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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must solve Manchester United’s flaws with Atalanta tipped to expose them

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Manchester United will go head to head with Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday evening as they look to get three more points in the group stages of the competition. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have been in poor form recently, last winning in the Champions League as Cristiano Ronaldo scored a late goal against Villarreal. United previously lost to Young Boys in their opening match of the competition.

United lost 4-2 to Leicester City in the Premier League at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, which still sees them in sixth place in the league – five points adrift of league leaders Chelsea. It is fair to say that the season is not going to plan for Solskjaer and United and the pressure will only intensify if that poor form continues. United last won in the league in the 2-1 victory over West Ham United a month ago.

Over the past few years, Italian side Atalanta have become the most-improved team in Europe and are known for their possession-based game plan which is something that could have United on the rocks. The Italian side beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield in the competition last season, despite losing 5-0 three weeks prior. It just goes to show that the side are capable of achieving what may seem the impossible at times.

Former United goalkeeper, Massimo Taibi, who is well-known for not achieving anything at United, other than that embarrassing goal conceded against Southampton, scored by none other than Matt Le Tissier, seems to think that Atalanta will put his old club to the test at the Theatre of Dreams on Wednesday evening, which is something that could possibly happen. Speaking to Bergamo News, which was reported by The Mirror, he said:

“With classy players like [Josip] Ilicic and [Luis] Muriel, yes, they can put them in difficulty, because United attacks but also leaves you the space to reply.

“Manchester United are strong. On paper they can be even stronger than Atalanta. But La Dea must not distort itself. They must respect the opponent and yet be aware of their own strengths.

“After all, at Anfield or in Amsterdam, Atalanta were able to grasp results that seemed almost impossible on paper. Atalanta have a good chance of claiming a positive result.”

Atalanta beat Empoli 4-1 in Serie A on Sunday, which will just continue to become an elephant in the room for United after their heavy defeat by Leicester. United have been accused of being top heavy this season, which has seen may teams cut right through them, which happened on Saturday added to problems in the defence with Harry Maguire clearly not fit enough to start the match.

The pressure to achieve with United has been growing for much of the last year after United returned from lockdown in great form, but tired at the end of the 2019/20 season, which also caused the start of the 2020/21 season to become dire ending the season in the UEFA Europa League final, but losing to Villarreal on penalties after failing to win the match in normal or added time.

United will need to find a formation that accommodates the players at the club this season, which is something that former United captain Gary Neville agrees with too. The fact the squad does not have a midfielder capable of running the show is telling, but that is not something that is going to change any time soon – especially with the Glazer’s in charge of the club, as United have Paul Pogba, Fred, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay, so will be expected to sell in order to buy.

United have kept just one clean sheet this season, seem to lose possession easily and it also seem that some players, not mentioning any names as I don’t want to upset people’s agendas, who are not willing to bust a gut for the club that they play for. It seems like some players are happy to not even put in the minimum effort and blame others for the results.

I have a feeling that this is going to be a long and hard season for United and lessons should have already been learned but the same old problem seems to continue to happen time and time again, even under different management. There are players playing for this club that do not deserve to be associated with the club and that seems to be something that we are all stuck with.

Written by John Walker

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copyright: JW