The English side forced their way to a win after conceding two first-half goals against Atalanta
Updated – October 21 20:45 IST
By Pranay Rajiv
Manchester United pulled off yet another comeback win as they overcame a 2-0 deficit to eventually prevail 3-2 against Atalanta in the Champions League Group F game at Manchester on Wednesday. Cristiano Ronaldo scored a late winner in the 81st minute to seal the win for the Red Devils which pushed them to the top of the table.
Atalanta started the game on the front foot and managed to breach United custodian David de Gea’s goal twice within the first half-hour. Josip Ilicic and David Zappacosta linked up brilliantly through the right flank in the 15th minute and the Mancunian defense was found wanting as Ilicic had the easiest of finishes. The Italian scored again, against the run of play, through a corner which again illustrated the brittleness of United’s defense. Mehdi Demiral, the Atalanta center back, was given a free passage by United defenders Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire while he connected to a deliciously whipped corner by Teun Koopenmeirs.
The first half of the game was then marked by the profligacy of the Manchester United forwards, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and even the ever-reliable Cristiano Ronaldo contrived to miss gilt-edged chances. With the game drifting away from them, Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, was forced to bring in almost all of his attacking outlets in the second half, hoping for a revival. The change in intensity was evident as United’s talisman, Bruno Fernandes, started pulling the strings and eventually created a chance in the 53rd minute for Rashford who finished it onto the bottom corner with great composure.
With a foothold on the game, United pushed on with greater vigor and was rewarded for their intent with the equaliser in the 75th min. The goal came about due to an overload of United players in the Atalanta box which resulted in a slightly wayward cross by Fernandes, finding Maguire in the back post, who finished with clinical precision. The sealing moment came in the 81st minute when the greatest goalscorer in the history of the Champions League, Ronaldo, leaped above the Italian defense to nod in a cross delivered from deep by Luke Shaw.
The star of the night, though, was Bruno Fernandes, who orchestrated the comeback win. The Portuguese midfielder, ever since his arrival last January, has become a fan favorite due to his tenacity and flair for the spectacular. With the return of Cristiano Ronaldo and the arrival of the incredibly talented Jadon Sancho, it was almost certain that Fernandes’s potency would sharpen. Yesterday, Fernandes was the throbbing heart of the team, constantly driving the attack upfield and linking up the play with creativity. The introduction of the French midfielder, Paul Pogba, in the second half provided Fernandes with another output to create chances.
With this win, United boss, Solskjaer seems to have regained a sense of breathing space, after an uninspiring start to the season, which included a chastening defeat against Leicester a few days ago. With sterner opponents, including Liverpool later this week, waiting for them in the coming days, Solskjaer has his task cut out – Perform or Perish.