Harry Maguire passes Michael Carrick’s Man Utd test after avoiding Bruno Fernandes fate

Solskjaer did not have the courage to drop Fernandes, despite the Portugal star's recent loss of form meriting a demotion. But Carrick had no such inhibitions, jettisoning him for Donny van Beek, finally given a chance to prove his worth after being continually snubbed by Solskjaer.

.

This, though, was a huge night for Maguire, in particular in terms of his suitability to continue to wear the captain's armband. One of Solskjaer's final acts as United boss was to defend Maguire's status as captain and insist he had never considered taking the armband from the 28-year-old.

That show of faith backfired with Maguire's dismissal at Vicarage Road and gave credence to the criticism of former United skipper Roy Keane, who has long declared the defender lacks the leadership qualities and consistency of performance to be captain.

Against that backdrop, and with United in crisis, this was the time for Maguire to step up and prove his leadership credentials, marshalling a defence that had kept just two clean sheets in 25 games in all competitions going into last night's encounter.

To that aim, Maguire succeeded, United tighter and more disciplined at the back and then profiting from a defensive mistake from their opponents, Fred dispossessing Etienne Capoue and Cristiano Ronaldo providing the finishing touch for his sixth goal in five Champions League games.

United's game-plan from the start was to keep it tight and then seize upon their chances to score as the game opened up, a sensible approach from Carrick, given how easy it has been for opponents to carve them open and score in recent weeks.

David De Gea, as he has done so often in recent weeks, kept United in the game at 0-0 with another showcase of fine saves, in particular a vital stop at full stretch just before the hour from Manu Trigueros.

But after the turmoil of recent weeks and the emotional exit of club legend Solskjaer, this was a night when stability was required, the bonus coming with Ronaldo's goal and Jadon Sancho's first for United, which sealed their place in the last 16.

United's first stemmed from a tactical shift Carrick had demanded during his half-time team talk, as Maguire revealed after the full-time whistle.

"As a Man United team we want to be on the front foot and aggressive and play at a high tempo," Maguire explained.

"The first half we played with a bit too much edgy and played with too much fear but we were solid without putting in enough pressure on those on the ball.

"We spoke about that at half-time and the first goal came from that. Like I said it must be a start and we need to keep pushing."

For Maguire, it was a step in the right direction after his recent travails, the United skipper answering his critics by leading the team to the win they needed in a time of crisis.