Preview: Leeds win should inspire United against Atletico for De Gea’s homecoming – Come on United

A victory is the plan but a consistent performance is worth more

Atletico Madrid -v- Manchester United

UEFA Champions League

Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid

Wednesday 23 February 2022, KO 20:00 GMT

Referee: Ovidiu HaţeganAssistants: Mircea Mihail Grigoriu, Sebastian Gheorgh

Fourth Official: Radu Petrescu

VAR: Massimiliano Irrati – Assistant VAR: Maurizio Mariani

Manchester United return to UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday evening as they travel to face Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid in the round of 16 first leg match. United will be seeking to reach the quarter finals this season.

Gone are the away goals in the competition this season, so there will be no main advantage with the second leg tie being played at Old Trafford, so 180 minutes of football should decide the winner of this tie, although extra time and penalties could be a decider, if needed.

Ralf Rangnick’s side kept their form against Leeds United at Elland Road on Sunday, scoring two goals before the end of the first half, but collapsing in the opening ten minutes of the second half, before finding the lead again, then a fourth goal.

United will need to show this same mentality against Atletico Madrid to earn their place in the draw for the quarter final stage of the competition, which is not going to be an easy feat. This is United’s only chance for silverware this season and it could be a slim chance at that.

Manchester United – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: WWDDLW

Leeds United 4-2 W, Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 W, Southampton 1-1 D, Burnley 1-1 D, Middlesbrough 1-1 (8-7) L, West Ham United 1-0 W

Goals: 15 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 9 – Bruno Fernandes, 6 – Mason Greenwood, 5 – Marcus Rashford, 4 – Jadon Sancho, 3 – Fred, 2 – Edinson Cavani, Anthony Elanga, Jesse Lingard, Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay, 1 – Own Goal, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek

Assists: 13 – Bruno Fernandes, 8 – Paul Pogba, 5 – Luke Shaw, 4 – Fred, 3 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 2 – Mason Greenwood, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, 1 – Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard, Scott McTominay, Alex Telles, Raphael Varane

Atletico Madrid – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: WLWLWL

CA Osasuna 3-0 W, Levante UD 1-0 L, Getafe CF 4-3 W, FC Barcelona 4-2 L, Valencia CF 3-2 W, Real Sociedad 2-0 L

Goals: 12 – Ángel Correa, 11 – Luis Suárez, 8 – Antoine Griezmann, 6 – Matheus Cunha, 4 – João Félix, 3 – Yannick Carrasco, Own Goal, Thomas Lemar, 2 – Felipe, Mario Hermoso, 1 – Rodrigo de Paul, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Renan Lodi, Sime Vrsaljko

Assists: 6 – Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Lemar, 5 – Ángel Correa, João Félix, 3 – Antoine Griezmann, Renan Lodi, Luis Suárez, 2 – Matheus Cunha, Rodrigo de Paul, 1 – Felipe, Mario Hermoso, Sime Vrsaljko

Previous meetings with Atletico Madrid and their connections with United.

United and Atletico have met twice in European competition. United have failed to beat their Spanish opposition in those matches, losing 3-0 in the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup second round first leg in Madrid, drawing 1-1 in the second leg at Old Trafford.

United have scored just one goal, conceding four and keeping no clean sheets. Atletico have scored four goals, conceded one, keeping one clean sheet. That was back in 1991 and it is a surprise that the two teams had not met since then. This will be David De Gea’s first trip to his former club.

Quinton Fortune, Diego Forlan, Radamel Falcao and David De Gea are the only four players to have played for both United and Atletico. Just two of those players were transfers between the two clubs, the others had transferred to/from United and Atletico from elsewhere.

In the summer of 1999, Fortune signed for United from Atletico for £1.5 million. In the summer of 2011, De Gea signed for United for £18.9 million. Forlan played for United from 2002-04, signing for Atletico from 2007-11. Falcao played for Atletico from 2011-13 and United from 2014-15.

Team News: Two players out for United, another a doubt. Three players out for Atletico, three more a doubt. United should be strong for this match but so should Atletico.

Manchester United: Edinson Cavani (Groin) is the only injured player ahead of this match. Eric Bailly (Ankle) is a doubt. Phil Jones is now eligible to play in the Champions League with three players being removed from the squad in January.

Atletico Madrid: Matheus Cunha (Knee), Daniel Wass (Ligament) and Yannick Carrasco (Suspended) have been ruled out. Benjamin Lecomte (Coronavirus), Thomas Lemar (Coronavirus) and Koke (Fitness) are all doubts at this time.

Predicted Starting XI: Dalot in for Wan-Bissaka, Varane for Lindelof, Telles in for Shaw, Matic in for McTominay and Elanga for Lingard are the changes that should be made against Atletico.

United will need to put in a big performance against Atletico on Wednesday evening. The victories against Brighton and Hove Albion and Leeds United will give them the confidence to dig deep and get something from this match.

United put in a good performance against Leeds, especially after conceding two goals in two minutes in the opening ten minutes of the second half, taking the lead again around 15 minutes later and scoring another at the end of the match.

David De Gea should start against his former club. He is imperative to United’s success in this match. In defence, Diogo Dalot should return at right back with Alex Telles at left-back. Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire in the centre of the defence.

Nemanja Matic should start in the defensive midfield position with Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes in the number eight roles. Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga should flank Cristiano Ronaldo, who will be seeking to score in the Champions League again.

Match Prediction: United have never beaten Atletico Madrid competitively, drawing one and losing one in the two matches played. Now it is time for United to beat more Spanish opposition.

This is going to be a very important fixture for United this season. It is their only chance of a cup run this season and another way of achieving Champions League football next season, providing they can list the trophy for a fourth time, with Premier League top four not a surety.

United have not faced Atletico competitively since 1991 when they faced in the Cup Winner’s Cup, losing 4-1 on aggregate after losing 3-0 in Madrid, drawing 1-1 at Old Trafford. The boost at this stage of the Champions League this season is no away goals.

United’s best advantage will be to go to the Wanda Metropolitano and get a convincing victory which they can take back to Old Trafford in order to contest the tie and hopefully reach the quarter finals stage of the competition, which will be a big ask.

United’s form has not been the best in recent months but they have not been defeated in 90 minutes since the 3 January when Wolverhampton Wanderers beat them 1-0, the last defeat after a 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, losing 8-7 on penalties. Something to keep building on.

Atletico Madrid 1-2 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

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I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.