Another memorable night at Old Trafford
Manchester United staged another incredible Champions League comeback to turn a 2-0 deficit on its head and emerge 3-2 winners at Old Trafford. Not to be outdone by their rivals Liverpool, who emerged 3-2 winners last night, the Red Devils handed Atalanta a 2-0 lead heading into half time, boos rang around the Theatre of Dreams.
In the second half, however, a different Manchester United emerged. Marcus Rashford provided the lifeline, firing the first beyond the Atalanta shot-stopper, before Harry Maguire thumped home the equaliser. The headlines, however, will go to Cristiano Ronaldo, who rose highest to nod in what proved to be the winner ten minutes from time, and relieved some of the pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Here are 4 things that 101 picked out from the game.
1. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still doesn’t know his best 11
Although the ultimate result was a positive one, it was a very different Manchester United in the first half. Solskjaer once again made changes, with Paul Pogba and Jadon Sancho dropping to the bench in favour of Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford.
With so much talent at his disposal, it is easy to sympathise with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but it seems clear that the Norwegian still has no idea of quite who fits into his strongest lineup. With a tough set of fixtures coming up, he will have to find out soon, or risk learning the hard way.
2. Manchester United have the same glaring issue from last season
While Manchester United strengthened in key positions in the summer by bringing in Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, to fill gaps at right-midfield and centre-back respectively, the same glaring problem still exists.
The position in question? Central midfield. Solskjaer reverted to his famed “McFred” pairing, but while hard-working they were woefully exposed in the first half, which saw Atalanta net twice. It i clear that while it was in part due to tactical choices (Solsjaer employing 4 attackers), the pair behind them are not good enough to allow him to do that regularly and with confidence.
Had they made one more statement signing in the centre of the park, we could be talking about them as title challengers. For now, it looks as though they will fall short again.
3. Sir Alex Ferguson passed down the hairdryer to Ole
The Red Devils have made a habit of staging comebacks after falling behind, and this was certainly one of their more impressive ones. Despite Sir Alex Ferguson leaving the club in 2013, there were shades of his hairdryer treatment in the way in which Solskjaer’s side emerged for the second half, as it has for much of his reign.
Perhaps it is the characters in the dressing room, or a side of Ole that fans do not see, but it certainly seems as though the myth of the hairdryer has been passed down to the Norwegian, something that the United faithful were incredibly grateful this evening.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo always find a way
It would not be a Manchester United result this season without Cristiano Ronaldo finding a way to steal the headlines. After netting a last gasp winner against Villareal in matchday 2, which prevented them from ending that night bottom of their group, the Portuguese star repeated the trick once more, and will surely continue to do so.
Desperately searching for a winner, Luke Shaw’s cross found the returning hero’s head, who powered a header into the back of the net ten minutes from time, and ultimately allowed the Red Devils to walk away with all three points.
For all the talk of their shortcomings (which, alluded to above, are clear), when Cristiano Ronaldo is in your side, there is always a chance of pulling a rabbit out of the hat, and it is something that he continues to do.
Did he save Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s job?
Manchester United head to Bergamo to take on Atalanta again in two weeks time, knowing that a win would make them heavy favourites to qualify. Before that, they play host to Liverpool and travel to Tottenham in the Premier League.