Despite losing against Young Boys on the opening matchday, Manchester United qualified for the Champions League last-16 as Group F winners.
Ralf Rangnick’s Reds will face off against Diego Simeone’s out-of-form Atletico Madrid for a spot in the quarter-finals of the world’s best club competition.
But things could have been very different if Villarreal had their star striker Gerard Moreno available for both clashes against the Red Devils.
The 29-year-old missed both of the games due to injury and Unai Emery’s side suffered as a result.
The Europa League holders missed some guilt edge chances which they may have converted if their star man was on the end of them.
United know all about the Spanish international after he opened the scoring in May’s Europa League final in Gdansk.
The Yellow Submarine’s number seven returned from injury for the crucial winner takes all clash against Atalanta, in the final Group F game.
Moreno set up Arnaut Danjuma for the Dutchman’s second of the night, which gave the El Madrigal side a 3-0 lead after 51 minutes.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s side made it a grandstand finish in Bergamo with two late goals, but Emery’s side boosted by the return of Moreno held on and qualified for the last-16, where they will face a Juventus side, who seem to be going through a transitional phase.
In the five matches since Michael Carrick guided United to a 2-0 win at the El Madrigal, Moreno has four goals and two assists to his name, since returning from injury.
In his 13 appearances for the season so far, Moreno has seven goals and three assists. Injuries may have curtailed his chances of improving on last season’s 30 goals across all competitions, but it seems just a matter of time before he’s back in Luis Enrique’s Spain squad.
Manchester United capitalised on the absence of Villarreal’s talisman. One can only wonder how we would have fared if it would have been our number seven who missed three of our group stage matches.
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