Summit meeting at El Madrigal

Qualification for the first knockout round in first place is the prize for whoever wins the contest between Group E leaders Manchester United and their closest challengers Villarreal CF in Spain on Matchday 5.

There was nothing between the teams on Matchday 1
There was nothing between the teams on Matchday 1 ©Getty Images

First place in UEFA Champions League Group E is at stake when the section's top two teams, Manchester United FC and Villarreal CF, square off at El Madrigal on Matchday 5.

• With both clubs six points clear of Celtic FC and Aalborg BK and almost certain to progress to the last 16, this match offers them the opportunity to not only end any lingering doubts but, moreover, ensure their qualification as group winners.

• A draw would send the pair through while retaining United's position above Villarreal at the top of the group. Having drawn 0-0 with the Spanish club at Old Trafford, United – whose goal difference is superior – would earn themselves a better head-to-head record too should they record a score draw at El Madrigal.

• Each side can be denied qualification by one combination of results only. In the hosts' case, a United victory together with a Celtic win at AaB would leave them with work still to do on Matchday 6, while the same would apply for United should they lose and AaB beat Celtic.

• This is the fourth encounter between the teams and, curiously, they have not produced a single goal between them in the previous 270 minutes' combined action.

• When Villarreal and United met in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League group stage, it was the tournament debutants from Spain who came out on top, holding Sir Alex Ferguson's team to goalless draws both at home and away en route to securing first place in the section. United finished bottom of the group, recording their worst performance in the competition since 1995.

• Wayne Rooney was sent off after 64 minutes of Villarreal's goalless draw with United in Spain on 14 September 2005.

• The lineups that evening were:
Villarreal: Sebastián Viera, Jan Kromkamp, Gonzalo Rodríguez, Quique Álvarez, Rodolfo Arruabarrena, Héctor Font (Roger García), Josico (Alessio Tacchinardi), Marcos Senna, Juan Pablo Sorín, Diego Forlán, Antonio Guayre (Luciano Figueroa).
Man United: Edwin van der Sar, John O'Shea, Rio Ferdinand, Mikaël Silvestre, Gabriel Heinze (Kieran Richardson), Cristiano Ronaldo (Ryan Giggs), Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes, Alan Smith, Wayne Rooney, Ruud van Nistelrooy (Ji-Sung Park).

• The two further stalemates between the sides came at Old Trafford, on 22 November 2005 and then in their opening fixture of the present campaign on 17 September.

• Villarreal's first meeting with English opposition came when they defeated Middlesbrough FC 2-0 in a home tie in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup group stage. They then faced another three in the next season's UEFA Champions League. They secured 2-1 wins both at home and away against Everton FC in the third qualifying round before holding United twice. However, their run of luck against English sides ended when they met Arsenal FC in the semi-final, losing 1-0 in London before a goalless draw at El Madrigal, Juan Román Riquelme having a late penalty saved in the second leg.

• United have played 17 away games against Spanish sides, with just one win recorded alongside seven draws and nine defeats. That solitary success came at RC Deportivo La Coruña in the quarter-finals of the 2001/02 UEFA Champions League thanks to goals from David Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

• On their most recent visit they earned a 0-0 draw at FC Barcelona in the first leg of last season's semi-final, helping to set up a 1-0 aggregate success.

• Villarreal have never lost a UEFA Champions League home game. Including the 2005/06 third qualifying round they have collected five wins and four draws at El Madrigal in the competition.

• In this season's competition, they have recorded home wins against Celtic (1-0) and AaB (6-3) while earning away draws with United (0-0) and AaB (2-2).

• United's unbeaten away record in the competition stretches back eight matches and so far on their travels this term they have recorded a 3-0 victory at AaB and drawn 1-1 at Celtic. At home Sir Alex's men were held by Villarreal (0-0) and beat Celtic (3-0) and overall they have not lost a UEFA Champions League fixture for 18 months, going back to their May 2007 semi-final defeat by AC Milan.

• Sir Alex's most famous victories against Spanish opposition came in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. Twenty-five years ago he led Scottish side Aberdeen FC to a 2-1 final success against Real Madrid CF and he then oversaw United's 2-1 defeat of Barcelona in the final of the same competition in 1991.

• Villarreal's former Arsenal midfielder Robert Pirès finished on the winning side only three times in 13 meetings with United during his time with the London club between 2000 and 2006. He was, however, in Arsenal's victorious team in the 2005 FA Cup final against United.

• Villarreal defender Joan Capdevila appeared as a late substitute for Deportivo La Coruña on the night they defeated United 3-2 at Old Trafford in a UEFA Champions League first group-stage game on 17 October 2001.

• Villarreal forward Giuseppe Rossi was a United player for three years between 2004 and 2007. Rossi made 14 appearances in that time, scoring four times. In the UEFA Champions League, he appeared as a late substitute in both the 3-0 home win against Debreceni VSC in the third qualifying round in August 2005 and the 1-0 defeat away against LOSC Lille Métropole in the group stage three months later.

Top