Down The Wings

Manchester United Fan Blog

Match Review: Manchester United 3-2 Atalanta

(Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

Magical nights have returned to Old Trafford, with a rollercoaster of emotion special moments.

How Did Manchester United Set Up?

Ole came out before the game and stated they were going to gamble and at times they would look like a 4-2-4… a little adventurous to say the least.

3 words to describe the game = NERVY, EXPANSIVE, NOSTALGIC.

The Team:

David De Gea (GK), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (RB), Victor Lindelof (CB), Harry Maguire (CB), Luke Shaw (LB), Fred (CM), Scott McTominay (CM), Bruno Fernandes (CAM/CF), Mason Greenwood (RW), Marcus Rashford (LW), Cristiano Ronaldo (ST)

Bench: Henderson, Bailly, Pogba, Mata, Lingard, Dalot, Cavani, Sancho, Telles, Matic, Van De Beek, Elanga.

Manchester United vs Atalanta: How It Went Down?

First Half

The game starts positively for the red devils, McTominay slips in Rashford within the opening 2 minutes, with a neatly played through ball splitting the Italian teams centre backs. Rashford takes a good touch but pushes a low right-footed shot just beyond the post.

If the first 10 minutes set the tone for the game we were in for a stellar event, the game is so open and heated. Atalanta work the ball well for 2 opportunities but only manage 1 effort on target. Everything seems to be flowing through the channels being created by the home teams lack of defensive shape and structure. 2 or 3 phases on the wings are regularly leading to attacks and decent chances for the Italian team and it becomes fruitful after 15 minutes.

GOAL! United 0-1 Atalanta. 15mins.

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Illicic and Zappacosta work the ball well with a slipped-through ball into the channel between Maguire and Luke Shaw, the ball is squared across the box to Pasalic and a simple tap in beats the United Goalkeeper. A quick VAR check is conducted but the Croatian midfielder is safe.

Maguire and Shaw were on holiday during that build-up, Shaw is too far up the field when they play starts out on the wing- and it caused Maguire to stray from the heart of the defence and the defencing deteriorates from there. This should not have happened and there were warning signs with similar play down the same side from Atalanta since the start of the game.

Fred has a chance after a cross came off the right-wing and falls to the industrious little fellow in the box, but it’s blasted high toward the top of the net and the keeper makes a good save!

The following 8-10 minutes is all high pressure and sustained attack from the talented Manchester forwards but it’s all bark and no bite. United don’t take the chances presented them and the ball is cleared up the field again through the channel between Maguire and Shaw… Atalanta wins a corner.

GOAL! United 0-2 Atalanta. 28mins.

Despair is written across the faces of 95% of the stadium Turkish CB and ex Ronaldo, Juventus teammate, Demiral deftly crafts a little space in the box for himself and glances a powerful, in-swinging cross into the far end of the side netting. The goal is scored in front of a silenced Stretford End!

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This was clever attacking play from the Italian team, He picks up on the zonal marking + collides the player block (Shaw) with the Front post sentry (McTominay), he then steps back into the void he forged and attacks the header, very crafty!

There are some visibly concerned senior players and the Iberian trio of Bruno, Ronaldo and De Gea exchange some heated words with each-other, a welcome sight to see such fire in the lungs of integral players.

4 good United chances in the next 15mins…

Ronaldo has a chance at 35mins, but enough pressure from the Atalanta defence put the hitman off-balance and the shot goes very wide. Rashford misses a golden opportunity to claw us back into the game at 41mins he finds himself in a mirror image of the opportunity at 2mins, the ball is slipped smartly through the Italian team’s CBs and Rashford has acres of room, an incredible last-ditch tackle from Demiral takes the ball away from the illustrious young Englishman but he should not have waited so long to shoot, still dusting off the cobwebs of his recent injury lay off. Fred carves a snake-like dribble toward gaol after cutting in off the left midfield area, skips past 2 players but places the ball the wrong side of the far post. The last chance of the half falls to Rashford, again a clipped through ball this time with a little loft, marries up with the arcing run and after a GK rush, Marcus opts for power over placement and the ball strikes the crossbar in stoppage time.

The 1st half ends with the Italian side leading 2-0, there is mass booing! From the majority of the Manchester United fans, completely unwarranted… Barring a few array shots and a good 2 saves from the opposition GK, United could be level or better. The red devils look decent going forward but there are question marks that remain over the defence, there was certainly no lack of urgency from the players they were pressing and on the front foot from the 2nd conceded goal to the end of the 1st half.

Second half

WOW! The united players are running with a rocket strapped to the hip and fire spitting from their mouths, the urgency in the play over the first five minutes of the second half has perked up the crowd and the Boos just 20 minutes earlier could not be imagined. – Does Ole have a hairdryer? What happened in the down the tunnel at half time?

Ronaldo has an effort at 46mins that’s just a little tame, and Rashford has a distant volley at 49mins, United look threatening.

GOAL! United 1-2 Atalanta. 53mins.

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Rashford is slipped in by an outside of the foot, looping ball played by Bruno. Rashford runs through with the ball and arcs his body gracefully like a flowering vine and slides the ball beyond the GK. Old Trafford erupts in applause and based on the balance of play it’s a well-deserved goal.

Clearly spurred on United push hard for another goal and equalise the scores, there are a few questionable challenges and the ref is brandishing the yellow card like a parking ticket officer (4 Yellows in 5 minutes, 3 Atalanta and Luke Shaw) 3 big chances in the next 3 minutes and Greenwood crosses to the danger area with Scott McTominay darting toward the front post, connection is made but the ball hits the upright of the woodwork and a chance goes amiss. At 63mins Ronaldo has a cheeky effort low across the ground attempting to wrong foot the GK but it’s equalled with the best save of the tie yet.

CHANGES ARE MADE – Cavani and Pogba on! – they replace Rashford and McTominay.

The tie is still open and almost immediately after the changes are made, Atalanta fire 2 warning shots at De Gea, the Spaniard makes an incredible double save, the first low and driven by Malinovski with his outstretched foot and the second a powerful effort from Zupata swerving at him, a gentle reminder to all the doubters, we’re very blessed to have De Gea as out man between the sticks.

CHANGES ARE MADE – Greenwood’s night comes to an end and he’s replaced by fellow English international Jadon Sancho.

This really is a tale of two halves story, Maguire has a leaping header on target and does everything right, another save from the GK and the low header is palmed away but it’s to no avail.

GOAL! United 2-2 Atalanta. 75mins.

Captains step up when it matters most! Maguire has devoured an opportunity, he gambles after the initial corner and stays up the field. The ball is crossed in from the right side after the ball is won from the initial crosses clearance, the cross drifts past the Atalanta defence, clever movement from the experienced leading men (Cavani with a dummy duck and Ronaldo with a dummy body feint toward then away from the ball) leads the ball to Maguire who, without taking a touch, laces the ball into the bottom corner!

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United are continuing to look for avenues to win the game but for the next 5 minutes the play is pretty scrappy, Atalanta receive another yellow card, this time it’s Palomino for a late challenge on Bruno.

GOAL! United 3-2 Atalanta. 81mins.

It’s the man for the big occasion, Ronaldo is hovering in the middle and after Fernandes’ corner is cleared the ball is won by Shaw and he digs a long cross in from the left he thrusts his powerful neck muscles and thumps the ball from close range into the net! Say what you may about his diminishing work rate over his career but when you need a man to score he steps up! That’s the 2nd winning goal for United in as many Champions league games, and on a very special 300th United appearance for the GOAT!

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Matic is brought on for Fred to help sure up the midfield areas, United drop back and hold on to lead to send them to the top of the group! An emphatic win to come from 2-0 down at half time. You can never write off a Manchester United team in the champions league, I’m not a statistician but I’d be surprised if any other team has gone on to win more games after conceding first in the competition.

It’s a memorable night for the fans for many different reasons but personally the event was marred by the pathetic Boos of the fans, a big appreciation shouts out to any fans who were in the Stretford End and the Singing section who continually chanted and cheered for our players.

Final Score: 3-2

    M Rashford (53rd minute)

    H Maguire (75th minute)

    C Ronaldo (81st minute)

    M Pasalic (15th minute)

    M Demiral (28th minute)

Things to note

Tactically – it was a tale of two halves. The first half was a gamble that did not pay off, we needed to be more compact in our own two, thirds of the field when we did not have the ball and this was addressed at halftime. The wing-backs didn’t push as often or as high and Bruno dropped a little deeper from off the shoulders of Ronaldo to connect with the two sitting midfielders better.

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Marcus Rashford’s direct running in behind the opposition’s backline has been dramatically missed, I’m hoping to see more of the same movement from Sancho and Greenwood in the coming weeks.

Shaw and Wan Bissaka are still too high up the field when we have the ball in possession, this is not something new and was also noticeable in the draw with Everton recently. Dropping them deeper will close the space most teams are using to create chances against us.

Man of the Match – Bruno Fernandes.

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United’s Portuguese Magician took so many risks in the game that some may say he doesn’t warrant the award for the amount he gave the ball away but risk equals reward, the maestro created 9 clear chances in the game and assisted Marcus Rashford for the goal that sparked belief into the team. A fantastic performance from the man!

Bigger Picture

After the blip of losing against what appears to be this year’s group whipping boys (Young Boys) The red side of Manchester have put their strongest foot forwarded and taken control of the group, this game weeks fixtures played out very well for United, who face now second place Atalanta again in the next game. A win away from home there will place them very well for qualification and what some may say could be along European campaign, the last time United won a Champions League was in 2008/2009, the year Ronaldo won his first Ballon D’or and the year he left us, the final was in Moscow, Russia. This year Ronaldo has returned home after a 12-year absence to potentially help guide us to a return to the Champions League final in a familiar transcontinental Country.

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