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CHRIS SUTTON: Manchester United got their reward for pushing higher against Villarreal

CHRIS SUTTON: Fresh off the press, Manchester United got their reward for pushing higher against Villarreal … Michael Carrick deserves credit for overseeing the result, which was essential for the club.


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Statistics say Manchester United was one of the worst to push high under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Well here’s a proof of what can happen when you bother trying.

Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli had the ball. Ahead of him was a teammate, being marked by Bruno Fernandes.

To his right was another teammate, blocked by Cristiano Ronaldo. To his left was another colleague, watched by Jadon Sancho. It was well organized, so Rulli was tempted to try and find Etienne Capoue instead.

Manchester United got their reward for pushing higher in their win against Villarreal

Manchester United got their reward for pushing higher in their win against Villarreal

Fred (right) stepped in to intercept a pass and seconds later, Cristiano Ronaldo (left) shot the goal.

Fred (right) stepped in to intercept a pass and seconds later, Cristiano Ronaldo (left) shot the goal.

Fred (right) stepped in to intercept a pass and seconds later, Cristiano Ronaldo (left) shot the goal.

Watch the moment that hospital pass plays and you will see Fred pressing while Capoue is immobile. His anticipation wins the ball and then Ronaldo did what Ronaldo does when there is a goalkeeper to beat.

Happy Days. The best teams push high, just look at Liverpool and Manchester City, and that’s not a coincidence.

Jurgen Klopp says that a good press is better than any playmaker in the world. United came forward with their front foot engaging in high pressure of their own and gave them the lead. Fred also won the ball in the run-up to his second strike.

Ronaldo's goal was largely due to Fred's anticipation when Villarreal sought to go through his back

Ronaldo's goal was largely due to Fred's anticipation when Villarreal sought to go through his back

Ronaldo’s goal was largely due to Fred’s anticipation when Villarreal sought to go through his back

Congratulations to Michael Carrick for monitoring this result. In 48 hours in charge, he landed a team tune that looked like a broken banjo against Watford. It was not the most fascinating performance, nor one of total superiority, especially in the first half.

I’m not a United fan, but even I was tempted to start yelling ‘attack, attack, attack’ on television.

But this was a team with little confidence, one that had yet to keep a clean sheet in Europe this season. The result is all that matters in the end, really.

United won, they are in the knockout stages, and all those social media managers who control the players’ Twitter accounts can post positive messages for their millions of followers instead of apologizing, at least.

Carrick doesn’t know how long he will be in charge until the next interim arrives, a ridiculous situation, but he can feel good about himself as he flies back to Manchester.

Michael Carrick deserves credit for leading United to the next round of the Champions League

Michael Carrick deserves credit for leading United to the next round of the Champions League

Michael Carrick deserves credit for leading United to the next round of the Champions League

Introducing Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford and seeing them both intrinsically involved with Jadon Sancho completing the scoreboard will increase your confidence in your decision making as a coach.

Villarreal did have chances in the first 20 minutes. Good chances, which a more clinical aspect could have asserted.

Chelsea is next Sunday, and Carrick won’t have much time to work with the players before then. Still, it was a good start for him and an essential result for the club.

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