Villarreal v Man Utd: Fernandes offers welcome reliability amid chaos

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's departure only adds to the confusion around Manchester United so Dave Tindall is playing other markets in their Champions League clash at Villarreal...

United enter post-Solskjaer era

After being humiliated by Liverpool and utterly outclassed by Manchester City, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was on the ropes.

The knockout punch came with Saturday's dreadful 4-1 loss to Watford and, after an emergency board meeting, Ole is no longer at the wheel.

A club statement said: "Michael Carrick will now take charge of the team for forthcoming games, while the club looks to appoint an interim manager to the end of the season."

The first of those forthcoming games is a trip to Spain where United renew acquaintances with Villarreal.

So, where do you even begin when trying to work out what might happen in this one?

It was hard enough under Solskjaer to fathom what United might do one game to the next. In fact, make that one half to the next.

That wasn't just down to the Norwegian; it's the result of an imbalanced team which has enough superstars to paper over the cracks on any given day.

United's European campaign has been a fair reflection of their Jekyll and Hyde displays.

They've lost at Young Boys and, despite getting in some terrible pickles, relied on some Roy of the Rovers stuff from Cristiano Ronaldo to beat Villarreal (2-1) and Atalanta (3-2) at Old Trafford and draw with the latter in Italy.

Ronaldo's late interventions (twice in added time) turned two points into seven and has given United real hope of progressing to the last 16.

Somehow, they top the group on seven points but defeat in Spain and victory for Atalanta at Young Boys would leave them in third.

At least United have a home tie against the Swiss to come which, in theory, is an insurance policy but you wouldn't put it past them to flunk that Old Trafford finale.

Villarreal out for revenge

Villarreal are still in a good position to reach the knockout stage although they will be forever scratching their heads how they lost against United in the first meeting.

The Spaniards dominated the first half and took a deserved lead through Paco Alcacer eight minutes after the break but Alex Telles thumped in an equaliser on the hour before Ronaldo popped up with his injury-time winner act.

After an opening 2-2 home draw with Atalanta, that left Unai Emery's side in a poor position but they've made the most of their back-to-back games against Young Boys, winning 4-1 away and 2-0 at home.

During the last few weeks, Unai also ruled himself out of the Newcastle job although it's not all been good news for Villarreal.

Domestically, they're down in 13th place and between the two Young Boys games they took just one point in nine.

They've rebounded a little in recent weeks with a 1-0 home win over Getafe and a 1-1 draw at Celta Vigo on Saturday.

They remain pretty solid at home though, with three wins, two draws and a single defeat, scoring 11 and conceding six.

United favourites for the win

Despite all the recent wobbles, Manchester United head the market at 2.5.

Villarreal are 3.0 to take victory while The Draw is 3.6.

To be honest, I don't have much interest in this market.

As well as United being wildly unpredictable, Villarreal are hardly beacons of consistency either. Their last six matches show two wins, two draws and two losses - very United-esque.

Punters are at least helped by some history which shows five draws in the last six meetings. That includes their meeting in the 2021 UEFA Cup final which the Spanish side won on penalties.

However, this could genuinely go any of three ways so I'll steer clear of the match market.

Over 2.5 goals expected

I also wouldn't want to put a lot of faith in the amount of goals these two could come up with.

There were three at Old Trafford in the first meeting and that tally could have been much higher. Over 2.5 is the favourite here at 1.83.

The counter-argument is that Emery likes to keep it tight in big games, as he did in the UEFA Cup final (1-1 at full-time), while United will be more cautious than usual after the Watford debacle.

Under 2.14 goals trades at 2.14.

Assist market offers best bet

Let's start with Villarreal in our perusal of the scorer markets.

They've scored nine goals in their four Champions League games in Group F which is healthy enough but they've divided that between eight different scorers.

The only man with two is Arnaut Danjuma and that includes strikes in both their home Champions League starts.

In fact, add in La Liga and he has six goals in just seven home matches so the Dutchman is worth a small play at 3.4 (Sportsbook) to score anytime.

The goals have completely dried up for Bruno Fernandes since Ronaldo arrived and the Portuguese playmaker has one goal in his last 16 for club and country. That came at home to Luxembourg.

But Fernandes has still been a good provider and he has seven assists in 17 games for United this season.

An even more favourable spin can be put on it: Fernandes has assisted seven times in his last 13 games for club and country and has an assist in all four Champions League matches so far.

On that basis, I'll have a wager on a Fernandes assist at 3.3 on the Sportsbook.

Ronaldo, by the way, is Evens to score anytime although the 4.5 for Last Goalscorer may be a better play given his penchant for late, late strikes.

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