Villarreal 0 United 2
Manchester United secured a precious 2-0 win at Villarreal, thanks to second-half goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho.
Ronaldo kept up his record of scoring in every Champions League game this term with a clever lob before Sancho added his first goal for the club by smashing home in the 90th minute, following a well-worked move.
Michael Carrick will have enjoyed the result, as he took caretaker charge of the side, and these were the first goals we've scored away to the Yellow Submarine after two goalless draws in the past.
The win means United have qualified for the knockout stages of the competition with a game to spare, at home to Young Boys later this month, and sit top of Group F on 10 points.
FIRST HALF - NO GOALS
It was a tense opening period with Ronaldo and Anthony Martial feeding off scraps in attack and David De Gea needing to earn his corn in goal. The keeper, back in his homeland, made a couple of smart stops as the hosts looked to make the breakthrough.
Scott McTominay managed the first attempt on goal, heading into the side-netting following an Alex Telles free-kick, before the Yellow Submarine started making in-roads on the De Gea's net. Our no.1 kept out Moi Gomez and was then relieved to see Yeremi Pino and Pau Torres fail to hit the target from promising positions.
A long kick forward by Geronimo Rulli led to a clear opening for Manu Trigueros, who connected cleanly and forced a superb save out of De Gea to keep the scores level. Ronaldo made a prodigious leap to meet a Telles cross, after the Brazilian received the ball back when his corner was easily cleared, but Rulli made a simple stop.
After Fred needed treatment when appearing to twist his ankle, Villarreal carved out more opportunities with Dani Parejo's free-kick flying over the top and Gomez's shot deflecting wide off Victor Lindelof, after he neatly dummied McTominay on the edge of the box.
SECOND HALF - CLASSY REDS
A loose ball ran to Fred outside the box but his tame right-foot shot was safely handled by Rulli as chances were at a premium at the start of the second half. However, United were indebted to De Gea again just before the hour mark as it seemed certain the home side would take the lead. Gomez's effort spun off Aaron Wan-Bissaka and fell to Trigueros inside the box, who had time to measure his shot. Thankfully, De Gea was equal to it, diving to pull off a spectacular one-handed save.
Carrick opted to introduce Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford in place of Donny van de Beek and Martial in the 66th minute.
An incisive move lit up proceedings in the 71st minute when Sancho played a great one-two with Fernandes, but was thwarted when Rulli rushed off his line to block with his leg as the England international eyed his first Reds goal.
With 12 minutes left, Rulli played the ball out and Fred pounced to press Etienne Capoue, with Ronaldo showing excellent awareness to delicately lob over the stranded keeper and into the empty net.
Capoue tried to atone but could not direct a flying header from Alberto Moreno's cross on target as Villarreal desperately chased an equaliser. Ronaldo was almost on the scoresheet again after showing clever anticipation to meet a Juan Foyth header before Rulli, only to nudge his finish the wrong side of the far post. Substitutes Rashford and Fernandes also had decent attempts on goal, before the icing on the cake, as the Reds finished strongly on a satisfying evening in Spain.
Fred won the ball again in midfield and a slick move culminated in Rashford squaring to Fernandes, who helped it on to Sancho. The away fans held their breath and were able to witness the winger's maiden strike for the club as his thumping drive bounced in off the underside of the bar for the second.
Villarreal: Rulli; Foyth, Albiol (c), Torres, Estupinan (Raba 79); Capoue, Parejo; Trigueros (A. Moreno 73), Moi Gomez (Dia 84), Danjuma; Pino (Chukwueze 73).
Subs not used: Asenjo, Alvarez, Gaspar, Alcacer, Iborra, Pena, Mandi, Pedraza.
United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire (c), Telles; Fred, McTominay; Sancho (Mata 93), van de Beek (Fernandes 66), Martial (Rashford 66); Ronaldo (Matic 91).
Subs not used: Heaton, Henderson, Bailly, Dalot, Lingard, Amad.
Goals: Ronaldo 78, Sancho 90.
Booked: Van de Beek.