Report: United 2 Villarreal 1
Cristiano Ronaldo took the roof off Old Trafford as he celebrated a Champions League appearance record with a dramatic late winner for Manchester United against Villarreal.
Ronaldo sensationally won the Reds' first points in Group F in the dying seconds to beat the Spaniards 2-1 in a thrilling finale.
Villarreal had rocked United when they took the lead with a poached strike after 53 minutes from Paco Alcacer. Alex Telles, with a brilliant hit, scored his first goal of his United career to equalise after 60 minutes.
It was a screaming effort from the Brazilian but headline-making Ronaldo’s winner saw the stadium erupt in joy as Villarreal’s hearts were broken and revenge for our Europa League defeat against the Spaniards in May was exacted in typically stirring style.
It was the first Champions League game at Old Trafford with a crowd since April 2019.
FIRST HALF - UNITED UNDER THE COSH AS VILLARREAL THREATEN
It was very much the David De Gea show as United found ourselves under pressure from a visiting side more famed for their stubborn defensive resilience.
Our no.1 may have more reason than most to avenge the memories of Gdansk after his penalty was saved in the Europa League final and he excelled here. His first call into action in the sixth minute was a relatively easy one as he stood up to a one-versus-one with Arnaut Danjuma and the former Bournemouth forward fired right at him.
But, four minutes later, the Netherlands international drew the best from De Gea as he curled a right footer that our goalkeeper leapt to steer wide. De Gea was in the thick of it again when saving brilliantly from Paco Alcacer.
United’s only serious answer, despite a bright opening, was limited to a Ronaldo header. Villarreal kept up their adventurous approach but United were let off the hook when ex-Liverpool player Alberto Moreno hoofed high into the Stretford End and Yeremi Pino and Alcacer also missed good chances.
It was a difficult opening half-hour for our new look defence without Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka and also a frustrating one for the Reds' attack too who couldn’t test Villarreal keeper Geronimo Rulli.
United almost struck a fortuitous blow two minutes before half-time when a searching Paul Pogba crossfield pass, intended for Mason Greenwood at the far post, was intercepted by a stretching Moreno and he only just turned it for a corner and saved himself the embarrassment of an own goal.
The half ended as it started with De Gea once more the hero, as he stuck out a right hand to stop an attempt from Pino.
SECOND HALF - TELLES WONDER HIT AND RONNY SMASHES WINNER
Villarreal’s first-half danger sadly turned into a goal in the 53rd minute as the Spaniards got behind Dalot and a cross from Danjuma was prodded home at the near post by Alcacer, for a simply worked opener.
Fernandes reacted with a bullet strike from distance as the Reds looked for an immediate answer and the Reds were stung into action. And what a response it was from Alex Telles.
Before coach Unai Emery could organise his side to sit on the lead, United were level. A Fernandes free-kick from the right was lofted out to the Brazilian, who was hovering close to the edge of the area. Our full-back unleashed a thunderous left-foot volley that arrowed into the bottom corner with Villarreal’s keeper Rulli only reacting when the shot had flashed past him.
There was a flurry of substitutions by both managers as Villarreal looked to hold onto their point and the Reds going for a turnaround, particularly with Edinson Cavani coming on for Pogba. Cavani almost scored in front of the Stretford End four minutes after his introduction. The Uruguyan connected with an excellent Greenwood cross but couldn't keep his close-range effort on target.
But Villarreal kept counter attacking and, once again, it was De Gea who was the hero as he saved firstly from Moi Gomez and then smothered a follow up from Boulaye Dia before the Reds scrambled the ball away, with Telles making a crucial block.
Over to Ronaldo then, on his record 178th appearance in the Champions League, to win the match five minutes into added on time.
A cross from sub Fred was nodded by our no.7 and he reacted quickly as the loose ball from his knockdown was poked to him by Jesse Lingard as he somehow squeezed a powerful shot into the net and the stadium went mad.
United: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Varane, Telles (Fred 89); McTominay, Pogba (Cavani 75); Greenwood (Lingard 89), Fernandes (c), Sancho (Matic 75); Ronaldo.
Subs not used: Heaton, Henderson, Bailly, Mata, van de Beek, Martial, Elanga.
Goals: Telles 60, Ronaldo 90+5.
Bookings: Greenwood, Telles, Ronaldo.
Villarreal: Rulli, Albiol (c) (Mandi 73), Torres, Parejo, Capoue, Foyth, Alcacer (Dia 58), Trigueros (Estupinan 61), Danjuma, Moreno (Pena 73), Pino (Gomez 71)
Subs not used: Asenjo, Jorgensen, Gaspar, Iborra, Pedraza, Iosifov.
Goals: Alcacer 53.
Bookings: Moreno, Pino, Albiol, Pena.