Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has described Champions League nights at Old Trafford as “magic” after Cristiano Ronaldo’s late winner against Villarreal.
Manchester United were on the verge of another European draw when Ronaldo slotted home in the 95th minute to secure his side their first points of the Champions League campaign.
It is the opposite of a fortnight ago when Young Boys stunned United late on, and Solskjaer praised the support of the home crowd on another memorable night at Old Trafford.
He said: “Champions League Old Trafford is magic and sometimes history can help us. Tonight, Cristiano came up with a good goal and Alex [Telles] scored a fantastic goal.
“That’s what happens here at Old Trafford. It’s happened so many times before. We had to throw caution to the wind and we got lucky in the end.
“To get the three points at home is important. We know we need to get to ten, maybe 12 points to go through. It’s a massive result for the team and for the spirit of the team as well. It’s a better way of winning a game than how we lost a few weeks ago. But that’s football, it’s just highs and lows and today we get a result that we’re delighted about.
“I’d rather have a win and a defeat than two draws.”
It was another headline-grabbing goal from Ronaldo, who overtook Iker Casillas for all-time Champions League appearances, having now played 178 times.
“He’s done that so many times,” Solskjaer said. “When you saw him against the Republic of Ireland a few weeks ago [for Portugal], he missed a penalty early, didn’t touch the ball more or less and then scored two great headers in the last two minutes.
“That’s just what he’s done throughout his career. He’s so strong mentally. He stays in the game, I’ve seen him all day today, the way he’s built himself up for this game, how focused he’s been and when he gets that one chance, it’s a goal. But a true mark of a very good finisher is that he keeps calm when the chance arrives.
“He’s so good in front of goal and he has an impact on everyone – the crowd, the players, everyone.”
There was praise too for goalkeeper David de Gea, who made a string of world-class saves in the first half to keep United in the tie.
Solskjaer added: “He had a difficult summer after the final. He went to the Euros, didn’t play there, but he’s really come back with a determination and a belief and a work rate that I’ve enjoyed.
“And today, he got a deserved outcome because he saved us tonight, we have to be realistic and say that. We’ve got two very good keepers in Dean [Henderson] and Tom [Heaton] too, but tonight, David deserves, from me, the man of the match.”
Fernandes: Strikers always have a feeling to score
Bruno Fernandes took the captain’s armband for the evening, and says he had confidence that his side would be victorious on Wednesday.
He told BT Sport: “I always had the feeling we would win the game. When they scored, I felt we could come again to the game and turn it around.
“After the goal from Alex, everyone feels that the atmosphere was unbelievable, the push from the fans was incredible. There were some big saves from David who helped a lot to keep the result to 1-1 and at the end with Cristiano, we always say that the strikers have a feeling to score and helped us once again.
“We finished the game with two strikers where we know, if we get the ball into the box, Edi and Cristiano are alive for everything, we know they can score at any moment. That’s why we started to do more crosses when Edi came on and we got the goal, we are really happy for that.
“It’s always difficult to play against Spanish teams. We know they play really well, they are good on the ball and we know the coach also as here in England already.
“Their teams always play good football, in defence as well, they’re organised. But I think we did a good job, sometimes we have to be patient and don’t press all the time. The main point was the three points and we did that.”