For Manchester United’s Champions League clash against Villarreal, Michael Carrick replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the dugout, but the story on the field remained the same.
Cristiano Ronaldo produced the decisive contribution for United once again, scoring a crucial goal to help earn a 2-0 victory in Spain.
With several great saves, David de Gea kept Carrick’s team in the game before Ronaldo added to his dramatic goals against Atalanta and Villarreal with another shot.
In the 78th minute, Villarreal were the authors of their own demise, attempting to play out from the back and allowing Fred to take the ball and Ronaldo to lob the stranded Geronimo Rulli.
There was still time for Jadon Sancho to shine, as the £73 million strikers smashed a second goal off the underside of the bar on the break in the 90th minute to ensure United’s place in the Champions League last-16.
Carrick hailed the game as a “new beginning,” and he will be pleased with the final product.
Carrick got two things wrong and two things right, according to the Daily Star Sport.
Carrick got it right on this one.
Every Manchester United starting lineup will be contested in the hour leading up to kick-off, but this match was always going to be special.
Carrick is a self-proclaimed Solskjaer follower. However, now that the manager was gone, he had the opportunity to emerge from the shadows and make his imprint.
Four changes were made from the team that lost to Watford, the most notable of which being Bruno Fernandes’ replacement by Donny van de Beek.
Fernandes was due after his dreadful attempted clearance led to a penalty for Watford at the weekend. Van van Beek deserved to start after scoring the final goal of Solskjaer’s tenure.
In his pre-match interview, Carrick sugar-coated the decision, characterizing Fernandes as a “great player and a nice person” who “ran his socks off on Saturday,” but make no mistake: this was a drop.
Van van Beek didn’t have much of an influence right away, and he was replaced by Fernandes after 66 minutes, but he did prove that rotation is possible in the post-Solskjaer period.
Sancho arrived in this game as a £73 million signing who had yet to score or assist in 14 appearances for his new club.
For a youngster lacking in confidence, a change in management can be beneficial, and Carrick’s initial support will mean a lot to Sancho.
Despite switching places with Anthony Martial, Sancho was mostly used on the right wing, which is where he was bought.
United played a cautious style, which was understandable, but Sancho showed flashes of his ability by darting down the wing and delivering crosses.
In the 71st minute, he appeared to have his big chance as he cut inside and found space thanks to Fernandes’ pass, only for his shot to be stopped by the Villarreal goalie.
Fortunately for him, that was not his only option. With the game on the verge of ending, United broke forward, and Sancho rifled in a game-winning goal off the crossbar.
What went wrong for Carrick…
Alex Telles replaced Luke Shaw at left-back in Carrick’s lone defensive change, so it was unsurprising that United’s issues persisted.
Villarreal got out to a much brighter start than the other team, carving up a few openings in the first ten minutes. Fortunately for United, De Gea was in goal.
United pays his Spanish goalkeeper £375,000 each week, which is a top player’s wage. However, just because they are spending money does not mean they want to get their money’s worth.
The goalkeeper isn’t usually the star player on a good team. Although Ronaldo may say differently, De Gea is United’s best player.
In the first half, the goalie produced numerous decent stops before making an eye-catching save from Manuel Trigueros’ effort in the second.
Regardless matter who takes over the reins, De Gea must find a method to decrease the number of saves he makes.
A large element of United’s dilemma is nothing new: the holding midfield duo.
The club’s midfield has long been a talking topic, but they chose to improve their offense and central defense rather than sign a new midfielder in the summer transfer window.
Scott McTominay and Fred work hard, but they aren’t world-class players with innate positional understanding and a keen sense of danger. This was evident once more against Villarreal.
While the Spanish side did not go all out in pursuit of a goal, they did create plenty of opportunities for Carrick to worry about.
Because relying on Ronaldo’s goals is not sustainable, the new manager may look to the January transfer window as a way to tackle United’s long-term problem.