A fine Cristiano Ronaldo finish, in the fifth minute of injury-time, redeemed a poor Manchester United performance and left Old Trafford bouncing rather than shaking its head.
They now sit second in Champions League Group F with three points from two games; somehow, Villarreal are bottom with one from two.
Villarreal started as confidently you’d expect, a settled side fortified by the confidence of a trophy won against their richer but less cohesive opponents in last year's Europa League final. But though they created several fine first-half chances, a combination of poor finishing and fine goalkeeping from David de Gea meant the sides went in goalless at the break.
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On 53 minutes, though, Villarreal got the lead they deserved, Arnaut Danjuma - the best player on the pitch - crossing well for Pablo Alcacer to slide in. United needed something but there looked no likely source, until Alex Telles volleyed a brilliant first United goal past Geronimo Rulli, following Bruno Fernandes’ deft free-kick.
Both sides pressed for a winner, but with a draw looking assured, Ronaldo grabbed it with almost the last kick of the game as he finished from a tight angle in the box.

TALKING POINT - De Gea stepping up

It’s not hard to see why David de Gea went stale – for years, he was by far the best performer in a team getting nowhere near winning anything major, under no pressure for his place. He actually did pretty well to stay in the first XI for as long as he did – his poor form was a major reason United missed Champions League qualification in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first half-season as manager, a malaise that lasted for two more full terms after that.
But this summer appears to have been a watershed moment. After the embarrassment of letting in 11 straight penalties when United lost the Europa League to Villarreal – he didn’t even get near saving any – he appears to have rededicated himself, starting the season in terrific form. The funny thing is, he was probably inspired by the players United signed in the summer, assuming he’d be playing in a much better team than previously, but the reality is that they’ve been poor, and without De Gea might well have lost to both Southampton and Wolves while drawn at West Ham.
And De Gea was on hand again tonight, making four five fine saves to keep his side in yet another game they'd have lost without him.

'We are a proper team,' insists Solskjaer after Ronaldo rescues Man Utd

MAN OF THE MATCH - David de Gea

David de Gea (Man United) Kept his team in the game with some superb saves.

PLAYER RATINGS

Manchester United: De Gea 8, Dalot 5, Varane 6, Lindelof 6, Telles 7, McTominay 5, Pogba 5, Fernandes 7, Greenwood 5, Ronaldo 7, Sancho 6. Subs: Cavani 7, Lingard 7, Matic 6, Fred 6.
Villarreal: Rulli 6, Foyth 7, Albiol 7, Pau 8, Moreno 7, Parejo 7, Capoue 6, Trigueros 6, Pino 6, Alcacer 7, Danjuma 8. Subs: Estupinan 6, Mandi 6, Gomez 6, Pena 6, Dia 6.

KEY STAT

at 36 years and 236 days, Cristiano Ronaldo is the second-oldest Man United player to score a goal in European competition at Old Trafford after Bryan Robson (36y 282d) v Galatasaray in 1993.

KEY MOMENTS

7’ - Excellent from Danjuma, attacking the space between Lindelof and Dalot to collect a fine pass from Capoue and inside left. But he wants to shoot with his right foot, schlepping his body around the ball to force and angle before smacking straight at De Gea. Decent chance.

10’ - Great save De Gea! Villarreal again find space down their left with Danjuma and when Moreno dashes on his outside, Dalot sways towards him, opening the space for the shot, which Danjuma curls hard towards the far corner. But De Gea knows it's coming and dives to parry with a strong hand.

53’ - GOAL! Manchester United 0-1 Villarreal (Alcacer) Now then! Danjuma, who's been brilliant tonight, races onto a pass from Parejo, alone in an empty midfield, and flicks a fine cross into the middle for Alcacer, who slides in and pokes home. That goal was no more than Villarreal deserved United are in humungous trouble now.

60’ - GOAL! Manchester United 1-1 Villarreal (Telles) Fernandes wedges a gorgeous dink that Telles, backpeddling, watches onto his laces, drilling home from outside the box! What a goal!

86’ - OH MY DAYS! Villarreal go down the left with Gomes - no one bothers to stop him - so opens his body and punches a shot goalwards! De Gea shoves out but Dia must score ... no! De Gea saves again, Varane and Telles slide past the ball, but Telles still makes the block when Dia shoots, and the ball skips behind.

90+5’ - GOAL! Manchester United 2-1 Villarreal (Ronaldo) That was not coming, that was inevitable! Cavani does brilliantly to regain possession, Fred hammers a cross to the back post and Ronaldo knocks down brilliantly for Lingard, who gets himself in front of the keeper and pokes back a brilliant return pass that Ronaldo hammers brilliantly into the top corner, with the aide of a deflection! He is good at football.
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