is our firm belief at UtdDistrict that fans make football – without us fans, regardless of who you support, it wouldn’t be any fun. Going to stadiums, watching at home, watching at the pub or gatherings, that is what makes football the best sport in the world, and Wednesday’s match was just further proof of that.