While his teammates are crashing and burning, Cristiano Ronaldo saves Man Utd again with a late equalizer

ONE Two weeks ago, Manchester United were down 2-0 at the break against an Atalanta team that was slimmer, more adventurous, more precise in their passes, and which revealed all the flaws in Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s defensive set-up, including an infestation. of individual errors, which were bred by collective positional unreliability and tactical indiscipline. Despite a 4-2 defeat to Leicester City and the support from the ‘singing corner’ next to the tunnel notwithstanding, there was a genuine feeling that United were drowning in insecurity and inconsistency.

Forty-five minutes later, they won 3-2 after digging deep to inject more pace, balance and intensity into their attack and captured Atalanta, who lacked defensive-skilled Rafael Toloi and Robin Gosens, and lost Merih Demiral at the break. That brought them to the top of the group with six points, two ahead of Villarreal and Atalanta, putting them over a couple of cracks before being beaten by Liverpool the following weekend.

It was the defeat that eventually provoked a reaction, not from the board, as many called for, but from the manager and his coaching staff, who returned to the back three for the first time since being beaten by RB Leipzig in December last year, paired their two. venerable center-forwards from the start for the first time and steamrolled Spurs.

It may have dismissed the threat from Antonio Conte, or so the cliché sounds. I’m not so sure that Manchester United, having been burned by their Jose Mourinho experience more deeply than they allowed, would have ever considered installing such a resolutely sovereign and demanding manager as Conte. Beware of yet another high turnover of players and a manager who leaves little legacy, like Louis van Gaal and Mourinho, they seem to intend to restore the club and its ‘culture’ as a long-term project. There will never be another Ferguson, but it is the template, the Busby template, that they want to use and will look for when considering a successor to Solskjær… whenever it may be.

Atalanta, who always play three at the back under Gian Piero Gasperini, recovered after their second half in the second half at Old Trafford by coming back from 1-0 down at Sampdoria to win 3-1 and equalize twice to take a point from Lazio, will definitely start with their best striker Duvan Zapata in Bergamo. Using him from the bench in Manchester was a strange decision, and his strength and intelligent use of it would be a way of trying to upset Manchester United’s new defensive set-up, if of course Solskjær has the ability to hold on to it.

News about groin strain tells us that Atalanta will be missing Rafael Toloi, Matteo Pessina, Berat Djimsiti, Robin Gosens and Hans Hateboer again. For United Victor Lindelof has not traveled, Edinson Cavani may have been rested with Saturday’s derby in mind, but Paul Pogba, who is serving a three-match quarantine in domestic competition, is available.

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