Manchester United

Man Utd's thrilling Atalanta comeback shows the players are still on Solskjaer's side

Craig Vickers
United left it late again
United left it late again / Matthew Ashton - AMA/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

By this point, there's very little which can be freshly deduced from Man Utd's results. Once again Cristiano Ronaldo's penalty box brilliance spared his side's blushes in an imperfect Champions League victory over Atalanta.

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer's tactical blind spots were evident yet again, as Atalanta's wing-back system exposed United in the first half in a very similar fashion to how Leicester manufactured their victory over the Old Trafford side at the weekend.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Maguire
Ronaldo wheels away in celebration / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

But as the pressure mounts on Solskjaer's position, as the point of no return seems to inch closer, his players dig that little bit deeper, almost running that extra yard. There appears no depths that Man Utd can sink to which these players cannot engineer the solution for.

As the groans reverberated around Old Trafford following Merih Demiral's header to double Atalanta's advantage, that very point of no return for Solskjaer seemed to be hurtling towards Old Trafford. The fans grumbled loudly when Scott McTominay elected to pass backwards in a moment just past the half hour mark, and it was only the recency of Marcus Rashford's 44th minute chance which quelled some of the jeers on the blow of the half time whistle.

Man Utd weren't dismal in the opening period, but the manner of the goals they conceded - exposed by the second wing-back system inside a week - suggested that the ill-feeling surrounding the club had begun to finally grip the players.

Predictably, however, they emerged from the second half as if fighting an injustice. Rashford halved the deficit just seven minutes after the resumption, the type of goal in which only a team utterly assured of themselves can craft out.

United battered Atalanta's rearguard with such vigour in the second period that it felt like a matter of time before, at the very least, an equaliser would arrive. Rashford's strike had gotten the Old Trafford crowd back onside, but you would have forgiven the Man Utd faithful for feeling cynical as they endured another 90 minutes in which they're expensively assembled team looked painfully less than the sum of its part.

Make no mistake, anything less than three points would have consistuted a disaster for Man Utd. Not only do their resources dwarf the Serie A outfits, but the Italian side had arrived nursing a host of injuries to key players. When goalscorer Demiral limped off at half time with a hamstring problem, it only added to the sense that United were facing the walking wounded.

Maguire slammed home an equaliser in the 75th minute before Ronaldo, almost like clockwork, powered United ahead for the first time on the evening with a trademark bullet header. Few could deny the hosts deserved it on their second half showing.

The reality is that these Man Utd players adore Solksjaer and, for all the criticisms of the Norwegian's tactical acumen, he has created the conditions in which their individual brilliance shines bright above all other aspects. Ronaldo has garnered such praise in his return to Manchester - especially on European nights - largely because United's weaknesses have set the stage for his grandstand finishes.

It is clear that, as the criticisms of the Man Utd boss grow louder, as the anti-Solskjaer sentiment seems to reach its boiling point, the players flex their muscles even harder. Stay tuned for the next episode of Man Utd In Crisis.

facebooktwitterreddit