Late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho were enough to earn an underwhelming Manchester United a 2-0 victory at Villarreal on Tuesday that guarantees them a spot in the Champions League knockout stage.
United came into the contest knowing victory would see them through to the last 16 with one group match left to play, but in Michael Carrick's first game as interim manager, United looked shorn of ideas in attack in the Estadio de la Ceramica.
The home side had much the better chances, with United goalkeeper David de Gea bailing his team out with several fine saves, the best of which denied Manu Trigueros a goal.
Out of nowhere, however, a poor pass from Villarreal keeper Geronimo Rulli that was miscontrolled by Etienne Capoue was then seized upon by Ronaldo, who lofted the ball over the stranded Rulli to give United the lead in the 78th minute.
Ronaldo's goals have been crucial for United in Europe this season. He scored late winners against Atalanta and Villarreal in the reverse fixture, while also netting a leveller in stoppage time at Atalanta in the last match.
The Portuguese forward got more than a helping hand for this important strike, but his finish was clinical. He also played a role in the second and clinching goal, laying the ball into substitute Bruno Fernandes, who fed Sancho to put the result beyond doubt.
The performance may have been disappointing, but United got the job done, moving top of Group F with 10 points, three ahead of Villarreal, who can no longer catch Carrick's side due to their inferior head-to-head record.
Easy for Chelsea
Chelsea claimed a thumping 4-0 victory over Juventus thanks to goals from home-grown trio Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi and a fourth by Timo Werner to top Champions League Group H and cruise into the knockout stage.
European champions Chelsea took control from the outset and never relaxed as they booked their place in the last 16.
Defender Chalobah, 22, smacked the ball into the net past the flailing arms of Wojciech Szczesny in the 25th minute after centre back Toni Rudiger set him up from a Hakim Ziyech corner.
A VAR check dismissed calls for handball against Rudiger when replays showed the ball hit his hand in front of his chest.
James, 21, showed superb technique to angle a shot into the left hand corner of the goal in the 55th and barely three minutes later 21-year-old Hudson-Odoi scored from a layoff by another Academy graduate Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Juventus had already qualified for the knockout stage but the result dropped them to second place in the group, level with Chelsea on 12 points, with one round of fixtures to play.