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Wednesday 8pm: Man United v Villarreal
BT Sport 3
Manchester United and Villarreal seem destined to draw every game that they ever play against one another. United have faced the Spanish side on five occasions in European competition, including four times in the Champions League group stages, and have drawn every game, scoring just one goal in the process.
Villarreal, moreover, seem to have developed a particular penchant for stalemates, drawing each of their first four La Liga fixtures this season before finally registering a win against Elche last week. They also drew their opening Champions League game against Atalanta and 13 in La Liga season, while seven out of eight games in all competitions this season have finished level.
A draw, however, is not good enough for Manchester United and they simply must buck the trend on Wednesday night unless they want to put themselves in a precarious position after just two games.
United can ill afford any more slip-ups following their opening-day defeat to Young Boys and they simply have to take advantage of the fact that they are a far better team than Villarreal.
This will be United’s first Champions League home games in front of spectators since April 2019 and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will want to provide the fans with something to cheer about, especially after Saturday’s dismal showing against Aston Villa.
United under Solskjaer, moreover, have been conspicuous for following devastating defeats with job-saving results. They should win relatively comfortably against a limited Villarreal side and exact some revenge for their harrowing Europa League final defeat in May.
It’s fair to say that Ronaldo has hit the ground running since his return to Old Trafford last month and there is no reason to think that he will slow down against a Villarreal side that he scored frequently against while playing for Real Madrid.
Ronaldo scored 13 goals in 15 appearances against Villarreal for Madrid and will be keen to improve that record against them on Wednesday.
Ronaldo may have been rested had United beaten Young Boys in their group opener as expected, but Solskjaer will now be forced to play a strong side as United attempt to get their Champions League campaign back on track.
He will be keen to edge further ahead of Lionel Messi in the Champions League goalscoring charts and will hope to score a first European goal for Manchester United at Old Trafford since March 2009 (he scored there for Real Madrid in March 2013).
United and Villarreal have scored a combined two goals in their five competitive meetings and never against each other in four Champions League games. That could all change on Wednesday night, however.
United have been ruthless going forward this season, scoring the second-highest number of goals in the Premier League. However, they have also been prone to several defensive lapses in every game that they have played, primarily because of a lack of a quality holding midfielder.
United offer chances to every side that they come up against and a Villarreal attack led by Gerard Moreno will look to make hay.
United’s attack, on the other hand, is capable of scoring goals even when United aren’t playing particularly well, as demonstrated in recent league games against Aston Villa, Newcastle and West Ham.
Villarreal have conceded two goals or more on three occasions this season and it is difficult to see them keeping this swashbuckling Manchester United attack at bay.
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