Sunday, December 5, 2021

Manchester United 3-2 Atalanta: Major Talking Points As Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Side Produce An Old Trafford Classic

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, UEFA Champions League 21 Oct 2021

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24 hours on from Liverpool’s thriller out in Madrid, Manchester United managed to match their Premier League rivals as they produced a sensational comeback at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

In a contest that was billed as one of the most important in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure, the English giants eventually landed an action-packed 3-2 win against Atalanta and a crucial Champions League victory.

Showing their resolve in the second-half after coming from 2-0 down, there is no doubt that Wednesday’s meeting was another European classic in the red half of Manchester.

On a night that could really turn out to be a catalyst for their campaign, we have taken a look at the major talking points from a sensational night at Old Trafford.

45 minutes that saved Ole

Watching both Fred a returning Marcus Rashford miss a pair of golden chances moments before heading into the break, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were hit with a chorus of boos from the Old Trafford crowd.

Still reeling from that woeful 4-2 defeat away at Leicester over the weekend, the former Premier League champions put in a nightmare first-half display that saw the home support reach a boiling point.

However, while Solskjaer and his squad might have rightfully received a string of criticism on either side of the international break, Manchester United put on a second-half romp that will be remembered for some time.

Coming flying out of the traps after heading down the tunnel 2-0 down at half-time, Wednesday’s hosts looked a completely different side and immediately pressured a heavily-altered Atalanta squad.

Needing just seven minutes after the break to get themselves back into the contest as Rashford calmly slotted home on what was his first start of the season, the arrival of Paul Pogba also offered United a new dimension.

With Harry Maguire finishing smartly into the bottom corner as he found himself free in the box with 15 minutes left, the drastic mood change inside Old Trafford certainly set up a grandstand finish.

Left hoping that they could replicate last month’s stunning late finish against Villereal, there was once again time for United’s returning icon to make his mark and send the home support into overdrive.

Ronaldo & De Gea save the day

Cutting a frustrated figure against Leicester in Manchester United’s drumming at the King Power last weekend, Cristiano Ronaldo has found himself coming under increasing scrutiny over the past few days.

However, although the five-time Ballon d’Or winner might have missed a golden chance only seconds after returning from the interval, Ronaldo managed to replicate his heroics from last month’s 2-1 win against Villereal.

Popping up in the middle of the box with under 10 minutes left on the clock, United’s attacking talisman guided his header past an on-looking Juan Musso and underlined why he is the Champions League’s greatest ever goalscorer.

Bagging his 137 European strike, and one that couldn’t have come at a more important time for an under-pressure Solskjaer, Ronaldo isn’t the only United superstar who deserves some of the praise.

While the English heavyweights might have seen another contest go by where they failed to keep a clean sheet, there is no doubt that David de Gea has been one of the Reds’ standout performers this season.

Once again cementing his spot as United’s number one, the Spanish international produced a subline double save moments before Maguire levelled the scoreline down the other end.

Firstly denying second-half substitute Duván Zapata with his legs, De Gea then managed to get back to his feet as he was able to parry Ruslan Malinovskiy’s drilled effort behind for a corner.

La Dea miss a golden chance

Making the trip to Old Trafford on Wednesday night with Head Coach Gian Piero Gasperini making it clear that he believed his side stood a real chance of causing an upset, Atalanta couldn’t have gotten off to a better start at Old Trafford.

While La Dea might have travelled to Manchester without five first-team stars, the Italian dark horses snatched a deserved lead after just 15 minutes as two former Chelsea misfits combined in United’s box.

With their away fans watching on as Mario Pašalić tapped home Davide Zappacosta’s cutback, Atalanta didn’t have to wait long to double their lead as defender Merih Demiral powered home his header just 13 minutes later.

However, with the Juventus loanee unable to come back out after the half-time break, an already depleted La Dea side struggled as the likes of Marten de Roon had to fill in as a makeshift central defender.

Simply overpowered in the second-half, despite De Gea denying both Zapata and Malinovskiy with his wonderful double save, Gasperini’s side will know that they missed out on a golden chance at Old Trafford.

Suffering just their second Champions League group stage defeat from their last 12 outings, Wednesday’s guests will be desperate to try and take away the positives from their eye-catching display in the first 45.

Match Report:

Manchester United: De Gea (8), Wan-Bissaka (5), Lindelöf (5), Maguire (6), Shaw (5.5), Fred (4), McTominay (4), Greenwood (4), Fernandes (6), Rashford (7), Ronaldo (7)

Subs: Cavani (7), Sancho (7), Pogba (7.5), Matic (N/A)

Atalanta: Musso (7), De Roon (6.5), Demiral (8), Palomino (6.5), Zappacosta (7), Koopmeiners (7), Freuler (7), Maehle (7), Pasalic (8), Ilicic (7.5), Muriel (7)

Subs: Lovato (6), Pezzella (5), Malinovskyi (6), Al Miranchuk (5.5), Zapata (5.5)

Goals: Manchester United: Rashford 53′, Maguire 75′, Ronaldo 81′ – Atalanta: Pasalic 15′, Demiral 28′

Yellow Cards: Manchester United: Cavani, Matic, Shaw – Atalanta: Lovato, De Roon, Palomino, Pasalic

Red Cards: N/A

Referee: Szymon Marciniak

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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