Atalanta head coach Gian Piero Gasperini laughed off claims Cristiano Ronaldo has been culpable for Manchester United’s inconsistent form and offered the Portuguese star praise after his last-gasp equaliser.
Ronaldo volleyed home a 91st-minute equaliser to deny Atalanta three points in their dramatic 2-2 draw in the Champions League on Tuesday.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner levelled the game twice late in each half, after Josip Ilicic’s 12th-minute opener and Duvan Zapata’s 56th-minute strike.
During United’s lean run of form, there had been some criticism of Ronaldo for his defensive work, but he has now scored in every group game in this season’s Champions League.
Ronaldo, 36, became the oldest player to score two or more goals in a game for United in European competition, having also matched Ruud van Nistelrooy’s 2003 feat of scoring in four consecutive Champions League appearances.
“Some even managed to say he was a problem, imagine Ronaldo as a problem,” Gasperini told Sky Sport Italia after the game. “He rarely gets it off target, half the time he scores, half the time it is saved.”
The result leaves United top of Group F on head-to-head from Villarreal, with both sides on seven points, while Atalanta are third on five points approaching the final two matchdays.
2 – Cristiano Ronaldo (36y & 270d) is the oldest player to score 2+ goals in a single game for Manchester United in European competition. Evergreen. #ATAMUN
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 2, 2021
Gasperini admitted deep regret at Ronaldo’s opportunistic equaliser but continued to praise the United veteran, who has five goals in the Champions League group stage, along with four in the Premier League this season.
“The regret is one thousand. We believed in it,” Gasperini said during his post-game news conference. “We believed in it because their thrust seemed a bit exhausted too.
“We had good spaces, we controlled the race well and was very close. But this is the Champions League. We faced an extraordinary player with incredible ballistic ability, he fired a shot on a bounced ball several times. This determined the result.
“We have to accept it anyway we still have some chances for qualification. It still depends on us. We played two games that have given a lot to us, to Atalanta and Bergamo.”
Michael Owen predicts Atalanta vs Man Utd result ahead of Champions League showdown
Former Manchester United striker Michael Owen has given his pre-match prediction ahead of the Red Devils’ trip to Atalanta for their fourth Champions League group stage game of the season.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appears to have earned himself some much-needed breathing room after registering a crucial victory over TottenhamHotspur on Saturday.
Speculation over Solskjaer’s future as Man Utd boss has been rife since the 5-0 home humiliation at the hands of fierce rivals Liverpool, but the Norwegian remains in charge for now.
Solskjaer will know how crucial a win away at Atalanta could prove to be in terms of maintaining whatever kind of feel-good factor there is around the club following the Spurs win.
The Serie A side ran United dangerously close last time out at Old Trafford, boasting a 2-0 lead at half-time.
However, a Cristiano Ronaldo- inspired comeback ensured United’s blushes were spared and Solskjaer’s men came away with all three points.
Speaking to BetVictor, former United goalscorer Owen believes another win over their Italian counterparts could be a task too far tonight.
Referring to the win over Spurs last weekend, Owen claimed: “That was a huge, potentially season-saving win for United on Saturday.
“I thought the change of shape worked really well and the strike duo of Cavani and Ronaldo caused lots of problems.
“This will be a tough game for them though and a point would be an excellent result. I’m going for 1-1.”
United’s form in recent weeks has been dismal, but Saturday’s victory could provide a springboard to kick-start some form ahead of a daunting run of fixtures.
Lindelof not in Man Utd squad for Atalanta clash
Victor Lindelof will miss Manchester United’s Champions League game against Atalanta after picking up a knock in training Monday.
The club said the centre-back did not make the trip to Bergamo ahead of Tuesday’s Group F clash.
Lindelof played in the back alongside Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat of Tottenham.
If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sticks with a back three, Eric Bailly seems the most likely option to step in for Lindelof against Atalanta.
Luke Shaw could also move to centre-back, leaving an opening on the left wing that could be filled by Alex Telles.
Lindelof has started all three of United’s Champions League matches this season, and six of ten Premier League fixtures.
United are top of Group F after fighting back for wins over Villarreal and Atalanta following a loss away to Young Boys to open the group stage.
Wheels up for Atalanta with @Aeroflot_World! 🇮🇹#MUFC | #UCL pic.twitter.com/Fg1I4rzKPe
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 1, 2021
4-3-3: Predicted MUFC XI vs Atalanta – Sancho, Rashford&Pogba all come back into team
MUFC left it late to beat the Serie A side in the home leg, now, it’s time for a trip to Atalanta, with our predicted MUFC XI vs Atalanta now in…
Manchester United Football Club are suddenly in control of their Champions League group despite not being at their best.
A win here would set us firmly on the way to a spot in the knockout stages, though as we know, Atalanta are fierce opponents. Make no mistake about it, this game will not be easy.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer definitely bought himself another crack at the whip with that convincing victory against Tottenham Hotspur, though he has to back it up here. First and foremost, I suspect we’ll see a formation change, back to a more familiar 4-3-3.
They’ll also be a few personnel changes for this Champions League encounter, so let’s get right into it.
Check out our predicted MUFC XI vs Atalanta in full here:
Aaron Wan-Bissaka was excellent in that right-back position against Spurs. More of the same here please? Luke Shaw gets the nod in the left-back spot. Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane partner at the heart of our back four.
Scott McTominay plays at the midfield’s base, with Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba combining in a slightly more advanced role. The latter will be feeling fresh after sitting out the weekend game due to suspension.
Cristiano Ronaldo will lead the line, he was brought off early at the weekend with this one in mind. I’ve gone for Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho on the flanks, giving Edinson Cavani a rest as he’s probably lacking in match fitness after barely playing this term.
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