Ole Gunnar Solskjær celebrated a “great moment” for Manchester United after a Cristiano Ronaldo goal in the 95th minute snatched the victory away from Villarreal and eased the pressure on the manager after a three-game losing streak in four games.
The victory was United’s first in Group F and places them third, one point behind Atalanta, but it seemed unlikely due to a sloppy performance in which Unai Emery’s men went ahead with Paco Alcácer’s goal in the second half. Alex Telles tied shortly after and Ronaldo pounced in the dying moments to delight the packed home crowd and stop United’s mini-knockdown.
“It is a huge result for the team and also for the team spirit,” said Solskjær. “We gave ourselves a difficult job with the expulsion in the last game [Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the defeat at Young Boys] so getting three points at home is important, now we have to get to 10 or maybe 12 to pass. “
Ronaldo was making a record 178th appearance in the competition. “He has done it so many times,” Solskjær said. “When you saw him against Ireland a [few] weeks ago [for Portugal] He missed an early penalty, touched neither more nor less the ball and then scored two big heads in the final two minutes. That’s exactly what he’s done throughout his career, he’s so mentally strong that he just stays in the game.
“I’ve seen him all day today, the way he’s built for this game, how focused he’s been and when he has that only chance it’s a goal. He had a couple of half-decent headers in the first half that could have ended with chances, but he’s the mark of a true spiker who comes to life when the opportunity comes.
United were famous for their goals in the late victory in what was dubbed ‘Fergie’s time’ when Sir Alex Ferguson was the manager, and the Scotsman was at Old Trafford to witness Ronaldo’s rescue act.
“That’s what happens here at Old Trafford, it has happened so many times before,” Solskjær said. “We have to throw caution to the wind and we were lucky in the end.
“I’m not going to sleep well because of the adrenaline but you’re in the Everton game [on Saturday] already.”