Ole Gunnar Solskjær hailed a “massive moment” for Manchester United after Cristiano Ronaldo’s 95th-minute strike snatched a win against Villarreal and eased the pressure on the manager following a run of three defeats in four matches.
The victory was United’s first in Group F and places them third, a point behind Atalanta, but had seemed unlikely due to a slipshod performance in which Unai Emery’s side took the lead through Paco Alcácer’s second-half goal. Alex Telles equalised soon after and Ronaldo pounced in the dying moments to delight the packed home support and arrest United’s mini-slump.
“It is a massive result for the team and the spirit of the team as well,” Solskjær said. “We gave ourselves a difficult job with the sending off in the last game [Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the defeat at Young Boys] so to get three points at home is important – now we need to get to 10 or maybe 12 to get through.”
Ronaldo was making a record-breaking 178th appearance in the competition. “He has done that so many times,” Solskjær said. “When you saw him against Ireland a [few] weeks ago [for Portugal] he missed a penalty early, didn’t touch the ball more or less, then scored two great headers in the last two minutes. That is just 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 has built himself up for this game, how focused he has been and when he gets that one chance it is a goal. He had a couple of half decent headers in the first half that could have ended up with chances but it is the mark of a true finisher that he comes alive when the chance arrives.”
United were famous for their late match-winning goals in what was dubbed ‘Fergie-time’ when Sir Alex Ferguson was the manager, and the Scot was at Old Trafford to witness Ronaldo’s rescue act.
“That is what happens here at Old Trafford, it’s happened so many times before,” said Solskjær. “We have to throw caution to the wind and we got lucky in the end.
“I won’t sleep well because of the adrenaline but you are on to the Everton game [on Saturday] already.”