Down The Wings

Manchester United Fan Blog

Champions League Preview: Atalanta vs Manchester United

Atalanta vs Manchester United | Champions League | Gewiss Stadium | KO 20:00 GMT | BT Sport

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer survived the toughest week of his managerial career after losing 5-0 at home to Liverpool and came out of it with a 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur, a win that sealed the fate of Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

Although it may not have saved Ole his job in the long-term, it certainly has secured his short-term future, with Antonio Conte, the man who was tipped to replace the Norwegian, is now the boss in North London.

With that being said, the pressure is still on Solskjaer, and with a crucial away match against Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League coming on Tuesday, he knows that a win and a good performance is vital in retaining the support of the players, fans, and board.

How do Manchester United Look?

United escaped their win over Tottenham with no fresh injury concerns, although Victor Lindelöf picked up a knock in training on Monday and has not travelled, whilst Anthony Martial is still out.

Paul Pogba is eligible to play once again, as his suspension for his red card against Liverpool only counts for Premier League matches.

Against Spurs, The Reds completely changed their system.

Solskjaer’s ‘go to’ 4-2-3-1 formation was ditched in favour of a back five, that saw a centre back trio of Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelöf being deployed.

This defensive unit saw United keep just their second clean sheet in 22 games, and completely shut off Tottenham, to the point where the hosts did not have a single shot on target.

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If they are to keep the same formation, expect Eric Bailly to come in for Lindelöf, or for Luke Shaw to fill in at centre back, with Alex Telles playing left wing back.

Scott McTominay and Fred remained sat in front of the defence, but their shortcomings and frailties were masked by the strong backline, and should United play the same formation on Tuesday, one of the duo may be dropped for the returning Pogba, who would not have to worry too much about his defensive work.

The attacking trio was what ultimately won United the game, and saved Solskjaer his job, at the weekend.

Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo all contributed to goals and linked up ever so impressively with one another.

It is beyond all doubt now that Cavani and Ronaldo have to both start for United, as their experience, movement and sheer footballing ability still makes them two of the best players in the world, no matter their ages.

Having two strikers on the pitch also allowed Bruno Fernandes to become the creative force in the team once again, and he did not have to worry about playing as a second striker and trying to be the one to score.

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Marcus Rashford came off the bench and scored a calm, composed goal, and could also be an option, should one of the front two need a rest any time this season, should United persist with the back five.

They could, of course, resort back to the 4-2-3-1 that Solskjaer feels most comfortable with, but this may be met with some resistance, as it has proved somewhat unsuccessful this season.

Opposition: Atalanta

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Gian Piero Gasperini’s side put in an impressive first-half showing in their 3-2 defeat to United in the last Champions League group game but were ultimately overcome by The Reds’ quality in the second half.

They were without a number of first-team players and played with a makeshift defence but were combative and looked like a well-oiled side.

They still have a number of key absentees, namely Rafael Toloi, Berat Djimsiti, Matteo Pessina, Robin Gosens and Hans Hateboer.

Key Stats

A win will put United five points clear of Atalanta, all but securing their place in the round of sixteen.

Prediction

Atalanta 2–1 Manchester United.

 

 

 

 

Match Preview Writer

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