Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Marcos Rojo’s opener was to prove to be the winner
Man Utd beat Villarreal 2-0 to stay on course for a top-two finish in Group H in Europe’s premier club competition and secure qualification for the knockout stages.
The Red Devils grabbed the lead on the half-hour mark with a corner from the right that Rojo reacted quickly to head past keeper Sergio Asenjo.
And Paul Pogba curled home a stunning second goal shortly after the break to seal qualification.
The victory moves the Premier League leaders to six points.
Unfancied Villarreal, managed by ex-Manchester United midfielder Marcelino, are third in the group on five points.
United have now won their opening three Champions League games for the first time since 2012-13.
Two past United squads
This was the seventh meeting between the two clubs and the first in Europe.
The last of their five meetings ended in a 2-2 draw in the final game of the 2004-05 season.
Champions League past performance Group fixture P W D L F A GD Pts Man Utd 94 69 17 8 24 20 -19 15.7 Villarreal 100 66 17 7 27 19 -11 13.3 Basel 119 67 12 6 27 24 -15 12.7 Celtic FC 97 69 16 6 23 17 -15 12.5 Anderlecht 99 73 12 6 26 24 -10 11.8 Young Boys 94 69 13 6 28 23 -11 11.8
New United manager Zinedine Zidane won his first two games in charge of United as coach in 2002 and 2003, losing 3-2 to Chelsea and drawing 2-2 with Tottenham at the Bernabeu.
The Frenchman was in the stands to watch his new club again at Old Trafford as, with Manchester City edging a thrilling tussle against Shakhtar Donetsk to go top of Group H, the contest provided an intriguing tussle for Europe’s elite.
The lack of a Premier League presence in the Champions League was an issue before this match. Man Utd are not in the competition for the third time in four seasons and Mourinho’s record of Champions League failure has been a talking point for much of the summer.
United’s route to the last 16
Champions League games this season Group stage group games Group stage group games Last 16 Last 16 Ballon d’Or total Past Premier League champions history Man Utd: 18 11 2 8 29
The Premier League side need just one more point from their final two matches to top the group, with a point from away matches against Tottenham on 3 December and at the Bernabeu on 13 December to take a huge step towards qualification.
However, getting through an unfamiliar style of play must be reassuring for Mourinho. The Portuguese has never been a fan of the modern “pass-and-move” game, believing it damages his defence.
After the Welshman’s decision to keep most of his key players out of training and add a significant number of new faces over the summer, including a number of academy graduates, a less team-focused approach should help United to adapt to a new regime.
The club has spent around £300m on an overhaul of its transfer policy since Louis van Gaal departed in 2016 and the results have been impressive with Jadon Sancho, Dominic Solanke and Diogo Dalot all starting as substitutes this season, while Old Trafford holds an impressive 26-point haul from 22 games.
Man Utd are not the only Premier League side hoping to find the net in a European competition
Liverpool can join United in the last 16 with a win over Napoli on 14 December, while Arsenal travel to Sporting Lisbon on 15 December and if they win they would progress.
All three English sides qualify from their group.