Cristiano Ronaldo.

United need to break down the Yellow wall

Wednesday 26 May 2021 13:42

Villarreal have managed to do something no other club has achieved throughout Manchester United's illustrious history.

The Yellow Submarine have prevented the Reds from scoring in their first four meetings with United, which is unprecedented - even going way back to our Newton Heath days.

Now, of course, there is the flipside that the Spanish side also failed to score against us in the four successive 0-0 draws (two apiece in 2005 and 2008) but this remarkable record does suggest they can be considered a bogey side.

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After all, those Sir Alex teams contained some pretty explosive firepower. In the 2005 stalemate at Old Trafford, we ended the Champions League tie with Louis Saha, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy all on the pitch but could not find a way through.

Three years later, as reigning European champions, we were frustrated again at the Theatre of Dreams despite Ronaldo coming back from injury and appearing as a substitute. Rooney and Carlos Tevez were in attack and Sir Alex said afterwards: "I have no complaints. On another day, we could have scored four or five. They are a very experienced side, a very competitive team. They defend determinedly."

It was a similar story in the away games, even if both teams qualified after the game in November 2008, when Ronaldo came closest to scoring when hitting the woodwork.

As we can expect Villarreal to show the defensive nous that helped them past Arsenal in the semi-finals, proving Unai Emery's tactical discipline, are these four games enough to constitute a jinx for the usually free-scoring Reds? Hopefully not. But the record books do show the team from La Liga have achieved that unprecedented feat in keeping clean sheets in their first four games with United.

We failed to score in our first two games with Darwen before Bob Donaldson scored in a 1-1 draw. After losing 2-0 and 1-0 to Charlton Athletic, Joe Spence popped up with the winner in the third meeting in 1932.

There were bad starts to life against certain times but we always managed to find the net at some point.

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For instance, we lost our opening six matches with Everton between 1892 and 1906, but one of these was 4-3 when Alex Latta bagged all four for the Toffees. Sunderland emerged victorious in each of the first four encounters, winning 5-0 and 6-0 before at least William Campbell registered a goal in a 4-1 reverse in 1893. Both Nottingham clubs, Forest and Notts County, handed our four successive defeats when facing United, as did Sunderland.

Preston North End actually won nine of the first 10 clashes with us after opening with a 6-1 victory in the 1890 FA Cup!

More recently, Wimbledon took the points in their first three games against the Reds in the old Division One, Clayton Blackmore at least netting in the third of these, a 2-1 loss.

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There are other clubs United have never beaten - Atletico Madrid, Estudiantes, Monaco, Rotor Volgograd and Widzew Lodz among them.

Furthermore, an elite group can claim to have met the Reds and never conceded a goal - Bootle Reserves, Lazio, MK Dons, Southend United and Torpedo Moscow, the latter of which managed to stretch this feat into two games. The others have only played us a single time.

Maybe the biggest comparison to Villarreal could be their fellow countrymen of Valencia. We drew three of the first five games with them 0-0 and, as already suggested, the Yellow Submarine perhaps cannot exactly be considered our most menacing foes if they have not breached our defence in four outings either.

It could be similarly tight in Gdansk this evening - can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men do what Sir Alex's couldn't and break through the Yellow wall? That's the challenge facing Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford and co tonight.