Champions League guide: Group F in focus
It has been a decade since Manchester United last got further than the Champions League quarter-finals.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will be looking to change that this season and — at least on paper — have an easier group to navigate than last season.
They are joined by reigning Europa League champions Villarreal but Unai Emery’s men only finished seventh in LaLiga.
Those two clubs will be battling it out with Atalanta for a place in the knockout stages.
La Dea scored a whopping 90 goals in Serie A last season and have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League in both of the last two campaigns.
Group outsiders Young Boys gave United a tough game at Old Trafford last time the two sides met back in 2018, with the Red Devils eventually winning through a last-minute strike.
Champions League Group F fixtures
Check back throughout the group stage for the latest results and match reports
Tuesday September 14
Villarreal 2-2 Atalanta
Wednesday September 29
Atalanta 1-0 Young Boys
Wednesday October 20
Young Boys 1-4 Villarreal
Tuesday November 2
Villarreal 2-0 Young Boys
Tuesday November 23
Young Boys 3-3 Atalanta
Wednesday December 8
Atalanta P-P Villarreal
Manchester United 1-1 Young Boys
Thursday December 9
Atalanta P-P Villarreal
Key fixture: Manchester United v Villarreal
Villarreal got the better of United in the Europa League final last season, winning on penalties in Gdansk.
Solskjaer’s outfit have often struggled in the latter stages of cup competitions under the Norwegian boss but they will be expected to win this game — especially after spending over £100million strengthening their squad this summer.
It will be a battle of the Red Devils’ star-studded attack against a Villarreal defence that only conceded four goals in nine Europa League knockout matches last season.
It will also be the first Champions League night at Old Trafford since the return of fans to the stadium, so there is sure to be an electric atmosphere at the Theatre of Dreams.
One to watch: Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo’s signing might have broken social media records but United will be more interested in his sensational Champions League numbers.
The superstar has racked up an incredible 134 goals in the competition and won Europe’s premier club trophy five times in his career to date.
The 36-year-old was part of the last United team to be crowned European champions in 2008 — scoring eight times in that campaign, including one in the final against Chelsea.
The Portuguese icon’s return to Manchester is undoubtedly a significant boost in their quest for continental success.
Breakout star: Juan Musso
Atalanta spent big to bring in goalkeeper Juan Musso this summer — his £18m signing from Udinese is the second-most expensive acquisition in La Dea’s history.
Musso kept a commendable 29 clean sheets in 102 Serie A matches for the Friulani after joining from Argentinean side Racing Club in 2018.
He has only made one senior appearance for Argentina so far but was part of the squad that won the Copa America this summer.
With Atalanta’s ultra-attacking style, 27-year-old Musso will be a crucial last line of defence for the team from Bergamo.
Manchester United came unstuck against Villarreal last season but they have added some serious firepower to their squad and are clear favourites to reach the knockout stages.
The Yellow Submarine and Atalanta will fight it out for the other top-two spot but the Italian club’s potent attack should give them the edge over Villarreal.
That means Unai Emery is likely to be back in the Europa League, where he will be looking to win his fifth trophy in Europe’s second-tier competition.
Young Boys struggled last time they were in the Champions League and will probably have a tough time at the bottom of the group once again this year.
All information correct as of 10am, September 6, 2021