A late rally by Manchester United led by the one and only Mr. Champions League, Cristiano Ronaldo secured Manchester United's qualification into the knockout stage of the Champions League as the Reds downed Villarreal 0-2.

📸: theguardian.com

Jadon Sancho got the second of the night with an emphatically taken effort following a swift counterattackimg move by the visitors to seal the game at the dearth.

It was a victory that cemented top spot for th former European Champions going into the draws for the knockout stage, leaving Villarreal to battle it out for second place with Atalanta, who drew 3-3 agant Young Boys, who are bottom of the group.

Interim manager, Michael Carrick was taking charge of his first game at the helms of affairs following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after their embarrassing 4-1 drubbing in the hands of Watford in the league over the weekend and he wouldn't have wished for a better outcome to the game, despite an unimpressive first 45 minutes.

In a bold move by the former England international, he made four changes to the team that started against the Hornets, prominently dropping Bruno Fernandes to the bench as he looked to give United a fresh start to life.

The dropping of Fernandes definitely raised a lot of eyebrows, giving that the Portuguese has created the most chances this season, both in the league and in Europe. Donny van de Beek was handed a rare start that was his third start this season in place of Fernandes.

It was a game that had all to play for in it, in what was a rematch of last season's Europa League final, which saw Unai Emery's Villarreal Triumph on penalty shootout.

The visitors were definitely low on confidence following their recent run of poor form and this was evident as the hosts took the game to them in the early exchanges.

Thanks to David de Gea, Manchester United máy have been down by two goals at half time after he put up fines saves to deny Moi Gomez and then, Manu Trigueros in the closing stages of the first interval.

Trigueros was again denied somehow by De Gea just before the hour mark, turning his effort out for a corner.

📸: bbc.co.uk

Manchester United were not impressive and needed and improvement. Carrick responded by making two inspired substitutions, bringing on Fernandes and Marcus Rashford for Van de Beek and Anthony Martial, who were both far from impressive on the night.

The substitutions looked to have changed the face of the game as the visitors gained the front foot, sending their hosts back into their shell as they continued to probe.

The two substitutes combined well with Ronaldo not long after to set up Jadon Sancho, who had only Geronimo Ruli to beat, but somehow, the goalkeeper denied the English man with his legs.

With just 12 minutes of the regular duration to play, Manchester United soon forgot the misery of their earlier missed chance.

Poor play by Ruli at the ball saw him pass a bad ball to Etienne Capoue, who was quickly closed down by Fred, allowing the ball fall to Ronaldo. The Portugal captain lobbed the ball over Ruli, who was already out of position to score his 6th goal in five matches in the Champions League this season.

A land mark for the former Real Madrid and Juventus talisman, with the strike his 140th in the competition and his 799th career goal, both for club and country.

As the game edged closer to its climax the hope of a comeback was killed for Villarreal as Fred won the ball deep in his own half, before releasing the attacking quartet of Rashford Ronaldo, Fernandes and Sancho. The latter got the final ball and his impressive finish went in off the crossbar to win the game for the visitors.

Concluding Thoughts

It was a breakthrough goal for the former Borussia Dortmund star as he scored his first goal for his new club after 15 games and 11 attempts. A huge relief for the £73 million signing.

Cristiano Ronaldo has continued to prove prolific on his second coming to Manchester United as the goal was his 10th in 14 appearances for the club this season. He becomes the first player to score in their first five games for an English club in the Champions League.

While Manchester United maintained their unbeaten run against Villarreal, having not lost to the Spanish side in six meetings, with two wins and four draws (excluding the penalty shootout in the final of the Europa League last season), Villarreal have continued their own poor run against English sides in Europe that has now stretched to 12 games without a win; six draws and losses each.

Their performance on the night was a summary of how their season has been, especially in the Spanish La Liga that see them currently sitting in 12th position, as they look to salvage their season.