Atalanta 2-2 Manchester United: Ronaldo rescues Red Devils again

Stats Perform
02/11/202122:06
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his second goal against Atalanta
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his second goal against Atalanta

Cristiano Ronaldo once again proved Manchester United's Champions League hero by scoring late on to rescue a crucial 2-2 draw at Atalanta on Tuesday.

The Portugal international completed United's 3-2 comeback win against the same opponents from two goals down two weeks ago and also struck late on in September's 2-1 recovery win against Villarreal.

Ronaldo's latest rescue act arrived in the 91st minute at Gewiss Stadium when volleying in a sublime equaliser, having earlier struck to cancel out Josip Ilicic's opener before Duvan Zapata put Atalanta back in front.

The draw keeps Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side top of Group F, level on points with Villarreal and two better off than Atalanta with two group games remaining, meaning their last-16 fate remains in their own hands.

After United had hit the post through a deflected Scott McTominay drive, Atalanta took the lead when Zapata pulled the ball back for Ilicic, whose shot squirmed under David de Gea – the goal allowed to stand after a VAR check for a possible Mario Pasalic offside infringement.

United lost Raphael Varane to injury before half-time, but the introduction of Mason Greenwood paid immediate dividends as he linked up with Bruno Fernandes, who in turn flicked the ball into the path of Ronaldo to fire home his first of the game.

Atalanta restored their lead when Zapata got in behind down United's right, evaded a sliding challenge from Harry Maguire and finished past De Gea. The goal was initially ruled out for offside, but VAR rightly overturned that decision after a two-minute check to determine Zapata was indeed onside.

That left United on the brink of a fourth successive away defeat in the European Cup for the first time ever, only for Ronaldo to once again bail out his side by firing a first-time shot into the bottom-left corner after a loose ball popped up into his path with time almost up.

What does it mean? Ronaldo to the rescue

With Villarreal on their way to a 2-0 win over Young Boys, United found themselves third in Group F with seconds remaining in Bergamo and yet more questions inevitably being asked of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

While Ronaldo's brace does not entirely lift the pressure off Solskjaer's shoulders, it does at least mean United remain top of their group with two games – away to Villarreal and at home to Young Boys – left to play.

Solskjaer could have had few complaints had his side fallen to just a second defeat in their past 12 games against Italian opposition in the Champions League – Atalanta had an expected goals value of 1.55 compared to United's 1.04 – but with Ronaldo on the field anything is possible.

Sweet Ron-two

Ronaldo became the first player to score in four successive Champions League appearances for United since Ruud van Nistelrooy in April 2003 with his opener, which was a well-worked team goal involving Greenwood and Fernandes.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner added an even better second from range and in the process overtook manager Solskjaer's tally of goals in all competitions for United with his 126th for the club, doing so in 63 fewer appearances.

Solskjaer's leaky defence

United were once again shaky in defence and midfield, with the likes Maguire, De Gea and Paul Pogba in particular having off-days – the latter being replaced 20 minutes from time with his side chasing a goal.

The Red Devils have now failed to keep a clean sheet in 14 of their past 15 Champions League matches and have conceded in 13 of their 15 matches in all competitions this term.

Key Opta Facts

– Atalanta have only won one of their six games against English teams in the Champions League (D2 L3), with that victory coming away at Liverpool last season.
– Only Norwich City (28) and Leicester City (25) have conceded more goals in all competitions among Premier League sides this season than Man United (23). 
– Ronaldo (36y 270d) is the oldest player to score two or more goals in a single game for United in European competition.
– Since his United debut in February 2020, Fernandes has been directly involved in more goals in all competitions than any other Premier League player (77 – 44 goals, 33 assists). 
– Ilicic has scored the most Champions League goals for Atalanta (seven), while Zapata now leads the way for assists for them in the competition (five). 

What's next?

United have a huge showdown with neighbours Manchester City on their return to Premier League action on Saturday, while Atalanta are at Cagliari in Serie A the same day.

Tags

Manchester UnitedChampions League

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