Late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho sent Manchester United into the last 16 of the Champions League and gave Michael Carrick the win in his first game as caretaker manager.
The first half looked like one might imagine a first half between the 12th-best team in Spain and the eighth-best team in England would look: low on quality, high on nerves.
Neither side looked much like scoring but it was Villarreal who came closer, David de Gea making decent saves from Moi Gomez and Manu Trigueros.
After the break, little changed, with Villarreal the better side but not by much. De Gea was forced to make another fine save, again from Trigeuros, but amazingly, United improved when Carrick sent on Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes, their two best players over the last two seasons.
Fernandes created United’s best chance – Geronimo Rulli saved well from Jadon Sancho – before, on 78 minutes, Fred caught Etienne Capoue in possession, putting Ronaldo in, and he lobbed beautifully to give United the win and score his sixth goal in five Champions League games this season.
Sancho then struck his first goal for the club with time running out to make sure of the win.