- Arthiac Team
Manchester United took the trip to Spain as they faced Unai Emery's Villarreal side at the Estadio de la Cerámica in what was the first game post the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era.
It was a pale and stale opening 45 minutes from the Red Devils as the hosts dominated proceedings. Man Utd were far from their best as they spent the first half chasing the ball and when they had possession of the ball, they gave it away cheaply.
Well, once again, they needed the quality and brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo to break the deadlock as he smartly looped the ball over the keeper into the net to net his 140th Champions League goal. He's in a league of his own.
Jadon Sancho came into the goal scoring party along with Ronaldo as he netted his first ever goal in Man Utd colours in the Champions League. "Oh, what a Feeling!"
This win has guaranteed a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League for Manchester United as they are currently on top of Group F with 10 points on board after 5 games.
Are there a few positives to look at?
Manchester United were poor on the day when they needed to make a statement. Yes, the statement is out there to be seen for everyone as they recorded a 2-0 win away from home against Villarreal, but in reality, are the big boys really going to worry about what Man Utd could deliver in the upcoming games with Michael Carrick in the dugout?
Our answer is "No." We don't think that Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Thomas Tuchel are going to be flattered by this 2-0 result. They have bigger issues to deal with other than what Manchester United are delivering at this point in time. That in itself is an embarrassment for the club that holds a stature like Man Utd do.
Against Villarreal, it wasn't a performance where the Red Devils had control of the game. They were dominated in the first half and then they set their authority in the second.
In the knockout stages of the competition, these displays on the field will not take a team far. With Man Utd already knocked out of the EFL cup and as the Premier League title drifts far away, the attention turns towards the FA Cup and the Champions League for the Glazer's to consider as the club needs to win a trophy anytime soon.
It was yet another performance where they "got over the line" which is not in the DNA of the club as they are used to stamp their authority week in and week out, but with the way things stand at the moment, you'd take that if you were a Man Utd fan.
The hosts are a good side as they've recently defeated Ole's Red Devils a few months ago in a penalty shoot-out to win their first ever European trophy - UEFA Europa League. However, they seem to be struggling this season as they sit in 12th place in La Liga with just 16 points on board. They are 10 points adrift of Atletico Madrid who sit in 4th place while Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano occupy the remaining two European spots for next season.
Villarreal will have to put in the hard yards to climb up the La Liga table, but their league position in Spain just goes to show how poor Unai Emery's boys have been this season and one could say that Carrick and his boys got away with this game once again as it has been the pattern for Man Utd for a while now. It was a Villarreal side that didn't have their talisman striker in Gerard Moreno as he's out through injury.
Even though the Yellow Submarines struggle in La Liga, they've been a side that is hard to beat this season as they have drawn 7 times so far in 13 La Liga games. In fact, they came into this Champions League fixture with a 1-1 draw with Celta Vigo. That just shows that Unai Emery banks on his talisman, Gerard Moreno a lot and with his main man absent, Emery looks to build a solid base with the tools that he's got at the moment. That is probably why United struggled to keep possession of the ball and make the most out of it by penetrating in between the lines.
Micheal Carrick decided to pull out a few cards as he brought on Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford into the fold as things changed in the middle of the park for United. That was when the Red Devils were able to make things happen from an attacking point of view.
They looked much better and they were offered a gift which Cristiano unwrapped without any hesitation. That's how it's been for Manchester United for a few years now. They play poorly, it's an academy level performance, school boy style of play and then a gift comes along and the Red Devils take full advantage of it.
It was good to see Donny Van de Beek get rewarded for his goal last week as he started a big Champions League fixture away from home. Jadon Sancho was rewarded too for making a couple of bright starts in the recent past.
They injected some energy in midfield which was lacking in the past when Bruno was there along with Fred and McTominay. The presence of Donny and Sancho in midfield contributed well defensively to save the blushes of Maguire and Lindelof.
If you watched the game from the start, the Yellow Submarines were supposed to take a two goal lead at halftime, but David de Gea was once again upto the task as he continues his sublime form in between the sticks.
Let's be honest, it was utterly poor. Heading into this fixture, Manchester United needed only a point to secure their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League and that was probably why they came into this fixture in a poor "state of mind" looking to churn out a performance worthy of a draw and a point.
No wonder how the Man Utd fans endured watching the first half of the game.
It was not professional enough from Manchester United to perform to such levels especially with the Premier League fixture against Chelsea coming soon. Historically, the game against Chelsea is big and the way you perform as a team prior to that, makes the fixture a spectacle for fans to watch.
However, Man Utd are clearly not on the same wavelength as their rivals. They are far behind in the race.
Their rivals are out there playing a pressing game on their opponents which has made them very successful in the recent past, whereas the personnel that Man Utd have doesn't really allow them to play that way.
It's up to the manager to find a style of play that will suit the players they've got under their belt as a club like United need to deliver winning results from time to time.
With the players that Manchester United have, none of them seem to try and put in that added work rate is required on the field while the game goes on. They were all passive in their approach in the game against Watford last weekend and they were passive once again midweek against the Yellow Submarines except Cristiano Ronaldo.
With this Man Utd team, you'll get the goals that are needed, but you won't get the work rate that is required out of them. They're all saving their energy for some odd reason.
Maybe the fitness levels of this side are not up to the highest standards and that is why you and I see a Manchester United side that are performing very badly in the last two months. If a lot of eyes and fingers and pointed towards the manager and the players for their performances, then a few of those eyes and fingers should turn and point towards the fitness and care-taking personnel that the Red Devils have at their disposal.
Here's the thing:
With Manchester United and their fans, they insist on results rather than performances. Yes, results matter, but the irony is that with performances comes results.
You could say that with good performances, there are bad results that come your way, which is true, but in the soccer industry, consistency is key. Consistency is the key to success.
Just as the water wave consistently hits the rocks, they find a way to crack the rock open. That's exactly what Manchester United need to look for at this point in time. Whether they stick with Carrick or hire a new average or top class manager, the key is "consistency."