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Ratings: Ronaldo to the rescue after United made a tough job tougher in Bergamo; Varane injured…

Manchester United drew 2-2 with Atalanta in the fourth UEFA Champions League group stage match. Josip Iličić opened the scoring in the 12th minute of the match before Cristiano Ronaldo struck in added time at the end of the first half to level the match. Just eleven minutes into the second half, Duván Zapata doubled the home sides lead with United looking poor in the night – especially after losing Raphael Varane to injury once again. Ronaldo struck again in added time at the end of the second half to rescue a draw for United. This would then lead to pundits and the media stating that United should not be relying on Ronaldo.

After a mixed start, United started to find out how much Atalanta wanted the win in this match with their pressing but United’s back three seemed to avert the danger early on. However, in the 12th minute of the match, Josip Iličić broke the deadlock, assisted by Duván Zapata. United would have to come from behind again. Solskjaer’s side was lucky the damage was not doubled with the home side seeking to punish United, as they did a fortnight ago in the first meeting between the two sides. In the 31st minute, a penalty was called for after Eric Bailly blocked a shot but VAR gave nothing – and rightly so.

United suffered a setback in the 38th minute after Raphael Varane had to come off injured and Solskjaer brought Mason Greenwood on, reverting United to a defensive four with Marcus Rashford on the left flank, Greenwood on the right and Cristiano Ronaldo as the main striker. In the first minute of added time, Bruno Fernandes and Ronaldo were on the attack through the middle with the former passing back for the latter to equalise, scoring his eighth goal in the eleven matches he has played since returning to the Old Trafford club. In the second half, United needed to be quicker with their passing, also cutting out their mistakes.

United conceded again 11 minutes into the second half with Zapata scoring and José Luis Palomino assisting. VAR was involved in the decision though, which seemed to take an age. The goal was given. United seemed to have reverted to the poor team they had been in September and October, and looked like passengers on conceding a second goal. Solskjaer made a double substitution with Nemanja Matic and Edinson Cavani replacing Paul Pogba and Rashford. Atalanta seemed to be up for this match, having lost late in the game two weeks ago. United just seemed to be unable to find the equaliser at this time.

United still found themselves trying to get back from behind with Atalanta still pushing to secure the win. Solskjaer made another double substitution in the 87th minute of the match with Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay. United started to find their feet after the second double substitution as Ronaldo found his ninth goal for United in 11 matches, equalising the score, assisted by Greenwood. It was by no means a vintage performance for United, but the score was no level and United’s fortunes in the Champions League have changed with that goal, sending United back to the top of the group.

Five minutes were played at the end of the second half, and United did not have the time to seek a winner in this match. The draw would have to do – it was better than a defeat. Would the negative so-called United supporters accept that though? But who cares about them. Win, lose or draw – United is the team for me. Ronaldo has scored five goals in the Champions League this season, which is a great result for the 36-year-old who was written off after that proposed move to Manchester City came to a halt after United got themselves involved. What a return to the Theatre of Dreams for the Portuguese legend.

United need to get themselves in order ahead of the Manchester City match this weekend. There is a chance that Varane may not make it for the weekend after the injury he sustained in the first half of the match. Victor Lindelof suffered an injury in training on Monday, so he will remain a doubt so it could well be that either Teden Mengi is brought into the first team or Phil Jones is able to make his Premier League return this weekend. Either way, the pressure will be on ahead of Saturday’s derby at the Theatre of Dreams and with City coming back from a 2-0 defeat to Crysta Palace, they will be looking to beat United once again at Old Trafford.

United face Manchester City in the first Manchester derby of the Premier League season at Old Trafford on Saturday, which is another big match for Solskjaer’s side. The pressure will be immense going into the match and the media will be trying to find the weaknesses in the team ahead of the match, writing United off until the match is over. It is a shame is has to be like this as United are the team that everyone wants to read about, whether they are winning, drawing or losing. The international break cannot come quick enough, which will buy some time for some of the squad to rest, recover and find a way back to business.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Made his first mistake of the season after seemingly misjudging Ilicic's effort on goal. It just slipped under him for the first goal. Zapata's goal was a good one, but perhaps De Gea could have come off the line to give him a better chance of making the save?

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3 Eric Bailly

Despite not playing for the club in a long time, he seemed to bail out the defence at times, which was good to see. When Varane came off, Maguire seemed to be well exposed. Bailly should start against City on Saturday.

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19 Raphael Varane

Started well for United and it is great to see him back but in the 38th minute of the match, he looked injured, sat on the pitch then walked off the pitch as he could not continue. He was replaced by Greenwood in the 38th minute.

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5 Harry Maguire

Slow and off the pace. Didn't seem to be present for Ilicic's goal and wanted the linesman to bail him out. For Zapata's goal, he looked like a Sunday League defender who was still drunk from the night before. Needs dropping to teach him a lesson.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Regressed from the weekend. Seemed unable to deal with Zapata and needs to be more clinical in defence. This three at the back formation does not suit him against a team willing to fight for a win. He was good against Spurs as they were terrible.

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39 Scott McTominay

It was a shame that he hit the post in the fourth minute - although it was a deflected effort - but a goal is a goal. Booked in the second half and was replaced by Sancho in the 87th minute of the match.

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6 Paul Pogba

Did not seem like he wanted to be there tonight. Still suspended for two more Premier League matches. Pogba owed it to United to put in a world class performance, but he only has a handful of those at United - most a distant memory. Replaced by Matic in the 69th minute.

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23 Luke Shaw

I'm not sure he provided enough width as Ilicic seemed to deal with him well when he made himself available for Zapata's goal. Not sure the form he is in is worth the risk agains City. Needs improvement. The form he was in last season is no longer present at this time.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

Did what he could against Atalanta. Got an assist for Ronaldo's equaliser, after a good run into the box ad a pass back to his compatriot. He was marked by De Roon in the second have and ended up being replaced by Van de Beek in the 87th minute.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Seemed quiet in the first half playing alongside Ronaldo. Dropped off in the second half - which is understandable after his injury layoff. Replaced by Cavani in the 69th minute.

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7 Cristiano Ronaldo

Scored twice for United, both in added time - one at the end of the first half, the other at the end of the second half. Both equalisers. Saved United's skin in the Champions League. He lacked a lot of service. Perhaps Van de Beek should have started instead of Pogba?

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Substitutes

11 Mason Greenwood

Replaced Varane 38'. Played in a great pass to Ronaldo to level the game in added time in the second half. Hit the crossbar too, but was offside. Should start on Saturday.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Replaced Pogba 69'. Made little impact in the match, but United seemed to have improved slightly after Pogba came off.

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21 Edinson Cavani

Replaced Rashford 69'. The Uruguayan should have started but I understand why Solskjaer rested him as he will be needed at the top of his game on Saturday.

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34 Donny van de Beek

Replaced Fernandes 87'. Should have started. Has great quality. Denied a goal by the keeper and seemed like he wanted to perform - perhaps to put himself in the shop window for January. It's a shame that he's treated to a few minutes here and there at United. He could have been a great signing, given the time.

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25 Jadon Sancho

Replaced McTominay 87'. Needs to be given more minutes. He won't shine if he's left on the bench and given cameo appearances.

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Goals: Josip Iličić 12′, Duván Zapata 56′; Cristiano Ronaldo 45+1′, 90+1′

Assists: Duván Zapata 12′, José Luis Palomino 56′; Bruno Fernandes 45+1′, Mason Greenwood 90+1′

Manchester United: De Gea; Bailly, Varane (Greenwood 38′), Maguire; Wan-Bissaka, McTominay (Sancho 87′), Pogba (Matic 69′), Shaw; Fernandes (Van de Beek 87′); Rashford (Cavani 69′), Ronaldo

Substitutes Not Used: Henderson; Dalot, Telles; Mata, Lingard, Fred; Martial

Bookings: Scott McTominay 51′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Ronaldo, Rashford, Fernandes, Pogba and Varane start against Atalanta; three at the back again

Manchester United return to UEFA Champions League action this evening 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:

De Gea;

Bailly, Varane, Maguire;

Wan-Bissaka, McTominay, Pogba, Shaw;

Fernandes;

Rashford, Ronaldo

Substitutes:

Henderson; Dalot, Telles; Mata, Lingard, Fred, Matic, Van de Beek; Martial, Greenwood, Cavani, Sancho

Atalanta:

Musso;

De Roon, Demiral, Palomino;

Zappacosta, Freuler, Koopmeiners, Maehle;

Ilicic, Pasalic;

Zapata

Substitutes:

Rossi, Sportiello, Muriel, Pezzella, Malinovskiy, Djimsiti, Scalvini, Miranchuk, Lovato, Piccoli

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.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-3-1-2] Cavani and Ronaldo to lead the line, Fernandes supporting; Pogba, Matic and Van de Beek in the midfield?

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!

Previous meetings with Atalanta 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.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League at the Stadio di Bergamo on Tuesday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

Fresh from a clean sheet against Spurs, which saw him not have to do much with the North London club failing to get a shot on target, David De Gea will have his confidence restored after United failed to keep a clean sheet in the last ten matches, last keeping one in the 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier this season. United kept 26 clean sheets in all competitions last season, and more recently, it has been something that many thought would be few and far between this season, which so far is the case. United will be galvanised by the victory over Spurs and the fact their Champions League results are not that bad this season.

De Gea has grown in form this season and he will be seen as a player that has kept United in matches this season, that at the time they went on to win and could have lost if it was not for De Gea’s saves. United with him in the team are so much better with his experience and him being trusted to remain as the number one this season, despite Dean Henderson’s emergence last season, is probably the best thing that could have happened for the club. United will be shaken at their recent form, but getting back to winning ways in the Premier League has hopefully ended that poor form. United will be back, it is just a case of when.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles

United’s defence needs improvement. Solskjaer has those that he trusts and those that he does not trust. Now Raphael Varane is back from injury, the defence will be better equipped to deal with threats but improvement is still needed with players needing to step up. The defensive midfield situation is also an area that needs improvement which will also shield the defence and help them dominate matches in the midfield area. Against Atalanta, I would expect Aaron Wan-Bissaka to occupy the right-back position, as he is the better option here at this time. Diogo Dalot did not do himself justice in this position against West Ham United in the Carabao Cup.

At left-back, Alex Telles should step in and show what he can do as Luke Shaw has lost his best form and needs to find that again. This break could help him ahead of the Manchester City match, giving him a rest at the same time. In the central defensive positions, Varane and Harry Maguire should keep their partnership, which was good at stages this season. Varane is the better player ad he compliments Maguire, who is not a bad player but has suffered a loss in form after his calf injury earlier this season. United will need to progress this season and on Saturday that long road seems to have started.

Midfield Three: Donny van de Beek, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba

United need to overhaul the midfield this season. Relying on Scott McTominay and Fred all the time is not looking very good with the duo unable to control the midfield. Having Donny van de Beek on the bench all of the time is not helping either. It looks like United are making him fail with Solskjaer not trusting him at all, which is not a good luck considering he allowed the purchase of him to go through. Paul Pogba is available for this match, having to sit out three matches in the Premier League because of his red card against Liverpool, which was a pretty poor display from the player – who looked happy coming off the pitch.

Pogba can bring something for United this season and he will need the good performances to seek a one as he becomes a free agent in the summer, unless United can get rid of him in January, which seems unlikely. Making him play is what is needed and he should be professional about it. Many, including myself, see him as the problem. He might well be. Van de Beek should be playing, as he has a lot to give and could be an answer to the midfield this season. Nemanja Matic could provide the defensive stability in the midfield, giving way for Pogba and Van de Beek to link the defence to the attack and help United achieve a victory.

Attacking Midfield: Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes has four goals and seven assists to his name this season, matching Pogba’s number of assists that came in the first few matches of the season with nothing since. In the past few weeks, he has seemed to be a player that has been unable to progress with United in a stagnant manner at times, especially with their inability to win a Premier League match since the victory over West Ham United back in September. At least that has changed now with he victory over Spurs. Fernandes played a good game and his assist for the opening goal of the match, which was scored by Cristiano Ronaldo showed his ability well.

Having Fernandes play in behind the strikers is good for United as he will attach the midfield to the attack, with three midfielders helping to cut down the available space in that area, which will close down the space Atalanta will be able to play in. Having this moving forward is what United need to progress, which is what those who seem to be against Solskjaer are suggesting has not happened at all under the Norwegian. It’s like they think United have not achieved anything just because a trophy has not been won. Deadwood has been cleared out, better players have signed and United are working towards winning tings again. It can’t be ignored.

Forwards: Edinson Cavani, Cristiano Ronaldo

Playing with two forwards has been something that United have been able to do this season with a wealth of attacking talent at the club. United have two of the best forwards in world football in the squad this season and playing them is the best outcome at this stage of the season. That happened against Spurs and despite a period of the match which saw United scared to apply themselves, it started to work well with both scoring goals in the 3-0 victory and Cristiano Ronaldo also getting an assist. He complements Edinson Cavani and the Uruguayan compliments him. It is a no brainer for United to use both moving forward.

Ronaldo is a goalscorer, that has been proven by his seven goals in 11 appearances for United since his return to the Theatre of Dreams, scoring in each of the three Champions League matches played so far this season. Cavani has scored his first goal this season, in seven appearances but his performance against Spurs has led to him being an undroppable player as despite him and Ronaldo being similar, his work rate leads to his getting more out for United with Ronaldo a player who will be in the right areas to score and assist the goals. Cavani will get his fair share of goals too, but he will work much harder to get them. It is a good mix for United.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw; Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Fred, Scott McTominay; Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood

United will have up to five substitutions in the Champions League and Solskjaer should be utilising them to keep his squad fresh, especially with Manchester City on the horizon. It is crucial that the squad rotation continues to happen with United playing so many matches in a short period of time, but with the final international break of the season also on the horizon, some players will get a fortnight’s rest ahead of the busy Festive period, which will soon be upon us. Dean Henderson will keep his place on the bench, as at this time, he is not performing better than De Gea, who is the best goalkeeper in form at this stage of the season.

In defence, there should be some different options available with Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw on the bench and depending on how the match plays out, they could offer something different if needed. In the midfield, Juan mata, Jesse Lingard, Fred and Scott McTominay could offer a different type of game play if it does not go to plan for United, which is not something that is guaranteed at this time. In attack, providing he is fit enough to play a part, Anthony Martial could be back in the squad with Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood also available. If Martial is not available, Anthony Elanga could be called upon instead.

Written by John Walker

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

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

Ratings: Rashford, Maguire and Ronaldo score to win the match for United after poor first half against Atalanta

Manchester United beat Atalanta 3-2 in the UEFA Champions League. At half time, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were 2-0 down after Mario Pašalić and Merih Demiral scored in the first half. United seemed dejected, devoid of confidence, inspiration and motivation. Something must have been said during the break as eight minutes in, Marcus Rashford got a goal back with Harry Maguire equalising in the 75th minute and none other than Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the winner in the 81st minute of the match. It was a poor first half, the second half was better but winning this match from a losing position means the world.

Both teams started positively in this Champions League match. There were chances for each team and in the early stages of the half, but neither looked to take the game by the scruff of the neck. However, in the 15th minute of the match, Atalanta had taken the lead through Mario Pašalić with the assist coming from Davide Zappacosta. It was an awful goal for United to concede and was the story of how things are faring for the Old Trafford club this season. Solskjaer’s side would need to come back from this or see themselves in with a chance of falling out of the Champions League for the second time in consecutive seasons.

United seemed to be void of confidence, lacked any ability, hunger or desire. Just 14 minutes after conceding the first goal of the game, United conceded another, this time scored by Merih Demiral and assisted by Teun Koopmeiners. To be 2-0 down at Old Trafford in the Champions League was going to be costly for United, who still did not seem motivated by the second goal being conceded. At the end of the half, United had their best chance with Marcus Rashford through on goal but the goalkeeper ran off his line to cut the angle and ensure the United forward could not get a goal before the break.

There was going to be some shouting in the dressing room during the half time break. United needed something to motivate them as conceding two goals did not really do that. Solskjaer needed to have a plan b and a way of getting his team back into the match. The substitutes would need to change this game as nothing tried so far, had worked for United. Matteo Lovato replaced Demiral at the break with United still to make any changes. However, it took just eight minutes before United got back into the game through Rashford, scoring his second goal in two matches, assisted by Bruno Fernandes.

United started to dominate the game from the goal, pushing to press their opposition and having many changes to get an equaliser – which seemed to be coming at some point in the game. The atmosphere at Old Trafford was loud with the supporters aiming to motivate the players so they could find inspiration to push forward, get the equaliser then try to find the winner. Duván Zapata replaced Luis Muriel in the 56th minute for the away side and ten minutes later, Solskjaer made a double substitution with Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani replacing Scott McTominay and Rashford.

Atalanta then brought on Aleksei Miranchuk and Ruslan Malinovskyi for Josip Iličić and Pašalić in the 68th minute as the away side were seeking to rejuvenate the squad and keep their lead. In the 73rd minute of the match, Jadon Sancho replaced Mason Greenwood with United seeming to further pressure to away side, which they did with Harry Maguire got the equaliser with Fernandes getting his second assist of the game. It was a devastating goal for the Italian side to concede but a great one for United to score. The Old Trafford faithful were in full voice at this moment, which would have ensure the team kept fighting for the win.

Just six minutes after levelling the score, United found the goal to put them ahead through none other than Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese forward had scored his sixth goal of the season, assisted by Luke Shaw, who had a good game – especially in the second half. United were well on their way to getting all three points from this game, which seemed to be mission impossible at half time. Before the goal, Giuseppe Pezzella replaced Koopmeiners for the away side and towards the end of the half, Nemanja Matic replaced Fred, who had suffered an injury in the match. United just needed to keep this lead.

It was an exciting win for United, who ended up deserving of the three points. Atalanta will be going back home wondering what happened as the comeback seemed to happen so quickly. United needed to keep this momentum they have created and the never give up attitude that should have been reinforced from the victory. The clash with Liverpool in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday is something to keep an eye on as a big result will be needed for United and they will be expected to turn up. Solskjaer has something to think about ahead of the match and his starting XP, formation and tactics will need to be spot on.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

One clean sheet in 20 matches is not great for United. 2-0 down in the second half was something that needed a reaction. Made some great saves to keep United in the game with the score at 2-1. Didn't make an error and could not have stopped the two Atalanta goals.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Consistent to a point but never really had a say at either end in the first half. Seemed to step uo in the second half though as United seemed determined to score and go on to win the game.

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2 Victor Lindelof

Seemed to be beaten easily by Zapata. I'm not too sure he is going to play much when Varane is fit. When Maguire is not performing, Lindelof struggles too. That is not a good sign.

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5 Harry Maguire

Seemed at fault for both Atalanta goals in the first half. Seemed to know it too. Got the equaliser for United, and his first in the Champions League. Stood up and was counted in the second half. Not a great performance overall but a win is a win.

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23 Luke Shaw

Caught out by Demiral and seem uninspiring on the ball at times. A different Shaw appeared in the second half. Which could be said for all the players that emerged from the dressing room. Got the assist for Ronaldo's winner.

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17 Fred

Seemed to be the avenue of a goal in the first half, after his shot was saved. Missed an even better chance later on. Brought a lot of energy but that was it as his passing was bad. Replaced by Matic in the 88th minute.

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39 Scott McTominay

Could have scored, but hit the post. Played as well as could be expected, despite the overall poor first half. Replaced by Pogba in the 66th minute.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Pressed well for United in the opening stages but as United conceded twice. Seemed to tire and perhaps should have been replaced earlier. Was replaced by Sancho in the 73rd minute.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

He was bad in the first half, but that was the same for all the players on the pitch. Got two assists in the second half and seemed to regress, possibly through fatigue, but United got the win they needed and deserved after that second half performance.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Seemed to be the spark in this team in the first half but could not get the goal he sought to score in the first half. He got United back in the game eight minutes into the second half but was replaced by Cavani in the 66th minute after suffering an injury.

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7 Cristiano Ronaldo

He was lively in the first half and seemed to be annoyed that United fell behind, then conceded again. The annoyance was written all over his face. Goals were there for the taking but it was not happening for United. Then came the 81st minute, that rise into the air and boom, into the back of the net for the winner.

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Substitutes

6 Paul Pogba

Replaced McTominay 66'. His introduction gave the crowd and United a lift. A bit of inspiration went a long way.

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21 Edinson Cavani

Replaced Rashford 66'. Seemed relentless and covered a lot of ground as United stood up to be counted.

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25 Jadon Sancho

Replaced Greenwood 73'. Composed and helped to press the Atalanta defence. No goals or assists but he is starting to adapt to United.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Replaced Fred 88'. Came on at the death and helped to maintain possession and protect the defence.

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Goals: Marcus Rashford 53′, Harry Maguire 75′, Cristiano Ronaldo 81′; Mario Pašalić 15′, Merit Demiral 29′

Assists: Bruno Fernandes 53′, 75′, Luke Shaw 81′; Davide Zappacosta 15′, Teun Koopmeiners 29′

Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Fred (Matic 88′), McTominay (Pogba 66′); Greenwood (Sancho 73′), Fernandes, Rashford (Cavani 66′); Ronaldo

Substitutes Not Used: Henderson; Bailly, Dalot, Telles; Mata, Lingard, Van de Beek; Elanga

Bookings: Luke Shaw 64′, Nemanja Matic 90+3′, Edinson Cavani 90+4′; Matteo Lovato 55′, Mario Pašalić 57′, Marten De Roon 57′, Jose Luis Palomino 80′

Written by John Walker

Confirmed XI: Ronaldo, Greenwood, Fernandes and Rashford start against Atalanta; Pogba and Cavani on the bench

Manchester United return to UEFA Champions League football this evening as they welcome Italian side Atalanta to Old Trafford in the third match of the group stage this season. United have three points in the group this season and need another win after losing to Young Boys in the first match and beating Villarreal at the death in the second match. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are in poor form after not winning in the Premier League for the past month with their last win coming against Villarreal, which was a poor performance from United but they ended up getting all three points. Something needs to give for United – they must perform.

In their last match, United were beaten 4-2 by Leicester City in the Premier League. It was a poor performance for United, despite scoring the first goal of the game and equalising minutes after Leicester took the lead. But United capitulated and conceded two more goals before the end of the match, which resulted in their biggest defeat of the season and an end to their unbeaten away run, which broke Arsenal’s record which was set in 2004. The defeat meant that the negative fans on social media were rampant in their screaming for the manager to be sacked, which is all they want to happen. It makes you wonder if they are fans at all?

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw;

Fred, McTominay;

Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford;

Ronaldo

Substitutes:

Henderson; Bailly, Dalot, Telles; Pogba, Mata, Lingard, Matic, Van de Beek; Sancho, Cavani, Elanga

Atalanta:

Musso;

De Roon, Demiral, Palomino;

Zappacosta, Koopmeiners, Freuler, Marhle;

Pasalic;

Muriel, Illic

Substitutes:

Rossi, Sportiello, Pezzella, Malinovskyi, Scalvini, Miranchuk, Lovato, Zapata, Piccoli

United and Atalanta are yet to meet in a competitive fixture, which is an unknown prospect for United and Solskjaer ahead of Wednesday’s clash at the Theatre of Dreams. United have played many Italian teams in Europe and at this time, where the club are winless in their last three matches, it could be a good time for the Italian side to take on the Red Devils. United will have had an extra day’s rest with no travel ahead of the match, but based on the form of the club, it means nothing at this time. United need to bounce back from their 4-2 defeat to Leicester City and get more points on the board in the Champions League this season.

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.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: Manchester United to revert to 4-4-2 formation with Ronaldo and Cavani in attack, Van de Beek and McTominay in midfield?

Manchester United return to UEFA Champions League football on Wednesday evening as they welcome Italian side Atalanta to Old Trafford in the third match of the group stage this season. United have three points in the group this season and need another win after losing to Young Boys in the first match and beating Villarreal at the death in the second match. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are in poor form after not winning in the Premier League for the past month with their last win coming against Villarreal, which was a poor performance from United but they ended up getting all three points. Something needs to give for United – they must perform.

In their last match, United were beaten 4-2 by Leicester City in the Premier League. It was a poor performance for United, despite scoring the first goal of the game and equalising minutes after Leicester took the lead. But United capitulated and conceded two more goals before the end of the match, which resulted in their biggest defeat of the season and an end to their unbeaten away run, which broke Arsenal’s record which was set in 2004. The defeat meant that the negative fans on social media were rampant in their screaming for the manager to be sacked, which is all they want to happen. It makes you wonder if they are fans at all?

Previous meetings with Atalanta and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Atalanta are yet to meet in a competitive fixture, which is an unknown prospect for United and Solskjaer ahead of Wednesday’s clash at the Theatre of Dreams. United have played many Italian teams in Europe and at this time, where the club are winless in their last three matches, it could be a good time for the Italian side to take on the Red Devils. United will have had an extra day’s rest with no travel ahead of the match, but based on the form of the club, it means nothing at this time. United need to bounce back from their 4-2 defeat to Leicester City and get more points on the board in the Champions League this season.

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.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League at the Old Trafford on Wednesday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea is in great form this season and has been one of the players who deserves to be praised for his performances, especially after what he endured last season. On Saturday, De Gea made a number of saves to keep United in the game but conceded four goals, which most of the time were caused by defensive errors, which is an area that United need to improve on significantly – if they want to achieve something this season. At this stage of the season, with the club on a poor run of results with big matches still to come, the real United much stand up and De Gea can be intrinsic to that. The pressure is on for United to start winning.

The experience of the Spaniard is impressive and it is clear that he wants to continue his career at the club, fighting for the big honours, which United have seemingly sat out of since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, despite an Emirates FA Cup win under Louis van Gaal, an EFL and Europa League Cup double under Jose Mourinho, not to mention the FA Community Shields won by David Moyes and Mourinho. United came close to a trophy last season, losing the Europa League on penalties, which De Gea played a part in, failing to save a single spot kick, or score his own, which signalled the end of the match with Villarreal winning the trophy.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw

The defence is still a problem area for United. Raphael Varane’s injury is going to cost United moving forward and Harry Maguire’s lack of fitness, not to mention his rustiness and error rate against Leicester City, which leaves United with a big problem – who to pick to face Atalanta. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be back in action after having his two-match suspension in the Champions League reduced to one, which makes him available on Wednesday. Luke Shaw should also keep his place, but may need to perform at a much higher level if United are to get three important points at the Theatre of Dreams.

With Varane out of action with a groin injury and Maguire lacking fitness, United have a choice of Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Teden Mengi for the central defence with Mengi likely playing for the U19’s in the UEFA Youth League against the Italian side. With this in mind, I think Lindelof and Bailly will be the central defensive option for Solskjaer, unless Maguire gains some fitness between now and Wednesday evening – which is a distinct possibility. United need to start defending in the same way as the United of old, as that is where the difference in winning and losing trophies come from – which worked for Sir Alex Ferguson.

Midfield: Jadon Sancho, Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek, Marcus Rashford

The midfield is a major problem this season. It is suggested in the media that Solskjaer wanted another midfielder in the summer, as did the supporters and that did not happen. This is one of the reasons as to why the squad is not achieving. United have no real command of the midfield. Scott McTominay and Fred are the most likely midfield partnership, which is why United struggle as it does not tend to work all that well all of the time, if at all. United need a midfielder who can defend, keep the ball, win the ball and become that deep-lying playmaker. I don’t think many players at the club are capable of this.

I think United should revert to a traditional 4-4-2 formation, if only to test it out to see if it can change United’s fortunes. United need to find that way to play swashbuckling, entertaining football which is what these players are capable of. Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford could play in the wide positions, when Mason Greenwood could play here too. In the middle, Scott McTominay and Donny van de Beek should be given a chance as you never know, it might work out. Bruno Fernandes has struggled when United have been behind, so a change could do some good. It is worth trying, but I don’t think it will be tried. I’m not sure the coaching can change.

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani

United have a quality attacking line this season and it has not been used to its strength. Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani are both poachers who have an array of abilities in front of goal. Both can score some great goals with their feet or their heads. Cavani has proven this time and time again last season. Ronaldo have proved this during his career. Granted, Ronaldo does not press as much so this should be provided by other players on the pitch with Ronaldo and Cavani in the box waiting for the right balls to come in and them doing their best to get the goals that United will need to win matches.

The best form of defence is to attack and that is what this United squad should be good at doing. If Solskjaer can breed this mentality and find the right players to provide the pressing, which is something that Rashford, Sancho and Van de Beek should be capable of doing, then this could be crucial for United. The fact that Solskjaer’s side will face Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur before the end of the month and Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in the Premier League before the end of November will mean that he needs to get things moving, otherwise the pressure he is under now could become so much more.

Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, Diogo Dalot, Alex Telles; Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Nemanja Matic; Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood

United can name up to twelve substitutes on the bench in the Champions League, using up to five of them in the match. In the knockout stages, if United end up getting there, they can use an extra substitute if matches go to extra time. I fully expect Dean Henderson to be on the bench, as United will need to win this match and he will be quite rusty, even though he has played at U23 level. In defence, Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles should all be available, so Solskjaer can make tactical changes, if needed. That also means he will need to change his tactics as the same things are tried against each team all the time.

In midfield, Paul Pogba should be benched after his dismal performance against Leicester, with Jesse Lingard, Fred, Bruno Fernandes and Nemanja Matic also available, should the midfield need more of a different approach at any point of the match, which will probably be the case. In attack, with Ronaldo and Cavani starting, Anthony Martial, if he has managed to recover his fitness after the international break and Mason Greenwood could be available to be called upon. I don’t expect Solskjaer to take these risks though, which is why abject failure seems to be on the horizon. Playing safe is great, when safe. But this is so much different.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Will Manchester United continue with lackadaisical approach in must win Atalanta match?

Manchester United -v- Atalanta

UEFA Champions League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Wednesday 20 October 2021, KO 20:00 BST

Referee: Szymon Marciniak Assistants: Paweł Sokolnicki, Tomasz Listkiewicz

Fourth Official: Tomasz Musiał

VAR: Tomasz Kwiatkowski Assistant VAR: Marco Fritz

Manchester United return to UEFA Champions League football on Wednesday evening as they welcome Italian side Atalanta to Old Trafford in the third match of the group stage this season. United have three points in the group this season and need another win after losing to Young Boys in the first match and beating Villarreal at the death in the second match. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are in poor form after not winning in the Premier League for the past month with their last win coming against Villarreal, which was a poor performance from United but they ended up getting all three points. Something needs to give for United – they must perform.

In their last match, United were beaten 4-2 by Leicester City in the Premier League. It was a poor performance for United, despite scoring the first goal of the game and equalising minutes after Leicester took the lead. But United capitulated and conceded two more goals before the end of the match, which resulted in their biggest defeat of the season and an end to their unbeaten away run, which broke Arsenal’s record which was set in 2004. The defeat meant that the negative fans on social media were rampant in their screaming for the manager to be sacked, which is all they want to happen. It makes you wonder if they are fans at all?

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

Leicester City 4-2 L, Everton 1-1 D, Villarreal 2-1 W, Aston Villa 1-0 L, West Ham United 1-0 L, West Ham United 2-1 W

Goals: 5 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 4 – Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, 2 – Jesse Lingard, 1 – Fred, Anthony Martial, Alex Telles

Assists: 7 – Paul Pogba, 4 – Bruno Fernandes, 2 – Victor Lindelof, 1 – Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic, Luke Shaw, Raphael Varane

Atalanta – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: WLWDWW

Empoli 4-1 W, AC Milan 3-2 L, Young Boys 1-0 W, Inter Milan 2-2 D, Sassuolo 2-1 W, Saletnitana 1-0 W

Goals: 4 – Duvan Zapata, 2 – Robin Gosens, Josip Ilicic, 1 – Remo Freuler, Own Goal, Ruslan Malinovsky, Luis Muriel, Mario Pasalic, Matteo Pessina, Roberto Piccoli, Rafael Toloi, Davide Zappacosta

Assists: 4 – Duvan Zapata, 3 – Mario Pasalic, 2 – Josip Ilicic, 1 – Ruslan Malinovsky, Aleksei Miranchuk, Luis Muriel

Previous meetings with Atalanta and their connections with Manchester United.

United and Atalanta are yet to meet in a competitive fixture, which is an unknown prospect for United and Solskjaer ahead of Wednesday’s clash at the Theatre of Dreams. United have played many Italian teams in Europe and at this time, where the club are winless in their last three matches, it could be a good time for the Italian side to take on the Red Devils. United will have had an extra day’s rest with no travel ahead of the match, but based on the form of the club, it means nothing at this time. United need to bounce back from their 4-2 defeat to Leicester City and get more points on the board in the Champions League this season.

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: Raphael Varane out for United; four or five players out of action for Atalanta, which could cause them some problems ahead of their Old Trafford outing.

Raphael Varane (Groin) is the only actual injury at the club at this time. It is likely that he will be out until at least the end of the month, maybe longer. Amad Diallo (Thigh) is back in training, and has a 25% chance of being available to face his former club. Fred and Edinson Cavani returned late from the international break, playing in the early hours of Friday morning, so both are said to be 75% fit, which looks good for Wednesday’s match, which should give them time to get over the jet lag. Anthony Martial returned from France unfit, so has a 25% chance of being available for this match. Phil Jones could also return to boost United’s defence.

Hans Hateboer (Foot), Robin Gosens (Hamstring), Berat Djimsiti (Arm Fracture) and Matteo Pessina (Calf) look set to me missing because of injury. Rafael Tolói (Thigh) made his return in the 4-1 victory over Empoli at the weekend, but needed to be replaced at half time, so he could be a doubt ahead of this match too. There seems to be some injury problems at the Italian club, which could aid United, who also have their own problems. I am sure Atalanta will be seeking to upset United and cause yet more embarrassment but United will also be looking to limit the damage that has been caused by poor form for much of the last month or so.

Predicted Starting XI: 4-4-2 formation to help United find their feet after a month of lacklustre football and poor results? Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo to spearhead the attack?

Solskjaer will need to find a way to get United firing again. His tactics seem inept. He selection has not worked and his late substitutions rarely cause a reaction that is a positive for United. The pressure the Norwegian is under will be similar to that of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho and it will only be a matter of time before that pressure intensifies with the matches against Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur yet to come before the end of the month – not to mention what November has to offer with matches against Atalanta, Manchester City, Watford, Villarreal, Chelsea and Arsenal. Is the end of the road coming?

Against Atalanta, perhaps a switch to the traditional 4-4-2 formation could add something in favour of United? David De Gea will keep his place in goal with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw in the fullback positions. Wan-Bissaka won his appeal against a second match suspension following his red card against Young Boys. Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly could partner in the centre of the defence. In midfield, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford could occupy the wide positions with Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay in the centre. This could leave Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani to lead the line – service would need to be provided for them.

Match Prediction: If Solskjaer’s tactics change and he lets players perform to their strengths, it could be something that works well for United. But I think the same old lackadaisical approach will continue.

This is a must-win match for United if they are to have an easier chance of reaching the knockout stages of the competition this season. United already have a loss and a win in the first two matches of the group stage. Atalanta could be seen as the weaker team in the group, which means they will be the dominant side against United – as was the case last season. Solskjaer will need to ensure his tactics are spot on for this match, which is a big wish as this has not been the case much recently. If United lose, despite currently being just a point from the summit in the group, it could be the start of their exit from the competition – which is a problem.

United have talented players, many of which are not really getting a chance with Solskjaer trusting players who don’t seem to offer much and praising their performances. It is a problem which has seem lots of criticism but nothing seems to be changing. United are said to still back the manager and the direction the club are heading, as Solskjaer has got United in better shape, squad wise than Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho but there is so much more that needs to be done right to get United heading into the direction of the trophies. Another season in the UEFA Europa League would be a disaster for United and Solskjaer.

Manchester United 2-1 Atalanta

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW