Cristiano Ronaldo has bailed Manchester United out once again, a stunning volley in stoppage time to add to his first half goal salvaged United a draw in Italy where it was a less than convincing performance which has left United 2nd in the group.
Cristiano Ronaldo: “The beginning was tough, we knew Atalanta would do a lot of pressure, they have a fantastic coach, when I played at Juventus they were always difficult to play against. We were a little bit lucky in the end but that is football.”
Solskjaer kept with the 5-3-2 which he used to beat Tottenham at the weekend, replacing Cavani, Fred and Lindelof with Rashford, Pogba and Bailly.
Atalanta matched United’s formation. starting Musso in goal, Demiral, Palomino and De Roon as the three centre backs, Zappacosta and Maehle as the wing backs, Freuler, Koopmeiners and Pasalic in central midfield with Zapata and Ilicic up front.
United looked shaky very early on, poor passing right from the start which set the tone for the rest of the match, however, United nearly took the lead early on, a McTominay shot took a deflection and it took it away from the keeper, but it rolled onto the post and Atalanta was able to clear.
Atalanta took the lead in the 12th minute through Josip Ilicic, McTominay attempted a tackle fbut played in Zapata in a good crossing position on the left hand side, he directed the cross behind the United defenders towards Ilicic, his shot went straight down the middle of the goal but De Gea made a mess of the save and it went through him to give the home side the lead.
The first half was very poor by United in possession, the midfield in Pogba and McTominay was very poor at keeping possession, with both failing to control the game, the first half also saw Raphael Varane go off injured, with him being replaced with Mason Greenwood which saw a change to 4-2-3-1 for the rest of the game.
United were able to equalise just before half time with Cristiano Ronaldo picking up a goal after a great team move, Greenwood played a pass through the lines to Bruno, with great vision, he backheeled it to Ronaldo who slotted it into the back of the net to draw United level.
In the second half, Man Utd were more dominant in possession, having 62% of the ball in the second half, however the half didn’t start off well for United, Zapata caught Bailly on his heels and he ran in behind, a ball over the top by Palaomino found him, with De Gea glued to his line and a failed challenge by Maguire, Zapata was easily able to poke the ball home from a few yards out.
For the rest of the half, despite the possession dominance, United were unable to cut through Atalanta, Solskjaer tried to change it up with taking off Pogba, who was really sloppy on the ball and Rashford for Matic and Cavani but nothing changed with United still struggling to get close to an equaliser.
Ronaldo’s last minute equaliser came out of nothing, Ronaldo picked the ball on the left hand side, he dribbled across the box but was tackled, a good touch by Greenwood set up a volley for Ronaldo and with an inch perfect strike into the bottom corner to salvage United a draw to avoid them dropping into the Europa League palaces in the group.
Solskjaer: “Cristiano is just incredible if there is anyone you want a chance to fall to and a difficult chance, it is just incredible.”
Gian Piero Gasperini: “We believed we could do it. It looked like they were all out of puff but we came up against an incredible player tonight.”
Even though Ronaldo salvaging a draw will be stealing the headlines, it was another performance where there were mistakes in all areas of the pitch for United, both goals by Atalanta could’ve easily been prevented and in possession chance creation was very poor, and with Man City coming up at the weekend, Solskjaer will have to work on a lot of things to stand a chance of getting a result on Saturday.
There were some glimpses of hope throughout the performance, one especially being Eric Bailly; It was his first performance since the Carabao Cup loss to West Ham, but he was easily United’s best defender, although he got caught ball watching for Atalanta’s second goal, he was flying into every challenge and stopped a lot of potential dangerous attacks by Atalanta and with his perforamnce it has put him in contention to start at the weekend.