Cristiano Ronaldo’s excellent goal helped Manchester United begin life after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a 2-0 victory over Villarreal on Tuesday and seal their place in the Champions League last 16.
Ronaldo’s splendid lob was then capped by Jadon Sancho’s first United goal at the Ceramica, where caretaker manager Michael Carrick dropped Bruno Fernandes to the bench.
Fernandes was on the pitch for both of United’s goals after being brought on in the 66th minute, but it was Ronaldo who proved the difference again, his instinctive shot in the 78th unlocking a game that looked destined to remain goalless.
After a turbulent few days that saw Solskjaer sacked following Saturday’s humiliating 4-1 defeat by Watford, United were able to calm the storm with a win that leaves them three points clear at the top of Group F.
With Villarreal, in second, up against Atalanta in the final game, United, who finish at home to Young Boys, are now guaranteed to go through, and most likely in first place.
Carrick has only been placed in temporary charge, after the club outlined their plan on Sunday to install an interim coach before then making a permanent appointment next summer.
Numerous candidates have been linked, with former Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde the latest name to emerge on Tuesday.
Carrick, who wore a black suit and won the Champions League once in his 12 years as a Manchester United player, had been surprisingly reluctant to distinguish himself from Solskjaer in his first press conference on Monday.
He said “we’ll have to see” when asked if he could lift United out of their slump and admitted he had “similar beliefs” to the Norwegian and “that’s why we worked together for so long”.
His team selection, though, was bolder, with Fernandes the statement change. The Portuguese playmaker was replaced by Donny van de Beek, while Anthony Martial, Alex Telles and Fred came in for Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw and Nemanja Matic