Ronaldo was kept quiet for much of the evening but came up with the goods at the right time to end the night United’s hero as his goal earned a crucial Champions League win over Villarreal
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hailed Cristiano Ronaldo for scoring a 95th-minute winner to give Manchester United sweet revenge over Villarreal.
Villarreal were just seconds away from frustrating United again before Ronaldo struck on his record-breaking 178th Champions League appearance.
A delighted Solskjaer beamed: “That’s what happens here at Old Trafford, it’s happened so many times before.
“Champions League games at Old Trafford are magic and sometimes the fans help us.
“Sometimes it’s not about passes here or there, it’s about the crowd, and the Stretford End has sucked a few in before, I know that.
“That’s probably what happened and when you have Cristiano on the pitch, you always have a chance.
“He’s so good in front of goal and has an impact on everyone – the crowd, the players the whole club.”
Solskjaer admitted United were fortunate to win and they disappointed for large parts of the game as Villarreal threatened to repeat their Europa League Final triumph.
The last-gasp victory has transformed United’s Euro hopes after their opening loss to Young Boys and Solskjaer is bullish about their double header with group leaders Atalanta.
“We had to throw caution to the wind and we got lucky in the end,” said the United boss.
United had fallen behind to Paco Alcacer’s opener shortly after half-time, but a stunning volley from Alex Telles brought them back level, setting the stage for a match winner in front of their home crowd.
The introduction of Edinson Cavani and Jesse Lingard off the bench gave the hosts added impetus, but when the moment came, it was always going to be Ronaldo.
“You saw him against Ireland [for Portugal] a month ago,” Solskjaer said in his press conference afterward. “He missed a penalty early, didn’t touch the ball more or less and then scored two great headers in the last minutes.
“That’s what he’s done throughout his career. He stays in the game.
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“I’ve seen him all day, the way he built up for this game and when he gets that one chance, it’s a goal.
“He had a couple of half chances, but a true mark of a great finisher that he keeps calm when the chance arrives.”
That chance came courtesy of unselfish work from Lingard, who had come close only moments earlier to stealing the limelight.
This time the United midfielder opted to set the ball into his team-mates path for Ronaldo to smash home, sparking raucous scenes inside Old Trafford.
The result was a timely one for Solskjaer, who may well have faced further questions over United’s credentials had they failed to win for a second Champions League tie in succession.
And it gives his side a huge boost heading into their next fixture.
“It’s massive for the players, of course, just to win games in this fashion after we lost in Bern in that fashion,” United’s boss said.
“It’s great, I’d rather have a win and defeat than two draws.
“Atalanta are a good team. Every game is hard and we look forward to playing them.”