Heading into the month of September, Manchester United fans would have been expecting their side to go through a relatively straightforward fixture schedule unscathed, however the last few weeks have proven to be quite challenging for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, losing three of their last four games across all competitions.
After securing a 4-1 victory at home to Newcastle United shortly after the international break, their Champions League campaign got off to a nightmare start when they were defeated 2-1 by Group F outsiders Young Boys in Switzerland.
The Red Devils then came from behind to beat West Ham United 2-1 away from home in the Premier League, however the Hammers got their revenge just a few days later by winning 1-0 at Old Trafford
in the EFL Cup. United then returned to full strength at home against Aston Villa on Saturday, but the visitors claimed three well-earned points, piling pressure on Solskjaer’s shoulders.
Kourtney Hause’s 88th-minute header condemned United to their second successive home defeat, however they had the chance to rescue a point in stoppage time, only for Bruno Fernandes – usually so reliable from the penalty spot, scoring 42 of his last 45 spot-kicks – to blaze his effort from 12 yards over the crossbar.
Currently in the middle of a run of four consecutive home games across all competitions, United now turn their attention back to the Champions League where they come up against a Villarreal outfit,
who they have failed to beat in each of their five previous European encounters. In fact, all five meetings against them have ended in draws, four of which were goalless, except for last season’s Europa League final which the La Liga side won 11-10 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes.
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Manchester United have a poor record against Spanish opposition in the Champions League, having failed to win any of their last seven matches against them, with their last such victory against Real Sociedad back in October 2013.
In addition, Solskjaer himself has an unwanted Champions League record as United’s boss, as the Norwegian is the only manager in the club’s history to lose more than 50% of his games in charge, losing seven of his 11 matches in the competition.
United have never lost their opening two games in a major European competition, but if they were to fall short on Wednesday night, then further questions will certainly be asked regarding Solskjaer’s long-term future at the helm