David De Gea was at his springing and sprawling best to help secure a winning start for Michael Carrick as Man United caretaker, pulling-off a stop for his highlight reel.
Villarreal put United under pressure in Spain and had to wait for Cristiano Ronaldo to force a breakthrough in the 78th minute – after De Gea had kept them in the game.
The Spanish stopper, fighting for his place, reacted sharply to stop a thumping effort from Manu Trigueros on minute 58, flicking the ball round the post.
David De Gea made a crucial save from Manu Trigueros in Man United’s win over Villarreal
Michael Carrick (left) was delighted with the keeper after playing a crucial role in his first win
Owen Hargreaves sung the keeper’s praises on BT Sport: ‘I thought David was the most influential player, especially in that first half.
‘They were under a bit of pressure from Villarreal, we know they create. David, this season, has been fantastic. He had a difficult game against Watford, as a lot of players did, but David made some big saves.
‘David created the platform for them to go and win the game. They made some good changes, but David was the one who had his normal form.
‘They’re saves he should make, but they’re important saves. I think it gives the players a bit more confidence.’
Cristiano Ronaldo made the breakthrough before Jadon Sancho finished the job in Spain
De Gea has made a determined effort to claw back his brilliant best and he’s securing his spot
De Gea was consigned to the bench for Spain’s run to the semi-final of Euro 2020 after a dreadful season for United, and came into the season under pressure from Dean Henderson for the No 1 spot.
De Gea returned to pre-season early and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stuck with him from the season kick-off, and the 31-year-old has begun to show flashes of his very best.
Red Devils fan @utdzky wrote on Twitter: ‘David De Gea is definitely the MOTM. He was Man United’s best player against Villarreal’
‘Special mention to David De Gea. Absolutely monster today,’ @BreezyUTD added.
Rio Ferdinand was equally impressed: ‘I think early in the game there was a nervousness, which was expected given the form.
‘You need, behind the defence when it’s going to be breached, someone like that, who is going to pull off those saves. He’s been their most consistent player this season, next to Cristiano.
‘There’s no way you get big results away from home without your goalkeeper playing well a lot of the time. You need them to step up.’