Manchester United got back to winning ways in dramatic fashion against Atalanta in the Champions League. After giving up two first half goals, Manchester United responded with three in the second half to take three points.
The pressure is on for Manchester United early on this season and it seems like they did not get the memo in the first half. A lot of sideways passing, not enough energy when sitting back defensively in their shape. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer played it safe with the lineup.
Sitting back is common in the 4-2-3-1, you overload the middle with two defensive midfielders, the attacking midfielder comes in and looks to start the counter and that is what Manchester United tried to do early. Some good long ball attempts to Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford early could not produce any solid results.
When they had the ball it was a lot of sideways passing, United could not really getting anything going in the final third besides a well worked passing combination where Bruno would find a looping runner after he passes the ball, the Fred chance was an example of that. Crosses were scarce and United could never get a good switch going and getting wide players in one-on-one situations.
When Atalanta had the ball there was not enough pressure on the ball, too many times they allowed Atalanta to pass the ball around and they got caught in the 15th minute. Luis Muriel was found on a long ball by Josip Ilicic, he held the ball up to find Ilicic again.
Ilicic slickly found Davide Zappacosta, he found Mario Pasalic for the tap in. It was poor from Scott McTominay and Harry Maguire, but more so from McTominay who failed to mark Pasalic.
More suffering for Manchester United when Atalanta won a corner. Merih Demiral got in between Luke Shaw and Maguire for the easy header. On the build up before the corner Ilicic helped overload United’s left side, he played in Teun Koopmeiners outside the box, Muriel cleared space and United blocked the shot. It was clever from Atalanta.
That was the theme for Atalanta when they had the ball, they did not have as many accurate passes as Manchester United, but they were more adventurous and thoughtful. They looked to use their wing-backs a lot to create the overloads and Pasalic and Ilicic did well to move the ball quickly for those switches.
Manchester United had some opportunities, the Fred chance after the great build up. Another Bruno long ball found Rashford, he was played in by Demiral. A few minutes earlier Demiral stopped Rashford from scoring with an amazing tackle, it was ruled offsides, but would have been reversed.
Rashford smashed the crossbar and even though they went down 2-0 at half, the final actions of the first half would give United hope in the second.
Typical Manchester United
Ronaldo had an opportunity to get Manchester United off to a flying start in the second half, but his shot was straight at Juan Musso. It was Rashford who got things going for United.
A brilliant pass played in Rashford from Bruno. Rashford had plenty of space and time. He cooly finished to send the crowd in a frenzy, a stark difference from the occasional boos and silence that was common in the first half at Old Trafford.
Three yellow cards for Atalanta in quick concession had them on the ropes with over 30 minutes to play in the match. Manchester United were unlucky not to score soon after, McTominay almost turned in a deflected Mason Greenwood cross only to be denied by the post.
Ronaldo almost found the back of the net in the 64th minute. Maguire found some space, he found Bruno at the top of the box, he controlled and found Ronaldo. Ronaldo’s let footed shot was saved well by Musso. Good signs from United as they push for the equalizer.
Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba entered the game for McTominay and Rashford in the 66th minute. A good sign from United, it was countered by Atalanta with two attacking midfielders, Aleksei Miranchuk and Ruslan Malinovskiy.
Atalanta always had good moments despite the Manchester United resurgence. Duvan Zapata had came on for Muriel earlier and he forced a terrific save out of David de Gea. Zapata turned Victor Lindelof brilliantly on the play. The follow up from outside the box from Malinovskiy was also well saved by de Gea.
Manchester United would find their leveler in the 75th minute. United won a corner and tried to play it quick, the ball came back to Bruno with the big men still up top. Bruno whipped in a cross, Cavani let it run and the ball fell perfectly to Maguire with the goal gaping, 2-2.
It had to be him in the 81st minute. Ronaldo finally found some space in the box. Shaw finally had a good cross, something lacking from both players in recent games. Shaw’s cross was brilliant and Ronaldo finished superbly with a header, 3-2 Manchester United on top.
Manchester United are now top of their Champions League group and will face Atalanta again in the competition this time in Italy.