Manchester United caretaker manager Michael Carrick says his players put their character on full display in a 2-0 win over Villarreal on Tuesday evening.
United travelled to La Ceramica to take on the Yellow Submarine in a high-stake Champions League fixture in the wake of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking.
The Old Trafford chiefs relieved the Norwegian of his duties on Sunday, less than 24 hours after the Red Devils’ embarrassing 4-1 defeat away to Watford.
In these uncertain times for the three-time European champions, Carrick was entrusted with guiding this soulless United team in one of the most significant matches of the season.
Although the performance was below expectations again, United reached the ultimate goal and progressed into the knockout stage.
Carrick offered his view of the match in the aftermath, hailing his team’s spirit following a painful last couple of days.
“The result obviously is a major plus from the run we’ve gone on – we can’t hide that,” he told Sky Sports.
“To get that feeling of winning a football match for the players is huge, and to keep a clean sheet, David [de Gea] was important again, so all round there’s a lot of positives to take.
“The biggest [positive] I’ll take is how everyone adapted, the reaction and how they pulled together.
“In situations like this, there’s mixed emotions. It’s a test of people and you find out who the real characters are, who’s there with you and who’s not.
“I thought everyone stuck together in terms of supporting me and my staff and we managed to get the win which is very pleasing. It was a big one.”
Going into Matchday 5, the Premier League heavyweights and Villarreal were on seven points at the top of Group F, only two points clear of third-placed Atalanta.
Therefore, there was a situation where United could have slid to third in the standings and thrown their qualification hopes into doubt.
Luckily for Carrick and the Old Trafford faithful, having the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo on your side has its virtues.
The all-time Champions League top scorer came to the rescue once again, slotting home a sublime finish to break the deadlock in the 78th minute and put United in front.
Another marquee summer signing Jadon Sancho joined the party in the stoppage time to finally get off the mark in the red shirt with an outrageous effort from inside the box.
Even though it was not United’s most pleasing performance on the eye by any stretch of the imagination, walking away from La Ceramica with all three points was of paramount importance for Carrick’s side.
The Red Devils have booked their place in the Champions League knockout phase with a game to spare and, more importantly, players have bounced back from a dreadful weekend.
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