David de Gea, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo were the shining lights as Manchester United beat Villarreal 2-0 on Tuesday.
Manchester United seemed to have started the game strongly, as Alex Telles whipped in an early free-kick into the Villarreal box only to be headed wide by Scott McTominay. That was as good as it got for the visitors for a fair while, as the Yellow Submarine were the more dominant of the two sides for the next hour.
That is when David de Gea came up clutch, making three top-class saves to keep Manchester United in the game. And when the opportunity presented itself, Cristiano Ronaldo lobbed his shot over Geronimo Rulli after Fred harried Etienne Capoue off the ball, putting the Red Devils in front.
At the end of regulation time, Jadon Sancho put the game to bed at the end of an express counter-attacking move with an emphatic finish. The result means Manchester United are certain to end the opening round of the UEFA Champions League as Group F winners. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Michael Carrick’s men.
David de Gea: 8/10
After a couple of poor performances, de Gea rediscovered his best levels here. The Manchester United no. 1 made three big saves to deny Villarreal and keep a clean sheet he has been desperate to add to his kitty for weeks. He will now hope to improve his output on the ball.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka: 5/10
Things continue to go from bad to worse for Wan-Bissaka, who was once again lost on the pitch. The 23-year-old was solid defensively, but his attacking output needs drastic improvements for him to show that he deserves to be a long-term option for Manchester United.
Victor Lindelof: 7/10
The best of the Manchester United defenders, Lindelof was colossal at the back in some moments and professionally solid for the remainder of his outing. The Swede made a whopping eight clearances and a couple of crucial blocks while also winning each of his five duels, helping de Gea keep a much-needed clean sheet.
Victor Lindelöf’s game by numbers vs. Villarreal:
100% ground duels won
100% aerial duels won
100% tackles won
92% pass accuracy
65 total touches
Played a key part in securing the clean sheet. 🔑 pic.twitter.com/libDmEl57h
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) November 23, 2021
Harry Maguire: 6/10
A much-improved performance from Maguire, who did not make any telling errors, which is a good start after a horrific couple of months at the club level. The Manchester United captain now needs to start organising the backline better.
Alex Telles: 6/10
With Luke Shaw ruled out, Telles got a chance to impress. However, the Brazilian did not take his opportunity with both hands, struggling against the pace of Yeremi Pino. Telles did make an impact going forward, though, with his deliveries carrying a lot of threat. He deserved to end the game with at least one assist.
Back in the starting lineup, Fred produced a solid showing in the middle of the park. The Brazilian pressed well high up the pitch, and in one such moment, he forced Etienne Capoue into a mistake before Cristiano Ronaldo scored the opening goal for Manchester United. He also opened up play with some smart long passes. The Red Devils need more of this from him.
Scott McTominay: 6/10
A blow-hot-blow-cold performance by McTominay. While the Scottish international barely ever lost the ball cheaply, he was not as solid as he needed to be in the middle of the park, especially in the moments when Villarreal were in the ascendancy. He has to do better.
Jadon Sancho: 8/10
First United goal ✅
Player of the Match ✅
Knockouts secured ✅
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 23, 2021
It took a long time coming, but Jadon Sancho finally has his first goal for Manchester United. The English international was a bundle of energy on the right flank and even worked his socks off when behind the ball, winning four tackles. Sancho should have put Manchester United ahead when set up by Bruno Fernandes midway through the second half, but he made no error with the late chance.
Donny van de Beek: 6/10
Tuesday’s performance was a missed opportunity for van de Beek. In what was the Dutchman’s chance to show why he should be handed more starts, he could not get involved as much as he would have liked. That being said, he was not too wasteful when on the ball. He could do with some more starts to get into the right rhythm.
Anthony Martial: 5/10
Handed a rare start, this was Martial’s chance to make an impression. However, the Frenchman was utterly wasteful whenever he saw the ball fall to his feet. While he cannot be faulted for lack of effort, the end product was not there to be seen. In addition, he did not put in the hard yards off the ball, which enabled Villarreal to make their way into the opposition half with ease.
Cristiano Ronaldo: 7/10
A game of hits and misses for Ronaldo, who often took up the spaces where Martial was supposed to be. As a result, the Villarreal centre-backs were hardly put under pressure for much of the game until a moment of brilliance from him saw the Portuguese star lob the ball over Rulli. So, in the end, it was yet another game wherein Ronaldo made a telling impact.
🇵🇹 Bruno Fernandes has assisted in all of his #UCL appearances this season
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) November 23, 2021
Bruno Fernandes: 7/10
A surprise name on the bench, Bruno Fernandes was finally brought on in the 66th minute, and he helped change the game’s complexion superbly. Moments after his introduction, the Portuguese playmaker set Jadon Sancho with the first big chance of the game for Manchester United. And he ended up grabbing an assist, with Sancho converting the second chance late on.
Marcus Rashford: 7/10
A bundle of energy upon his introduction, Rashford helped change the pace of the game, which ultimately paved the way for improved output from Manchester United in the final quarter of the game.
Nemanja Matic: N/A
A late introduction, Matic helped see the game out.
Juan Mata: N/A
On for a late appearance, Mata did not have much time to make an impact.