Villarreal did not liquidate Manchester United while they could, that is, while Bruno Fernandes remained seated on the substitutes’ bench. He paid for it in the second part, when the devil of Maia jumped into the field to change the fate of a procedure until then indicated by tactical control and speculative reserves. After a mistake by Rulli, catalyst of the 0-1, the 0-2 classifies United for the second round and puts a sharp parenthesis to their crisis in the Premier. Villarreal postponed their move to an irrevocable duel on December 8 in Bergamo.
Rulli, Albiol, Juan Foyth, Estupiñán (Raba, min. 78), Pau Torres, Capoue, Parejo, Moi Gómez (Boulaye Dia, min. 84), Yeremy Pino (Chukwueze, min. 72), Trigueros (Alberto Moreno, min. 72) and Arnaut Danjuma
De Gea, Nilsson-Lindelöf, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles, Wan-Bissaka, Anthony Martial (Rashford, min. 65), van de Beek (Bruno Fernandes, min. 65), McTominay, Fred, Jadon Sancho (Mata, min. 92) and Cristiano (Matic, min. 90)
Goals 0-1 min. 77: Christian. 0-2 min. 89: Jadon Sancho.
Referee Dr. Felix Brych
Yellow cards Yeremy Pino (min. 32) y van de Beek (min. 40)
Carrick said Monday that he shares the ideas of Solskjaer, whom he served as an aide-de-camp. Distancing himself from the failed and fired coach on Sunday would have been politically more profitable for him. But the nobility of the veteran English midfielder was as unquestionable as his honesty. Faced with the crisis, Carrick did what his predecessor would have done: remove Bruno Fernandes, the most intelligent player on the squad, to consolidate a presumed defensive structure based on 4-4-2, crowned by McTominay as a midfielder, Fred and Van of Beek as interiors, and Sancho as fourth midfielder, in sacrifice of his condition of winger. The proposal was so moderate that it made up for its virtues with its flaws. It gave United dynamism and detracted from its ingenuity.
With no other helmsman than the impetuous McTominay, United entered the game without enjoying the privilege of good leadership. Voluble in all aspects, at times he waited behind without being able to close the incursions of Trigueros and Moi between the lines, at times he pressed up without being able to disturb the exits of Albiol, Parejo and Pau Torres, always victorious in construction.
United played as if they had resolved to heal Watford’s wound (they fell 4-1) by way of uncompromising order. Cristiano and his platoon acted with no other ambition than to prostrate themselves before the god of stability. When in doubt, go back and start again, heavily, against a Villarreal who also managed the game from caution. The difference was in category and occupation. Better led by Parejo, the local team competed with more poise and their advances were more profound. If Rulli spent an hour doing warm-up exercises to prevent his joints from becoming numb, in the opposite area De Gea prolonged his series of stressed days. The Spaniard started by stopping a cross shot from Moi when the teams were testing each other and had to take another two shots at Trigueros with the tips of his fingers. If Danjuma and Yeremy had aimed better they would have opened the scoring because, as much as the 4-4-2 triumph, in front of their small area the centrals could not cope.
Playing not to err
A cerebral team like few others, Villarreal is capable of absorbing themselves in their calculated maneuvers until they completely forget the emotional factor of the game. Thus he let the long minutes of his dominion pass over an adversary who at times seemed defenseless. Carrick solved it in the 66th minute. It was enough for him to undo what he had done when he sang his first lineup. He removed Van de Beek and put Bruno in, and not only United, the game, the public, the atmosphere of La Cerámica, was completely transformed.
Every time the Portuguese midfielder touched the ball, his teammates progressed a little, or a lot, and Villarreal fell back. Where before Sancho wandered without guidance, now he was transformed into a penetrating dribbler, and Torres could not stop him before – before a wall with Bruno – he stayed hand in hand with Rulli, who deflected the shot.
The fans went from complacent joy to silence and screams of horror. The danger was seen coming, as an inertia of the game when it was executed by guys like Bruno Fernandes, men who don’t stop to think about the last thing the coach yells at them because they act inflamed by their own ideas, if not by the uncontrollable power of their imagination. Villarreal calibrated their new reality when Rulli made the most avoidable mistake. The goalkeeper committed Capoue with a pass that he did not notice in the presence of Fred. The Brazilian tapped the ball and Cristiano, who was passing by, sent it to the net.
Villarreal, who had played not to err, was condemned first to a sterile moderation and then to self-destruction. Without leaving the amazement, his defense saw how Cristiano, Bruno and Sancho clinched the 0-2.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.