Michael Carrick’s management career got off to the perfect start as his Manchester United side beat Villarreal 2-0 in the Champions League.
Despite United looking slightly more solid at the back, David de Gea still had to make a number of good saves to keep the score level as the Reds looked uninspiring in the first half.
Things gradually improved after half-time and it was Cristiano Ronaldo who broke the deadlock, chipping the keeper after Fred won the ball high up the pitch.
Jadon Sancho then doubled the lead at the end of normal time, scoring his first goal for the club and booking United’s place in the knockout stages.
Here’s three things we learnt from tonight’s game:
Ronaldo free kicks
Cristiano Ronaldo made his name at Manchester United as a flashy winger full of tricks, flicks and free kicks.
Ronaldo netted 13 free kicks during his first spell at the club, his famed knuckleball technique being replicated in school playgrounds the world over, with this freekick against Portsmouth in 2008 perhaps his best.
13 years ago today, Cristiano Ronaldo scored the greatest free-kick in PL history against Portsmouth 🚀😳pic.twitter.com/XTUPBPE99v
— UnitedReds (@UnitedRedscom) January 30, 2021
However, it’s no secret his prowess from dead-ball situations has declined over the years, with this worrying stat emerging during the Villarreal game:
Cristiano Ronaldo hasn't scored a Champions League free kick since 2016 🛫
He's failed to score any of his last 34 attempts 😬 pic.twitter.com/6E5LjKm1fB
— GOAL (@goal) November 23, 2021
With no goals in his last 34 attempts dating back to 2016, it may be time for the Portuguese legend to hand the duty to compatriot Bruno Fernandes.
Fernandes hasn’t been at his goalscoring best this campaign, but has been producing elite playmaking numbers, including assisting in every Champions League game this term.
His introduction after 66 minutes proved the difference as himself and Marcus Rashford changed the tide of the game entirely.
24 mins played
2 key passes
1 big chance created.
I don't think we can overstate the influence Bruno Fernandes has on this team.
He completely changed the game. pic.twitter.com/aQBxRUkhm3
— Όliver (@Oliveresuana) November 23, 2021
Setting up Jadon Sancho for his first United goal while also playing two key passes and creating another big chance highlights just how vital he remains for this United side.
The performance in this game didn’t really matter as long as United came home with a result that either sent them through to the next round or kept their hopes alive.
Despite a nervy first half, the Red Devils grew into the game and produced the two moments of quality that decided the tie.
Having only had 48 hours to prepare for such a crucial game, Carrick and his coaching team deserve credit for a job well done.
This result should give the club some hope that the season is not over, and appointing the right man now could lead to success akin to that which Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea enjoyed last season.