There has to be a touch of charisma in a legendary character. There has to be the Midas touch. There has to be magical supremacy in him. He has to elevate himself beyond others and prove again and again that he is the best in the world. There should be no doubt, Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player of this era – he has redefined this era like no one else. At Old Trafford, last night, he scripted yet another epic by netting the winner against a compact Villarreal unit. Of Course, Cristiano Ronaldo did it again!
Ladies and gentlemen: ??. ????????? ?????? ?
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 29, 2021
Ronaldo’s fifth goal of his second Manchester United coming came on his 178th and record-breaking Champions League appearance but it is a team, not individual honours Solskjær, Ronaldo et al must chase.
Ronaldo’s box-office intervention should not fool anyone, though, as United were again what they currently are: dazed in defence and dizzy in attack, lacking composure where it matters. This should be of deep concern to Solskjær. His side resembles a kick-and-chase schoolboy proposition which can be found out at any moment.
— Usain St. Leo Bolt (@usainbolt) September 29, 2021
For the unavailable Aaron Wan-Bissaka (suspended), Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw (each injured), Solskjær drafted in Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof and Alex Telles in a back four behind a midfield in which the – dreaded, for some fans – McFred partnership was broken up, the manager plumping for the McPob of Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba.
Villarreal tested Manchester United.
Arnaut Danjuma galloped into space along the left and took aim at a David de Gea, who parried. Further holes were punched when Danjuma sold Dalot a prize dummy, the Dutchman’s subsequent effort tipped away by the already busy De Gea.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 29, 2021
Manuel Trigueros was next to enjoy prime United space as neither McTominay nor Pogba tracked him and so Paco Alcácer was released, his effort being blocked.
This all meant United were resembling the rabble that went down to Villa – a collection of players rather than a team, with zero foundation and clue.
The Red Devils were just unable to take, and hold possession.
Raphaël Varane missed a simple tackle and Alcácer darted in, his instant effort going wide. Attack-at-will seemed to be United’s message to their visitors, so lax, were they!
Alcacer broke again and pushed the ball wide to Yeremi Pino, and moments later De Gea saved low.
? Cristiano Ronaldo has done it again for Man United ? pic.twitter.com/DrznUqPDc6
— Premier League (@premierleague) September 29, 2021
The closest United came to an opener before the break was when Alberto Moreno nearly turned a Pogba chip past Gerónimo Rulli for an own goal: a neat summation of how feeble they were.
After the break, Villarreal ripped them apart along the hapless Dalot’s flank, as Trigueros relayed to Danjuma whose ping over was hit home by Alcacer.
Old Trafford was stunned!
Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 12 Champions League goals in the 90th minute or later ?
Twice as many as any other player in #UCL history ?
Look how high he threw his shirt ? pic.twitter.com/9tW8KjKfuW
— Goal (@goal) September 29, 2021
But United soon equalized – and how. Fernandes floated a free-kick over from the right to Telles who, from outside the area, volleyed superbly and cleanly beyond Rulli into the corner. Next, Jadon Sancho – twice – might have given them a lead but he stumbled.
Old Trafford thought their moment had come with 10 minutes left to play when substitute Edinson Cavani had a header at the back post following a Greenwood cross, but the ball flashed wide, seeming to take the veteran Uruguayan by surprise.
— Journal (@Journal37082361) September 30, 2021
Jesse Lingard was next to test Rulli with a chance in injury time as his shot flashed across the near post and forced the Argentine into a quick reflex stop.
It looked as though Manchester United were going to face the difficult prospect of back-to-back games with Atalanta after taking just one point from their opening two games, but there was to be one last moment of drama.
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 29, 2021
Cristiano Ronaldo did very little throughout the game, even appearing to tire in the latter stages, but an aerial pass into the box fell to Lingard, who lost his footing, but the ball fortuitously to Ronaldo who fired the ball into the back of the net.
Relief reigned at Old Trafford at the full-time whistle, and victory takes United onto three points ahead of two matches against Atalanta, with their hopes of qualification now being much stronger courtesy of Ronaldo.