Real Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka admitted the players eased off after an early three-goal blitz proved enough to see off Villarreal. Karim Benzema scored the opener in the seventh minute, before Kaka and Angel Di Maria found the back of the net as Los Merengues surged into a 3-0 lead inside 31 minutes.
Villarreal's poor form of late meant a comeback was never likely, and Real cruised through the second period. Karanka told the club's official: "We scored quickly and, frankly, managed the rest of the game rather well.
"We lowered the intensity of our performance after half-time and were more relaxed. Scoring early made our job easier and gave us confidence."
The win moved Real back up to second in La Liga, but they remain a point behind shock leaders Levante.
Karanka added: "The best team so far is Levante, and they deserve to be [top] because they're playing at a very high level. We must stay on this path, try to resolve games early on, and continue to earn victories."
Midfielder Xabi Alonso was pleased with how the Madrid heavyweights controlled the game, while also keeping something back for the weekend trip to Real Sociedad. "It's obvious our intention is to have a strong start to the game," he said.
"Things are always easier when we score first. We gave a great performance in the first half and strained ourselves less after half-time because we'll play another game on Saturday. We are controlling our fixtures increasingly more, and we are gradually reading them better.
"We showcased a fast game and we also kept possession for longer periods of time in which we knew how to read the game. This means the team continues to grow and that's a good sign. The team is ambitious and will continue to do things better."