In pictures: Man Utd v Villarreal
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Manchester United got away with it. Last night’s victory over Villarreal wasn’t them operating at the peak of their powers, but they still claimed all three points regardless. And with Jesse Lingard and Edinson Cavani shining off the bench, now seems a great time for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to trial a new attacking trident.
Manchester United were poor throughout large spells of their showdown with Villarreal.
It wasn’t until Paco Alcacer put the visitors ahead that Solskjaer’s side played on the front foot, eventually rallying courtesy of goals from Alex Telles and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Yet again, though, this was United looking erratic and vulnerable.
It has been a bizarre start to the season. With four wins from six in the Premier League, all looks good on paper.
But the truth is that, too often, United look disjoined. And even their attacking players are currently struggling.
Mason Greenwood has failed to shine in the short time since Ronaldo’s return, having previously started the season in fantastic fettle.
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And fans are waiting to see the best from Jadon Sancho, who is yet to score or register an assist since joining from Borussia Dortmund.
There were, however, positives to take.
David De Gea looks back to his best, the same level he was at when Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal occupied the offices of power.
Bruno Fernandes continues to deliver, while a goal for Telles is also exactly what the Brazilian needed after a rocky first year in English football.
Ronaldo scoring is another plus, of course, with the veteran continuing to defy both his age and expectations.
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And then there was the impacts of Lingard and Cavani, too.
The former should have netted before Ronaldo, instead seeing a shot from close range saved by Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli.
But he made up for it a few moments later, roughing it a ruckus and prodding the ball into Ronaldo’s path for him to finish.
Cavani, meanwhile, was also involved in the winning goal.
The Uruguay international has been rightly hailed for chasing down the Villarreal backline, recovering the ball and paving the way for the drama that followed.
And, based on this evidence, it’s time Solskjaer lets both players off the leash.
Lingard is perhaps more deserving. And with Sancho toiling on the left wing, that provides an opportunity for him to play more.
The playmaker did, after all, shine when deployed in that position during his spell with West Ham last season.
And with two goals and an assist to his name already this term, despite starting just one match, giving him more game time could be the way to go.
Say Lingard is on the left, and Ronaldo down the middle.
That’s where Cavani can perhaps go on the right, with Solskjaer choosing to turn him into a wingman as the clock against Villarreal ticked down.
He did play there during his early years at Paris Saint-Germain, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the club’s first-choice centre-forward.
And given Cavani’s selfless nature and tenacity, trying him in that role is a decision worth pondering.
He’s only just returned from injury but, if he can replicate the same form as last season, United will be onto a winner.
Villarreal is just one match in a big old season.
But with Sancho toiling and Greenwood’s goals drying up, rotating things would be a big decision that could have big consequences for the rest of the campaign.
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