Manchester United booked their place in the Champions League last 16 as Cristiano Ronaldo scored in a 2-0 victory at Villarreal on Tuesday (Nov 23).
Three-time European champions Man United went into their first game since sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the weekend needing a win to confirm a top-two finish in Group F. But they were under massive pressure as defeat would have left their fate out of their own hands.
David de Gea made two crucial saves and United, with Michael Carrick in caretaker charge, took advantage through Ronaldo's 78th-minute lob.
Jadon Sancho, so often a peripheral figure since his big-money move from Borussia Dortmund in the close-season, capped a fine individual display with his first goal for the club late on.
"It's not an important result for me personally. It's an important one for the players and the club," said Carrick.
Ronaldo's goal was the 799th of his career, his 140th in the Champions League and his sixth in the competition this season.
The other qualification spot in the group remains up for grabs after Young Boys and Atalanta played out a thrilling 3-3 draw in Bern.
Late goals from Vincent Sierro and Silvan Hefti gave the Swiss champions a 3-2 lead, but Luis Muriel struck in the 88th minute for the visitors.
Atalanta face a winner-takes-all match against Villarreal in Bergamo next month.