Cristiano Ronaldo is inevitable and 5 things we learned as Manchester United snatch late winner against Villareal


Cristiano Ronaldo is inevitable and 5 things we learned as Manchester United snatch late winner against Villareal

Europa League final repeat

In a repeat of the Europa League final, Manchester United took on Villareal, this time at Old Trafford in the Champions League. Perhaps set on revenge for the defeat inflicted on them by Unai Emery’s side, it was nonetheless Villareal that seemed the stronger side to begin with.

Indeed, only a brilliant first-half performance from Spanish shot-stopper David De Gea kept the score at 0-0 heading into the break, with United creating little themselves.

After Alex Telles cancelled out a Paco Alcacer opener, the game was drifting towards a stalemate. However, Ronaldo reacted first to a loose ball and fired home with virtually the last kick of the game to send Old Trafford into pandemonium and remind people exactly why he returned.

1. Ronaldo sets yet another record

Cristiano Ronaldo has broken just about every record in world football, and is currently the top international goalscorer in mens football courtesy of a double against the Republic of Ireland in the last international break.

Against Villareal, he set yet another. Unsurprisingly named in the starting lineup by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the decision meant that he made his 178th appearance in the competition.

In doing so, he overtook Iker Casillas as the man with the most appearances in the competition’s history.

Ronaldo will see this added to his record as top goalscorer in the competition, with 135 goals heading into the tie. And of course, in true Ronaldo fashion, he had the final, and decisive, say on the affair, rescuing Manchester United when all hope seemed lost.

2. It is clear why Manchester United wanted Kieran Trippier

In an ideal world, it seems clear that Manchester United would have sent Diogo Dalot back out on loan this season, bringing in a backup right back in his stead. Kieran Trippier was the name most strongly linked.

However, this didn’t pan out, and in turn Dalot a Manchester United player as cover for Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the event he was absent.

And just that transpired against Villareal, with Wan-Bissaka suspended for two games following a red card against Young Boys. However, Dalot did not prove the solid alternative that United hoped for, at least to begin with.

Arnaut Danjuma, the right-winger for the Spanish outfit, offered a stern test of his credentials, repeatedly finding space behind the Portuguese defender.

Dalot was in no way helped by his manager, who seemingly asked him to play the role of a central midfielder out of possession, meaning that he could not recover to his natural position in time to prevent the counterattack

It was Dalot too, who could not get his foot to the ball through to Danjuma for the opening goal, summing up his performance. While the youngster will bare the brunt of the criticism, he seemed hung out to dry by the manager.

3. The Fred conundrum lives on

The first half provided proof, if ever anyone needed even more, that the Red Devils seriously missed a trick not signing a central midfielder in the summer.

Fred dropped out of the side in favour of a more attacking line up that saw all of Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood and Cristiano Ronaldo handed starts.

By half-time, however, it was clear that Manchester United needed another body in central midfield, even if it widely accepted that Fred is not the right man for the job. While this may be the case, at the moment he is the only man available given Van de Beek’s time in the wilderness.

4. United still have that star quality

Despite all the potential tactical flaws in Manchester United’s side, it is hard to get away from the quality that studs their side. This was most obvious in their equaliser, when Alex Telles fired in a wonderful strike from 25 yards out following a beautifully floated free-kick from Bruno Fernandes.

Late on too, it was the quality available on the bench that proved telling, with Edinson Cavani and Jesse Lingard both playing their role in Ronaldo’s winner. Villareal will not be alone in failing to match the quality of substitutes United have, and other teams will suffer too.

However, it does feel as if the Red Devils are to win any silverware this season, it will come as a result of the brilliant individuals in their side, as opposed to a tactical plan executed to perfection.

5. Donny Van De Beek does not have a Manchester United future

As mentioned above, Manchester United were in desperate need of midfield reinforcements throughout the first half. In the second 45, these duly arrived. On came Nemanja Matic and, late on in the piece, Fred was also thrown into the fray.

However, one notable man remained on the substitutes bench, in the form of Donny Van de Beek. Seemingly a perfect game to have the dutchman for, he was once again shown that he is firmly out in the cold.

Now 24 years old, he is in desperate need of first team football, and cannot simply make up the numbers in Solskjaer’s match day squads while a 33-year-old Nemanja Matic is preferred off the bench to him. The win will feel sweet to all involved, but will leave a sour taste in Van de Beek’s mouth.

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# Team MP D P
1 Liverpool FC 6 11 14
2 Manchester City 6 11 13
3 Chelsea FC 6 10 13
4 Manchester United 6 8 13
5 Everton FC 6 5 13
6 Brighton & Hove Albion 6 3 13
7 West Ham United 6 5 11
8 Aston Villa 6 2 10
9 Brentford FC 6 3 9
10 Arsenal FC 6 -5 9
11 Tottenham Hotspur 6 -5 9
12 Watford FC 6 -2 7
13 Leicester City 6 -3 7
14 Wolverhampton Wanderers 6 -2 6
15 Crystal Palace 6 -3 6
16 Southampton FC 6 -3 4
17 Newcastle United 6 -7 3
18 Leeds United 6 -8 3
19 Burnley FC 6 -6 2
20 Norwich City 6 -14 0
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Antonio, Michail West Ham United 5
Salah, Mohamed Liverpool FC 5
Vardy, Jamie Leicester City 5
Maupay, Neal Brighton & Hove Albion 4
Fernandes, Bruno Manchester United 4
Sarr, Ismaila Watford FC 4
Benrahma, Said West Ham United 3
Gray, Demarai Everton FC 3
Ronaldo, Cristiano Manchester United 3
Lukaku, Romelu Chelsea FC 3
Son, Heung Min Tottenham Hotspur 3
Mane, Sadio Liverpool FC 3
Calvert-Lewin, Dominic Everton FC 3
Jota, Diogo Liverpool FC 3
Raphinha Leeds United 3
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