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Preview: Three at the back to solve problems against Atalanta? Solskjaer needs another win to quell the pressure

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Atalanta -v- Manchester United

UEFA Champions League

Stadio di Bergamo, Bergamo

Tuesday 2 November 2021, KO 20:00 GMT

Referee: Slavko Vinčić Assistants: Tomaž Klančnik, Andraž Kovačič

Fourth Official: Matej Jug

VAR: Bastian Dankert Assistant VAR: Christian Dingert

Manchester United return to UEFA Champions League action on Tuesday evening as they travel to Bergamo to face Atalanta. Fresh from their 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday evening, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be seeking to start a winning run once again as they look to finalise their participation in the European competition this season ahead of the first Manchester derby of the season. United have been in poor form recently but managed to beat both Villarreal and Atalanta in the Champions League. Solskjaer’s side sit firmly at the top of the group, by two points and a win will keep that in place with two matches remaining.

Solskjaer faced a lot of pressure over the last week following the 5-0 defeat to Liverpool at Old Trafford. He emerged from that pressure, picked nine of the 11 players who started against Liverpool, changing the formation and welcoming Raphael Varane back from injury. That led to United scoring three goals against Spurs, making the North London side look amateur and piling the pressure onto Nuno Espírito Santo instead. This seems to be the United way. It seems strange that Solskjaer is the manager under the most pressure when there are some that would kill to have the points he has in the Premier League right now!

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

Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 W, Liverpool 5-0 L, Atalanta 3-2 W, Leicester City 4-2 L, Everton 1-1 D, Villarreal 2-1 W

Goals: 7 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 4 – Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, 3 – Marcus Rashford, 2 – Jesse Lingard, 1 – Edinson Cavani, Fred, Anthony Martial, Alex Telles

Assists: 7 – Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, 2 – Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Luke Shaw, 1 – Jesse Lingard, Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane

Atalanta – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: DWDLWL

Lazio 2-2 D, Sampdoria 3-1 W, Udinese 1-1 D, Manchester United 3-2 L, Empoli 4-1 W, AC Milan 3-2 L

Goals: 6 – Duvan Zapata, 3 – Josip Ilicic, 2 – Own Goal, Robin Gosens, Ruslan Malinovsky, Mario Pasalic, 1 – Merih Demiral, Martin de Roon, Remo Freuler, Luis Muriel, Matteo Pessina, Roberto Piccoli, Rafael Toloi, Davide Zappacosta

Assists: 4 – Mario Pasalic, Duvan Zapata, 2 – Josip Ilicic, Aleksei Miranchuk, Davide Zappacosta, 1 – Merih Demiral, Teun Koopmeiners, Matteo Lovato, Ruslan Malinovsky, Luis Muriel

Previous meetings with Tottenham Hotspur and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Atalanta have met once in all competitions – in the UEFA Champions League almost a fortnight ago. The Red Devils were 2-0 down with goals from Mario Pašalić and Merit Demiral in just 30 minutes of the first half. United came out after the break a different side with goals from Marcus Rashford, and equaliser from Harry Maguire, and a winner from none other than Cristiano Ronaldo. United received three bookings in the match with Atalanta receiving four. With Atalanta in third place in the group, they will be seeking a win to stay in the competition this season, possibly avoiding the Europa League.

Amad Diallo is the only player to have played for both Manchester United and Atalanta. The 19-year-old started out as a youth player at Boca Barco before moving to Atalanta in 2015, coming though to the first team in 2019. Amad played five times for Atalanta, scoring one goal before his £37 million transfer to Old Trafford was completed in January 2021, despite being agreed in the summer of 2020. The Ivorian international has represented his country seven times; four times at U23 level and three times at senior level. He was also part of the squad for the Olympics in Tokyo in 2021. Fresh from injury, Amad could play a part against Atalanta.

Team News: Anthony Martial could miss the Atalanta match, which is not a problem as United’s attacking line has many capable players this season; Atalanta could have five players missing from their squad.

Anthony Martial (Fitness) is the only player that could miss the Champions League clash with Atalanta on Tuesday. He currently has a 25% chance of making that game, so the next day or so will decide whether he is fit enough to take up a place in the travelling squad. Paul Pogba is suspended for two more Premier League matches; missing Manchester City and Watford, but is eligible to play in the Champions League, if Solskjaer picks him. United seem to be in a better position going into this match with Raphael Varane back in the squad and the likes of Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford much fitter.

Robin Gosens (Hamstring), Hans Hateboer (Foot), Berat Djimsiti (Fractured Arm), Rafael Tolói (Muscular) and Matteo Pessina (Calf) all look set to be absent for the clash with United in the Champions League at the Stadio di Bergamo on Tuesday evening. It could be more of the same for the Italian side, who were severely weakened against United a fortnight ago, losing players due to injury during the match. United will find themselves in much better form ahead of this match, winning a Premier League match away to Spurs ahead of this clash, so confidence will be much higher added to their win over Atalanta at the Theatre of Dreams.

Predicted Starting XI: 4-3-1-2 formation could see United play to their strengths, as long as Solskjaer is able to give Van de Beek a chance in the team, instead of seeing him sit on the bench match after match.

Solskjaer changed his formation and tactics for the 3-0 victory over Spurs and despite using a three at the back formation a handful of times before, it has never been something he has adhered to moving forward. There are people on Twitter moaning as players at the club will be closed out if this became permanent, but it was just a tweak in one match so far, could be used in another but moving forward, will not be the United way – at least that is what I hope. Changing formations and tactics should be used regularly, ensuring that United do not become too predictable against their opposition.

Against Atalanta, with some confidence restored and a clean sheet having been won against Spurs, Solskjaer should revert to a twist of a 4-3-3 formation. David De Gea will keep his place in goal, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire also keeping their places, with Alex Telles coming in for Luke Shaw in this match. The midfield should consist of a three-man midfield with Nemanja Matic in the defensive area and both Donny van de Beek and Paul Pogba linking up the defence with the attack, also covering the wide areas moving forward. Bruno Fernandes should play in behind the strikers; Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo

Match Prediction: This will not be a walk in the park for United, as the first match between these two sides showed. But United not have a confidence boost with a Premier League victory behind them.

This will be a tough match for United – nothing like the match against Spurs as Atalanta will play attacking football and United will need to be at their best to gain a clean sheet from this match. In the Old Trafford match, Unite found themselves 2-0 down at halftime, which showed some dire facts for the squad. However, after the break, a different United emerged and push to get a goal back, then the equaliser, then the winner. United will need to ensure they push their opposition and aim to get the better of them from the offset. Saying that, a match lasts 90 minutes and it matters who is ahead at the end. This looks set to be an entertaining match.

Solskjaer will still have pressure on him from the fans who want him gone, who might not be real fans of the club at all. The media will also cause some problems for him, as this is Manchester United, the team that everyone wants to read about and the team then enables journalists to make a living out of their job. As has been proven over the last week, not everything, if anything, the media puts out has facts applied to it. These people are able to fabricate the slightest thing and get away with it time and time again. With Solskjaer hitting out at Samuel Buckhurst after the Spurs match, perhaps he will become tougher with the media?

Atalanta 1-3 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

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copyright: JW