Manchester United shrugged off their blues ahead of a weekend Chelsea meeting by getting to the Champions League last 16 with a 2-0 victory at Villarreal on Tuesday night.
With the club having sacked coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after only two wins in their previous eight games, caretaker boss Michael Carrick hopes there is more to come when they visit the in-form Premier League leaders on Sunday.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, with goalkeeper David de Gea making a string of first-half saves to keep United in the Group F clash.
But Cristiano Ronaldo capitalised on a defensive error to lift the ball over the keeper for his 799th career goal to give United a precious lead with 12 minutes to play before and Jadon Sancho’s first since his £73m off-season move - a top-class finish to a good team move - ensured the Red Devils go into the knockout phase with a game to spare.
And Sancho is looking to build on this, saying in a social media post: “Proud to score my first goal for ManUtd in the best competition in world football. Great team effort from the boys tonight, we build from this.”
Carrick says: “It's not been an easy couple of days for anyone at the club and that result almost feels like it’s for Ole.
“When you've suffered results-wise and aren't in good form, individually and as a team, it's not easy to come out and let everything click - we had to show some character and fight.
“It's not an important result for me personally. It's an important one for the players and the club.
“Hopefully this is a fresh start and there is more to come.”
Tuesday’s other Champions League results: Malmo 1 Zenit St. Petersburg 1, Barcelona 0 Benfica 0, Young Boys 3 Atalanta 3, Lille 1 Salzburg 0, Sevilla 2 Wolfsburg 0, Dynamo Kiev 1 Bayern Munich 2.
Wednesday’s Champions League results: Liverpool 2 Porto, Atletico Madrid 0 AC Milan 1, Sporting 3 Dortmund, Real Madrid 3 Sheriff 0, Manchester City 2 PSG 1, Leipzig 5 Club Brugge 0.