Manchester United have been cut to 14/1 (from 16/1) at Betfred to win the Champions League after qualifying for the knockout stages with a professional 2-0 victory at Villarreal.
All eyes were on caretaker boss Michael Carrick, leading the team for the first time following the dismissal of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as United went into the fifth and penultimate game of the group stages needing three points to secure qualification to the Last 16 of the competition.
His game plan was clear from kick-off – stay compact at the back and don’t take unnecessary risks going forward.
Predictably, that resulted in a cagey first-half, of precious little action. United were sound defensively, and Villarreal seemed happy enough to just bide their time.
The Spanish side upped the tempo in the second half, however, forcing a couple of world class saves from the in-form David de Gea and giving the United back line plenty to think about.
But the Reds managed to keep things level, and it was after around an hour played that Carrick decided to play his cards.
On came Rashford and Bruno, who were both left out of the starting XI presumably for this very reason, in an attempt to inject some much-needed pace and attacking flair into the United side.
They made an impact right away, as United started to play and look for that all important goal.
That came in the 78th minute, through none other than Mr. Champions League himself, Cristiano Ronaldo. A perfectly-weighted lobbed effort beat Villarreal keeper Geronimo Rulli to find the back of the net and put the Reds 1-0 up.
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United controlled the game from there on – and it was well and truly job done after Jadon Sancho finished off a vintage counter-attacking move, rocketing the ball, laid on a plate by Bruno Fernandes, into the roof of the net to record his first goal at the club.
So, Carrick’s reign – however short or long it may be – is off to a winning one, and United will feature in the knockout stages of the Champions League in February.
Meanwhile, in London, it was men against boys as Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea made light work of Juventus at Stamford Bridge to go top of Group H.
The Blues hardly had to get out of second gear in their comfortable 4-0 win over the Italian outfit, with goals from Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
James’ half-volley, from an acute angle inside the penalty area, was the pick of the bunch. He’s scoring for fun at the minute, and that finish showed just how much confidence he’s playing with at the minute.
Both Chelsea and Juve have qualified for the knockout stages, but it’s still all to play for in terms of topping the group. Zenit, in St Petersburg, awaits the champions in the final fixture, while it’s Malmo in Italy for Massimiliano Allegri’s men.
After tonight’s victory, Chelsea have been cut to 13/2 (from 15/2) at Betfred to win the Champions League.
Every result in the Champions League on Tuesday night:
Villarreal 0-2 Manchester United
Dynamo Kiev 1-2 Bayern Munich
Chelsea 4-0 Juventus
Barcelona 0-0 Benfica
Sevilla 2-0 Wolfsburg
Malmo 1-1 Zenit
Lille 1-0 RB Salzburg
Young Boys 3-3 Atalanta