UEFA Champions League: Ronaldo's late show gives Man United win over Villarreal

Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed a stoppage-time winner as Manchester United came from behind to secure a fortunate 2-1 win over Villarreal at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after leading his side to a 2-1 win over Villarreal CF at Old Trafford in a UEFA Champions League match on Wednesday.   -  Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed a stoppage-time winner as Manchester United came from behind to secure a fortunate 2-1 Champions League Group F win over Villarreal at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

On the night he set the new record for the most appearances in the competition, the 36-year-old Portuguese delivered the killer blow to save his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from another disappointing result and the inevitable inquests.

"When you've got Cristiano on the pitch, you've always got a chance," the Norwegian said.

"That is what he has done throughout his career - he is so strong mentally, he just stays in the game, I have seen him all day today, the way he built himself up for the game, focused."

"He's done that so many times, when you saw him (for Portugal) against Ireland a month ago, he missed a pen, didn't touch the ball much and then scored two great headers in the last few minutes."

"When he gets that one chance it is a goal. It is the true mark of a very, very good finisher that he keeps calm when the chance arrives."

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"Seriously, he's so so good in front of goal. Its a massive result for the team and for the spirit of the team," he added.

United had fallen a goal behind to Paco Alcacer's 53rd-minute opener before drawing level with a brilliant volley from Alex Telles but failing to make the most of the momentum shift.

After three defeats in its last four games, including the loss in Bern to Young Boys in the group opener, United could ill-afford another slip-up.

"It’s massive for the players of course, to win games in this fashion after we lost the game in Bern in that fashion, it's great,” Solskjaer said.

“I’d rather have a win and a defeat than two draws," he said reflecting on how both games had been decided in the final moments.

But for long stretches of the game an upset looked very much on the cards and had the visitor been sharper in front of goal, the contest might have been over by the break.

Villarreal had beaten Solskjaer's team on penalties in last season's Europa League final and Unai Emery's side's excellent organisation and ability on the break again posed problems for a disjointed United.

DIFFICULT HALF

With Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan Bissaka and Luke Shaw all missing from the defence, United was easily opened up in the first half with Diogo Dalot enduring a particularly difficult 45 minutes.

Arnaut Danjuma tormented the United right back and tested David De Gea twice after cutting in from the left flank.

Alcacer had a header from a Danjuma cross tipped over by the United keeper and, after a slip-up by Raphael Varane, found himself one-on-one with De Gea but fired wide.

After squandering those chances, however, Villarreal took a deserved lead when a counter-attack was finished off by Alcacer who turned in Danjuma's low cross.

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United struck back seven minutes later with a cleverly worked free kick as Bruno Fernandes chipped the ball deep to Telles on the left and the Brazilian fired home a perfect volley.

Edinson Cavani missed a good chance to grab a winner for United, heading wide at the back post, and the host survived a goalmouth scramble with Boulaye Dia going close for Villarreal.

Then, deep into stoppage time, substitute Fred crossed from the left and Ronaldo headed to Jesse Lingard who fed the ball back for the Portuguese to drive home.

Old Trafford erupted in relief and joy and Ronaldo picked up a yellow card for ripping off his shirt and throwing it into the crowd in his 178th Champions League match.

Solskjaer also praised De Gea for a stellar performance.

"Thankfully we had the best goalkeeper in the world," Solskjaer told reporters. "David was fantastic. Second half, they had more of the ball, it was open and they deserved to lead."

"He had a difficult summer after (the Europa League final), he went to the Euros, didn't play there, but he's really come back with a determination, a belief and work rate I enjoy," Solskjaer said.

"In this game he got his deserved outcome, because he saved us tonight. We have to be realistic and say that."

Atalanta tops the group standings with four points, one ahead of Young Boys and United.

Villarreal is at the bottom with one point after a cruel end to the match.

"We're annoyed. The game was basically over, we just needed to see it out and we didn't. We need to learn from this. We were impeccable before that, taking the lead, creating chances, being better than Man United at Old Trafford," defender Pau Torres said.

PESSINA HELPS ATALANTA BEAT YOUNG BOYS

In the other group F fixture, Italian side Atalanta beat Swiss side Young Boys 1-0 courtesy of an opportunist goal from Italy forward Matteo Pessina midway through the second half.

Atalanta dominated throughout and Young Boys goalkeeper David von Ballmoos pulled off several fine saves before Pessina slid in at the near post to stab home a low Duvan Zapata cross in the 68th minute.

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