Rio Ferdinand has praised Manchester United for earning their hard-fought victory over Villarreal, a result which sealed their spot in the Champions League last-16.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho scored late in the second half to ensure Michael Carrick picked up all three points in his first game in temporary charge.
However, the clash was far from plain sailing for a United side short on confidence, and Ferdinand has highlighted his former club’s ability to dig in and stay compact.
Rio Ferdinand praised Manchester United after their hard-fought victory against Villarreal
‘There’s no doubt in my mind that in that changing room, they would have been pushing the clean sheet message,’ Ferdinand said post-match on BT Sport.
‘Keep a clean sheet, we have the players who can score the goals. That comes from not individuals but a team performance, a collective.
‘This game was about no thrills, discipline and they had a plan. They’re the things we’ve been asking for for weeks and weeks and weeks.
Cristiano Ronaldo (L) lobbed home United’s superb opener to help them seal their last-16 spot
Ferdinand says United’s performance was back to basics after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking
‘This wasn’t a performance of beautiful, fairy-tale, imaginative football we can all eulogise about.
‘It was roll your sleeves up, get into position, be there and be hard to beat. They’ve done that today.’
Ferdinand also believes that United went back to basics for the crunch tie, and likened the performance to the first days of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign.
David de Gea was forced into an eye-catching stop to deny Manu Trigueros with the scoreline locked level, and United scored both goals from lightning counter-attacks.
Jadon Sancho scored late on for his first United goal to cap off Michael Carrick’s first victory
‘I think this performance was more about going back to type,’ Ferdinand added.
‘I think you saw in the early part of Ole’s tenure, before he got his contract, in that fabulous run it was more about soaking up pressure sometimes and using the capabilities of the attacking players to hurt teams on the counterattack.
‘Chelsea at the weekend, I think that will be a replica of the second half performance today.’
Sancho’s showing drew particular praise from the pundits, after the winger fired home his first United goal off the crossbar to seal the three points.
Sancho’s sensational performance in Spain drew widespread praise from pundits at full-time
‘He looked fitter than he has done. I was really pleased for him,’ Scholes told BT Sport. ‘A really young player who’s had a difficult start. But I thought he was United’s best player tonight.
‘I think they need to use him more. Playing in this team is a little different, because he doesn’t have a flying full back like he did at Dortmund, which I think helps.
‘He wants to play further up. He’s such a clever footballer. I think he’s fitter. You just look at him, I think he looks half a stone slimmer.’