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A fascinating matchday for Manchester United, away to Villarreal, under interim manager Michael Carrick who rang the changes. Donny Van de Beek and Anthony Martial both started with Bruno Fernandes on the bench.

There was a slight delay before kickoff due to the referee’s communications equipment causing issues. Having started a few minutes later, it was United who had the first chance. Alex Telles’ free-kick reaching Scott McTominay whose header hit the side netting. The first shot on target, however, came from Moi Gomez whose low shot was pushed away by David De Gea.


Yeremy Pino’s shot hit the side netting from a tight angle after some quick buildup as the Red Devils struggled to impose themselves early on. Villarreal were seeing a lot of the goal, controlling possession but without attacking much. United were happy sitting back and biding their time but it almost cost them a goal. Pino’s cutback found Manu Trigueros whose strike was well saved by De Gea. On the other side, Cristiano Ronaldo has his team’s first shot on target but his header was straight at Geronimo Rulli.


The game slowed down further as halftime approached, with both teams wary of conceding first. Indeed, there were no goals in the first 45 and all eyes now turned to the second half.

Fred had the first chance after the break, hitting a strike with his right foot without much power at Rulli. Nevertheless, it was again Villarreal dominating the ball without much end product. That changed as Trigueros hit a powerful shot from six yards out, that bounced off the turf before meeting the strong hand of De Gea who produced an outstanding save.


Some intricate linkup play by the Red Devils found Sancho steaming into the penalty box. However, his shot was kept out by the knee of Rulli in the clearest chance so far. And it was Rulli who played a big part for the opening goal. His pass to Etienne Capoue was closed down quickly by Fred, who nicked the ball forward to Ronaldo. The Portuguese attacker just casually lifted the ball over the stranded goalkeeper and into the net.


It was all United now as first, Ronaldo poked wide from close range before Marcus Rashford drew a sharp save from Rulli. The pressure told with the second arriving after a blistering counter-attack found Sancho who lashed his shot off the crossbar and into the net. That was that as United progressed to the round-of-16 though the Yellow Submarine could yet join them.


Here are the three key takeaways from the match:


It was not the best of matches aesthetically but United would have taken the three point from this encounter. Carrick made a few surprising calls, but the new faces failed to make much impact. It took the arrival of Bruno Fernandes and Rashford to get them going offensively. Sancho saw a good shot saved before Villarreal self-destructed to gift the opening goal.


Nevertheless, the chance had to be put away and it was by Ronaldo. The second was even more gratifying as Sancho finally opened his account. The overall game left a lot to be desired still but Carrick will be happy to go into the weekend on the back of a win.



Villarreal had the better chances before the first goal arrive by a long margin. Trigueros in particular had two great attempts at goal but no breakthrough. They were seeing a lot more of the ball over the first 75+ minutes but it was mostly passing amongst themselves and taking it slow.


That has proved to be Unai Emery’s undoing this season, as Villarreal have also drawn seven league games given their cautious approach. However, they remain in pole position to join United into the knockout rounds even with this defeat.



Despite a comfortable win at the end, the tone of the match was a lot different when it was 0-0. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was being caught out more often than not trying to play out. Harry Maguire looked really uncomfortable on the ball while Alex Telles proved why he is the secondary, allowing easy runenrs in behind. De Gea had to be at his magnificent best to keep the score level but Carrick knows there is a lot of work to be done.

Ratul Ghosh
His name means Red and a fan of devilish food, which equals to his favourite team being Manchester United. Can be found sleeping or in front of the TV otherwise. Hates waking up early but loves staying up late for football.

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