Ronaldo completes epic comeback as key Man Utd stars ease Solskjaer pressure

Date published: Wednesday 20th October 2021 9:53 - Steve Pearson

Man Utd striker Cristiano Ronaldo celebrating after scoring versus Atalanta 2021

Manchester United roared back from 2-0 down as Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes and co stood up tall to secure a pressure-easing 3-2 victory for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Following their dismal defeat to Leicester at the weekend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rung the changes for their clash with Atalanta. The maligned Fred-Scott McTominay partnership was recalled to add extra energy and steel to United’s midfield. Marcus Rashford was also selected to start ahead of the struggling Jadon Sancho.

Manchester United made a bright start at Old Trafford, forging early shooting opportunities for Rashford and Bruno Fernandes. Rashford in particular looked lively and keen to impress with competition for places fiercer than ever.

But despite early pressure, it was Atalanta who struck first with a goal made in Chelsea.

Former Blues full-back Davide Zappacosta ghosted in down the right after United were caught cold from a quick free-kick. His accurate cut-back found fellow former Chelsea star Mario Pasalic who nipped in ahead of McTominay to prod home from close range.

The Red Devils sought to hit back immediately, and but for a smart reaction stop from Juan Musso, Fred would’ve pulled the hosts onto level terms. But while United’s chances came and went, Atalanta were making the most of their limited opportunities.

Centre-back Merih Demiral snuck in between Shaw and Harry Maguire at a corner before glancing home to double their advantage. With half an hour gone and Villarreal leading in the corresponding fixture, the Red Devils were languishing in last place in Group F.

Rashford was gifted a golden opportunity to reduce the arrears prior to the break after springing the offside trap. But showing uncharacteristic indecisiveness, the forward dallied and allowed Demiral to pull off a last-ditch sliding tackle before the trigger was pulled.

Solskjaer given little chance of seeing out the season at Manchester United

Fred then shot wide after driving at Atalanta’s defence before Rashford hit the crossbar with half-time coming at the wrong time for United.

Bruno Fernandes set Cristiano Ronaldo through on goal as the hosts flew out of the traps after the break. The striker’s first touch was superb, but his finish left a lot to be desired after firing straight at Musso.

United never wavered despite their spate of missed chances, and Rashford gave the crowd something to cheer when pulling one back in the 53rd minute.

A sublime first-time pass round the corner from Fernandes freed Rashford who showed great composure to take a touch before slotting inside the bottom corner from a tight angle.

Atalanta were wilting under the weight of Man Utd’s pressure and but for the width of the post, McTominay would’ve made it 2-2. Illustrating the frantic nature of Atalanta’s last-ditch defence, the Italians picked up three yellow cards within a two-minute span.

Solskjaer rung the changes in the hopes of maintaining their blistering tempo. Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani replaced McTominay and Rashford.

A quick Fernandes corner appeared to come to nothing with Man Utd’s centre-backs yet to enter the box. But given a second chance seconds later, Fernandes’ cross found its way to Harry Maguire who had sauntered towards the far post.  Unmarked, the captain made no mistake with a cool first-time finish to level the scores.

There was a sense of inevitability in the stadium and when United needed it most, Ronaldo delivered.

Rising highest to meet a Shaw cross, Ronaldo powered his header inside the near post to make it 3-2 and complete a momentous comeback.

Atalanta pushed to find an equaliser in the game’s dying embers, but the dye was already cast as United ran out 3-2 winners on a famous European night at Old Trafford.

READ MORE: Man Utd given major Haaland jolt as Tuchel reveals Chelsea talks with Lukaku plan

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