Manchester United vs Atalanta 3-2: Ronaldo Breaks Atalanta Hearts

Cristiano Ronaldo stole the headlines at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, scoring the winning goal as Manchester United came back from two goals down to win 3-2 in an agonizing defeat for Atalanta. 

Atalanta were in pole position to take all three points in Gian Piero Gasperini’s 250th game in charge for La Dea when they went two goals up in the first half. However, a second half comeback by Man United gave them all three points to send them top of Group F in the UEFA Champions League after matchday three. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had been feeling the pressure heading into this one as United had only picked up one win in their last five games in all competitions. The Norwegian seemingly set up in a very offensive system, deploying a 4-2-4 with Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford starting in attack. 

Gasperini’s side had to deal with five first team players out for this one with Martin De Roon starting at the back in his unnatural position. Rafael Toloi and Berat Djimsiti were missing for Atalanta at the back tonight as well as wing-back Robin Gosens. 

Nonetheless, Atalanta took the lead after just 15 minutes when Mario Pasalic was able to convert from close range, following a Davide Zappacosta cross. A quick free-kick was played in behind for Luis Muriel who slid in Zappacosta, making a good run in behind the United defense. It was not the start Solskjaer had hoped for. 

It was a dream start for Gasperini and the travelling Atalanta fans were sent into pandemonium when on-loan central-defender Merih Demiral doubled the lead for La Dea. Teun Koopmeiners delivered a corner from the right and Demiral was left relatively unmarked as he headed past David De Gea. Questions marks were raised about the marking by both Scott McTominay and Harry Maguire for the goal. 

United struggled in the first half, losing the midfield battle as Fred and McTominay struggled as the front four of Fernandes, Ronaldo, Greenwood and Rashford did not track back. The best chance for United in the first half fell to Fred but his effort from close range was saved superbly by ‘keeper Juan Musso. 

Musso made a couple of decent saves as Rashford also struck the bar in the first half but it was not a good first forty-five for the Red Devils, as they went in at half-time to boos from the Old Trafford crowd. 

Demiral was subbed off at half-time due to a hamstring injury as 21-year-old Matteo Lovato came into the depleted Atalanta defense. Atalanta will be left wondering what might have been if the Turkish defender was not forced off. 

United continued to pile on the pressure in the second half as they looked to fight their way back into the match and Musso was forced into making a good save from Cristiano Ronaldo early on. 

Bruno Fernandes led the comeback for United, who put on a creative masterclass all night, creating nine chances throughout the game. He played a key role in United’s first goal, playing a world class ball with the outside of his boot into Rashford. The England international had missed a couple of chances earlier on but he made no mistake this time, curling his effort past Musso into the bottom right corner. 

The momentum had well and truly shifted as United continue to pile on the pressure in search for an equalizer. McTominay thought he had brought the scores level just before the hour mark but his effort from close range struck the post. 

Atalanta were under the cosh in the second half and Fernandes was dictating the play, dropping deeper in the second half as he looked to help in the midfield battle as well as create chances. Musso continued to do well, denying United as they looked to exert pressure on the visitors. 

Duvan Zapata was subbed on to help hold the ball up top for Atalanta and he nearly restored their two-goal lead when he turned Victor Lindelof in the area. However, De Gea made a very good save to deny the Colombian and then made another good save to deny Ruslan Malinovsky on the follow up. 

Harry Maguire brought the scores level with around 15 minutes left to play as the defender finished his effort brilliantly, peeling off at the back post. It was Maguire’s first Champions League and his first of the season, as United then looked to find the winner. 

Musso had a very busy night and made a good save to deny Fernandes from close range late on but he could do nothing about the winner scored by who else but Cristiano Ronaldo. Luke Shaw played a fantastic ball from the left into the box which was met by the head of Ronaldo, scoring a trademark goal into the bottom left corner, past a powerless Musso. 

It was a thrilling night at the theatre of dreams and Atalanta will be devastated to not come away with at least a point here. After a poor first half, conceding two poor goals, United bounced back and their offensive talent prevailed as they managed to complete the comeback and take all three points. 

Gasperini will be disappointed by the result here but Atalanta should be proud of their performance, especially with key players out for La Dea



October 20, 2021 – UEFA Champions League 2021-22 Group F Round 3

SCORERS: 15′ Pasalic (A), 29′ Demiral (A), 53′ Rashford (M), 75′ Maguire (M), 81′ Ronaldo (M)

Consistent MANCHESTER UTD (4-2-4): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay (66′ Pogba), Fred (88′ Matic); Greenwood (73′ Sancho), Fernandes, Ronaldo, Rashford (66′ Cavani) (Henderson, Bailly, Dalot, Telles, Lingard, Mata, Van de Beek, Elanga) Coach: Solskjaer 

ATALANTA (3-4-1-2): Musso; de Roon, Demiral (45′ Lovato), Palomino; Zappacosta, Koopmeiners (80′ Pezzella), Freuler, Maehle; Pasalic (68′ Malinovsky); Muriel (56′ Zapata), Ilicic (68′ Miranchuk) (Sportiello, Rossi, Piccoli, Scalvini) Coach: Gasperini

REFEREE: Marciniak (Poland)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Lovato, De Roon, Palomino (A), Shaw, Matic, Cavani (M); Added Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 4′