Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring for Manchester United against Atalanta. Credit: Getty.
Cristiano Ronaldo once again came to Manchester United’s rescue in the Champions League, with his two-goal salvo ensuring the Red Devils drew 2-2 away to Atalanta.
It’s a significant point for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men, which leaves them top of Group F after four games, and their destiny is very much still in their own hands.
Twice United came from behind in Bergamo, with Josep Ilicic opening the scoring in the first period, before Ronaldo tucked home Bruno Fernandes’s backheel in the box.
The excellent Duvan Zapata then put Atalanta ahead again after the break, before Ronaldo volleyed home in injury-time to grab a point for United, on a night when once again the Red Devils put in an under par performance.
- Cristiano Ronaldo: He just can’t help himself in the Champions League and Ronaldo has scored in all of United’s European games this season. In doing so, he’s become the first United player to score in four consecutive Champions League matches since his ex-team-mate Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2003.
- Eric Bailly: The defender had played just 90 minutes of club football this season prior to Tuesday, and that was in the League Cup. But he put in an excellent performance and bailed United out defensively on a number of occasions.
- Duvan Zapata: The Atalanta No.91 was superb in Bergamo and netted the decisive goal of the night. He harried the United defence, linked up with his attacking team-mates, provided the assist for Ilicic’s opener and it took a last-ditch Eric Bailly block to deny Zapata a goal in the first half.
- David De Gea: The opening goal was a moment to forget for the Spaniard, who has been probably United’s best player of the season to date. But Ilicic’s shot squirmed just under his arms after 12 minutes to give the hosts the lead, and he really should have held the strike.
- Raphael Varane: Having just returned from injury, the sight of the centre-back sprawled on the surface was not welcome viewing for Solskjaer, and the defender was forced off with a problem late in the first half. It’s even more of a concern given Victor Lindelof is also a doubt ahead of the Manchester derby.
- Paul Pogba: The World Cup winner hasn’t endured many poorer nights in a United shirt than he did at the Stadio di Bergamo. Pogba, playing in a midfield two alongside Scott McTominay, struggled to dispossess the Atalanta central players and misplaced repeated passes. So poor was the Frenchman, he was taken off in the second period with United chasing a goal.
- VAR: Video technology was called into action three times in Italy and on two occasions it took an age. The first decision was required after Bailly was suspected of handling the ball in the box after blocking a Zapata shot, while the striker’s goal in the 56th minute was awarded after a significant wait. Frustratingly, neither review seemed particularly complicated when shown on the replays.
Atalanta (3-4-2-1): Musso 6; De Roon 8, Demiral 6, Palomino 7; Zappacosta 6, Freuler 6, Koopmeiners 7, Maehle 6; Ilicic 7 (Muriel 71), Pasalic 7 (Djimsiti 46;6); Zapata 9.
Manchester United (3-4-1-2/4-2-3-1): De Gea 5; Bailly 8, Varane 6 (Greenwood 38;7) Maguire 5; Wan-Bissaka 5, McTominay 7 (Sancho 87), Pogba 3 (Matic 69;6), Shaw 5; Fernandes 6 (Van de Beek 87); Ronaldo 8, Rashford 5 (Cavani 69;6).
It’s another huge game for Solskjaer’s men, who host Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday (12:30 pm kick-off). The Blues are in action on Wednesday against Club Brugge, giving United an extra 24 hours to prepare for the derby, which precedes another two-week international break.