Ole Gunnar Solskjær hailed a “massive moment” for Manchester United after Cristiano Ronaldo’s 95th-minute goal snatched a win over Villarreal and eased pressure on the manager after a three-game losing streak in four matches.
The win was United’s first in Group F and places them third, one point behind Atalanta, but it seemed unlikely due to a poor performance in which Unai Emery’s side took the lead. thanks to Paco Alcácer’s goal in the second half. Alex Telles equalized soon after and Ronaldo jumped in the dying moments to thrill the crowded home support and stop United’s mini-collapse.
“It’s a huge result for the team and the spirit of the team as well,” said Solskjær. “We gave ourselves a difficult job with the expulsion in the last match [Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the defeat at Young Boys] So getting three points at home is important – now we have to hit 10 or maybe 12 to pass. “
Ronaldo was making a record 178th appearance in the competition. “He’s done it so many times,” Solskjær said. “When you saw him against Ireland a [few] weeks ago [for Portugal] he missed an early penalty, more or less touched the ball, then scored two stunning heads in the final two minutes. That’s exactly what he’s been doing throughout his career, he’s so mentally strong, he just stays in the game.
“I’ve seen him all day today, how he’s built for this game, how focused he’s been and when he’s got that chance it’s a goal. He had a few half-decent heads in the first half that could have ended with chances, but it’s the mark of a true finisher that he comes alive when the opportunity presents itself.
United were famous for their late-game winning goals in what was dubbed ‘Fergie-time’ when Sir Alex Ferguson was manager, and the Scotsman was at Old Trafford to witness Ronaldo’s rescue act.
“That’s what’s happening here at Old Trafford, it’s happened so many times before,” said Solskjær. “We have to be careful and we were lucky at the end.
“I’m not going to sleep well because of the adrenaline, but you’re on the Everton game [on Saturday] already. “