- Arthiac Team
Manchester United have yet again risen from the ashes after being second-best throughout the game to clinch a dramatic and enthralling victory at Old Trafford after Cristiano Ronaldo found the back of the net deep into stoppage time.
Man Utd have made it a habit of coming back into games after trailing, but last night was extra special as this Champions League win has just lifted the spirits of those in and around the Red Devils, including their passionate fan base.
The stage was set for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his side to get a win on home turf as there is no place to hide in case the Red Devils failed to deliver at the standards that Sir Alex Ferguson has set at this historic club.
Ole started the game with his usual 4-2-3-1 formation with Pogba dropping back along with Scott McTominay as Jadon Sancho got the nod to start on the right wing with Greenwood on the left.
The visitors, Villarreal, have not got their La Liga campaign off to a good start as they sit in 11th place in the league with 8 points on the board and just 1 victory.
However, last weekend, they travelled all the way from a city of just 50,000 residents to the Spanish capital, Madrid, and held Los Blancos to a 0-0 draw. They came to the Theatre of Dreams with their heads held high as Unai Emery set his side up brilliantly as the game went by.
Within the opening two minutes of the game, Ronaldo was within the firing zone to shoot on sight, but instead, he laid the ball at Bruno Fernandes' feet, who mis-timed his shot way over the crossbar, which was a similar sight just a few days ago on Saturday.
CR7 once again came into the picture following a corner from Alex Telles midway through the 7th minute of the game as he was unable to direct his header on goal. You would think that those were the moments where Ronaldo was just warming up to his task on a Champions League night.
However, Villarreal got off to an electric start down the right-hand side of Man Utd's defence as the Portuguese right-back, Diogo Dalot struggled to keep Villarreal's Arnaut Danjuma at bay as David de Gea had to make two saves in the opening 10 minutes of the game as the Red Devils were given a taste of what the Yellow Submarines had prepared for dinner on the field.
Danjuma's second attempt on target brought a stunning save from the Spaniard, De Gea, as he was getting his gloves warmed up on a rainy night in Manchester.
The Yellow Submarines kept growing in the game as the make-shift backline for Manchester United was finding it extremely difficult to contain the movement and play of the team in yellow.
The adidas goalkeeping gloves of De Gea must have lit up in flames as he was forced to make yet another save as Paco Alcacer tried to head home a delightful cross from his Dutch forward, Danjuma.
But that didn't stop the Yellow Submarines from pressing forward and searching for the opening goal as they kept trying to find their own Spanish way of getting a breakthrough. (Just as the Professor in the Netflix series "Money Heist" tried to implement.)
Liverpool's former player, Alberto Moreno, missed a creative opportunity to find the back of the net from a corner as he continued to receive a lot of stick and boos from the faithful at Old Trafford.
Alberto Moreno stole a bit of the limelight earlier in the year when he trolled Manchester United following their Europa League defeat in the final in Gdansk in a penalty-shoot out.
To the surprise of many in and around the stadium, Man Utd just did not find an answer to threaten Villarreal's goalkeeper, Rulli. It was an action-packed first 45 minutes from Unai Emery's boys as they were unfortunate not to find the back of the net as quickly as possible.
The wide-men of Villarreal in Danjuma and Yeremy Pino caused a lot of chaos in the defensive line for Man Utd as De Gea had to be at the top of his game to deny the visitors.
At the half-an-hour mark, Raphael Varane misjudged the control of a pass from his own teammate which set Paco Alcacer in front with the goal in his sight, but the Spanish striker could not capitalise on the blunder from the Frenchman, Varane.
With 10 minutes to go to half-time, Manchester United turned it up a notch as they kept pressing and being more brave with the ball on their feet, thus being creative with the likes of Bruno, Pogba and Sancho.
Man Utd thought that they were close to an opening goal when a looping delivery from Paul Pogba over the Villarreal defensive line saw Alberto Moreno make contact with the ball in an awkward position as the ball just rolled slightly beyond the lines of Rulli's goal post.
With barely 50 seconds left on the clock for half-time, De Gea pulled out yet another sizzling save after a left-footed shot from the talented youngster, Yeremy Pinto questioned the reflexes of the Man Utd keeper.
The second-half got underway and Ole's boys started it in sloppy fashion as they gave the ball away needlessly on countless occasions, but when Manchester United found an opening to cut loose and hit hard, they were off the pace as their passes were inaccurate and wayward.
Finally, Villarreal cut loose and punished the Red Devils as they found an opening through Danjuma's left-hand side as he slid in a cross for Alcacer as the Spaniard stabbed it home to give Villarreal the lead in the 53rd minute of the game.
That goal came from a mistake from Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba as they kept themselves slightly higher up the field and when the Yellow Submarines got the ball, they wasted no time through Dani Parejo to find Danjuma as he provided the assist to his striker partner, Alcacer as De Gea couldn't keep this one out.
However, it was probably just the moment that Manchester United needed to lift themselves up and raise their game, as replays showed that Ronaldo called for more from his teammates as the rain dropped from the Manchester skies.
Apparently, according to us, Mason Greenwood was poor last night as he failed to make an impact yet again in the game as he did on Saturday afternoon against Aston Villa.
It was time for Bruno Fernandes to step up as he lined up a few shots from distance as he attempted to find a breakthrough.
However, he did step up as he assisted Alex Telles to a brilliant volleyed goal as he found the back of the net with style and accuracy as Manchester United were on the charge at Old Trafford as the crowd sensed that the opportunity was there up for grabs.
Jadon Sancho had the opportunity to get his first goal of the season with the goal at his sight when the ball fell at his feet at the end of the 60th minute, but he failed to capitalise as he stumbled at the crucial moment. Nonetheless, Manchester United kept coming at Unai Emery and his men on the field.
Edinson Cavani came onto the scene in the 75th minute to replace Paul Pogba and the Uruguayan had a really good opportunity to stick the ball in the back of the net following a cross from Mason Greenwood, but Cavani headed it wide as the opportunity went begging in a game that was extremely tight.
However, "cometh the moment, cometh the man" - Cristiano Ronaldo was there in the dying minutes of stoppage time to slot the winner home for Manchester United as he does what he does best!
Credit to Fred as he whipped in a delightful cross onto Ronaldo, who headed it down to Jesse Lingard as JLingz opened up the opportunity for the Portuguese superstar to slot in the winner, and you just know what Cristiano Ronaldo would do to you if you gave him a sniff at the opportunity that was wandering around.
Ronaldo's goal just blew the roof off at Old Trafford as they saw one of their very own superstars turn their mourning into dancing.
CR7 was just a typical example of James Bond last night where he wasn't at his best last night and he wasn't so accurate in most of his work on the field, but when it mattered the most, Ronaldo didn't mess around. As quoted by James Bond, "I don't miss, I hit."
How do Ole and Manchester United take it forward from here?
With all fairness, it is safe to say that Cristiano Ronaldo kept the hopes and vibes alive for the faithful Man Utd supporters.
It is also safe to say that Cristiano Ronaldo just pushed away a dark looming negative cloud over Old Trafford last night. Apparently, you could also say that Ronaldo saved Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's job at the helm of the club.
Criag Burley had mentioned it many times in the past, that it was the Portuguese superstar that could still keep Ole at Man Utd as the head coach, even though Craig doesn't admire the level of Ole as a professional coach at a club as big as Manchester United.
Ronaldo has done it many times in the past and he has done it everywhere he has gone, be it England, Spain, or Italy. He's clearly dominated in nearly every stadium he has gone to. However, he still pulls out a rabbit from his veteran hat and gets the job done by lifting the fans off their seats.
However, there are much bigger and greater fears at Manchester United. When you watch them play, you get a huge sense that they are never in control of the game. They don't look to keep the ball and build their way into the opposition's half. It is mostly all about "breaking on the counter."
The likes of Pogba, Greenwood and Bruno don't often look to build out and set up a trap for their opponents. It looks like it's school/street football where the kids just go toe-to-toe and attack at every given opportunity.
Against Villarreal, they failed to get a grip of the game. They really struggled to be calm and work their way past a "well organised" Villareal set-up. Whereas, Unai Emery and his side were patient and picked out multiple weaknesses and cracks in the way Solskjaer set up his side.
As we mentioned earlier, Cristiano would take all the headlines, but we should not forget the man who made all this happen-David De Gea.
The Spanish goalkeeper's performance levels were through the roof on a night that required the team to be on their toes to pounce on any opportunity in all aspects of this game.
His individual performances and levels of concentration to pull out save after save from close range just speak a lot of volumes about the quality and calibre that Solskjaer has at his disposal in between the posts. De Gea "rightly deserved" the Man of the Match award for constantly keeping his team in the game time and time again!
At the same time, it is the responsibility of Solskjaer to build and work on a side that will continually perform week in and week out.
Solskjaer stresses the term "consistency." To be consistent, you need to develop a style, method, and pattern of play that will keep you in control of the game for large chunks of the season.
Of course, we're not saying that we know better than the Man Utd manager himself, but we only stress on the fact that, when you're in the job for over 4 years, you must find a way to please and comfort your fans with the way your side go out and get the results that matter week-in and week-out.
At the end of the day, you take Ronaldo out of this team and who knows where they will be in the Premier League and the Champions League?
It's going to get even tougher for Manchester United when they compete for the title in the Premier League. Teams have lost that "fear factor" when they visit Old Trafford and that is a worrying sign in itself.
Things have to change and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to reinvent his coaching method and style of play. Things will not get sweeter if this continues.
It's Now or Never for Solskjaer and Man Utd!
Player Ratings: Manchester United
David De Gea: 9.5/10 - The Spaniard rolled back the years on a night where he did no wrong.
Alex Telles: 7.5/10 - He was vulnerable in defence, but his goal just lifted the energy and vibe around the stadium.
Lindelof: 6.5/10 - Did well on his return to the starting XI. Kept it cool and calm at the back. However, he seemed lost when Villarreal scored their goal.
Varane: 6/10 - Man Utd fans were depending on him to lay a solid foundation at the back, but he too felt the pressure and gifted an opportunity to Alcacer as the Spaniard striker refused to unwrap his gift.
Dalot: 4.5/10 - Really struggled to keep Danjuma at bay for large chunks of the game as he couldn't make any significant contribution in attack as well. Yet another bad day at the office for the right-back.
McTominay: 6/10 - Tried hard to keep it together for Manchester United at the back as he did press forward and get the ball moving when things were not functioning in midfield.
Pogba: 6.5/10 - By his standards, Pogba was quite sloppy with the ball at his feet as he kept giving it away. However, he did try to find a creative pass every now and then.
Sancho: 6/10 - Once again, the winger couldn't make a significant impact on the pitch as the signs show that he will take time to get to his best.
Bruno Fernandes: 8/10 - The Portuguese midfielder kept trying hard to make things happen in midfield as he had an immense workload in the game, but his delightful assist has earned him his reward.
Greenwood: 5.5/10 - The youngster kept being found offside as he was comfortably shut down by Villarreal's defensive line, except for the free-kick that led to the goal.
Ronaldo: 8.5/10 - The Portuguese icon had an off day in terms of his performance levels on the field. A few missed passes as well.
However, his effort, dedication, and focus levels to be in the right place at the right time to smash the winner when the game was on the edge, which gave him the added reward and rating for last night.
Cavani: 6/10 - Showed real purpose and drive to put the opposition under pressure.
Matic: 6/10 - Came in and solidified Man Utd's midfield as he recovered the ball well and kept his side moving towards goal.
Fred: 8/10 - A little match-winning cameo from the Brazilian defensive midfielder. He is mostly criticised for his qualities on the ball, but his delivery onto Ronaldo was to good to be ignored.
Lingard: 9/10 - Didn't get a lot of time to make an impact in the game, but that crucial assist to Cristiano Ronaldo just made almost everyone's day at the red side of Manchester.