Villarreal vs Man Utd: Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho score as United reach Champions League last 16
Late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho saw Manchester United win 2-0 at Villarreal in Michael Carrick's first game in temporary charge, a result which sees the visitors progress to the last 16 of the Champions League.
Carrick made four changes from Saturday's 4-1 mauling at Watford in what turned out to be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's last match as United manager - leaving Bruno Fernandes on the bench - only for the visitors to struggle in the first half. However, with the Group F contest seemingly petering out into a draw at El Madrigal, up popped Ronaldo to make the breakthrough with a brilliant piece of anticipation to nip in and score his sixth Champions League goal this season and his 10th overall. Sancho's emphatic finish sealed the victory in the 90th minute after a well-worked team goal to hand United all three points and, as a result, they have qualified for the knockout phases with a game to spare, while Villarreal will have to fight it out with Atalanta for the runners-up spot.
How Carrick guided United into the Champions League last 16
There were more than a few raised eyebrows when Carrick's first team sheet as United manager was announced and the name of Fernandes, who has created more chances than any other player in both the Champions League and Premier League this campaign, was absent from the starting line-up for this repeat of last season's Europa League final. Unai Emery's team upset United on penalties on that occasion last May and, in front of a full-capacity crowd for the first time this season at El Madrigal, they dominated the first half against opponents clearly low on confidence. David de Gea had to be on his game early on to keep out Moi Gomez's low drive from the edge of the area, before repeating the trick to deny Manu Trigueros midway through the first half as the two teams went in level at the break. United's Spain goalkeeper was at it again just before the hour-mark when somehow turning Trigueros' well-struck shot behind for a corner as the hosts looked to increase the pressure on the visitors, only for a double change by Carrick to change the flow of the game. The interim boss brought on Fernandes and the pacy Marcus Rashford in place of the disappointing Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek midway through the second period, with United taking charge of the contest thereafter. Ronaldo, Fernandes and Sancho immediately linked up to set up the latter for a great opening, but, faced with just Geronimo Rulli to beat, the England forward's shot was saved by the advancing Villarreal No 1. However, that miss was soon forgotten as United took the lead with just 12 minutes to go after good work by Fred, whose pressure on Etienne Capoue led to the ball falling to Ronaldo on the edge of the box and, with Rulli badly out of position, the Portuguese found the net with a nonchalant lob for his 140h goal in the competition and 799th in total for club and country. There was a flurry of late chances, mostly to United, before they sealed the win after a lovely counter-attack involving that man Fred, who won back possession deep in his half. Ronaldo, Rashford and Fernandes then took play on and Sancho found the net with an unerring finish in off the underside of the bar for his first goal for the club since joining them for £73m last summer.
Villarreal host Barcelona in La Liga on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Carrick's second game in temporary charge of United is against Premier League leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
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