Manchester United will be aiming to recover from their recent slump and get back to winning ways when they take on Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League.
An underfire Manchester United side will be looking to bounce back to winning ways when they play hosts to Serie A outfit Atalanta in Group F of the UEFA Champions League at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
It has been a tough past month for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer & co. as they have managed just one win in their last five games in all competitions – a last-ditch 2-1 victory against Villarreal in the Champions League. However, following that, they were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton before being at the receiving end of a 4-2 hammering at the hands of Leicester City this past weekend.
With the Red Devils losing their opening fixture against Young Boys in Europe, they are currently third in the group and will need to start racking up wins in order to push for a place in the knockouts. Things, however, will be anything but easy against an Atalanta side who will be high on confidence after thrashing Empoli 4-1 at the weekend in Serie A.
As for their fortunes in Europe, La Dea are unbeaten in the Champions League so far, battling to hold Villarreal to a 2-2 draw on matchday one before beating Young Boys 1-0 last time. With four points from two games, Gian Piero Gasperini’s side are at the top of Group F and can further stretch their lead with a win at Old Trafford, while dealing a major blow to their opponents’ hopes of progression.
Team News & Tactics
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 19, 2021
Manchester United have no fresh injury concerns heading into this crucial fixture against Atalanta. However, Anthony Martial and Raphael Varane remain unavailable for selection, although the former has returned to training and could be ready in time for the weekend clash against Liverpool. Edinson Cavani and Fred are in contention after missing out against Leicester due to late return from international duty.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under serious pressure to get his team selection and tactics right as questions are being raised over whether he is the right man to get the best out of this Manchester United side. The Norwegian is likely to stick with the 4-2-3-1 setup that he has sworn by in his tenure, with David de Gea manning the goal.
In Varane’s absence, Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire should form the centre-back pairing yet again. The Manchester United skipper will be intent on redeeming himself after a disaster-class against Leicester at the weekend. Luke Shaw is a certainty at left-back while Aaron Wan-Bissaka should start at right-back after his two-game ban was halved.
Scott McTominay ought to form the midfield double pivot alongside Paul Pogba, who will be key to Manchester United’s chance-creation on Wednesday. Him, along with Bruno Fernandes, who will play as the No. 10, will be crucial for the Red Devils to stand any chance of coming away with a win.
Marcus Rashford made a goalscoring return against Leicester and should be in line for a start on the left flank while Mason Greenwood is a surefire starter on the right-wing. Spearheading the attack for Manchester United should yet again be Cristiano Ronaldo while Cavani could also be an option in case Solskjaer opts to rest the Portuguese.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford; Ronaldo
Atalanta have a host of injury issues ahead of their trip to England with captain Rafael Toloi becoming the latest casualty after being taken off with a thigh issue at the weekend. He joins fellow defenders Berat Djimsiti, Robin Gosens and Hans Hateboer out on the sidelines while Matteo Pessina is also ruled out.
Gian Piero Gasperini will continue with his preferred 3-4-2-1 formation at Old Trafford with summer signing Juan Musso manning the goal. Jose Luis Palomino and Merih Demiral are certain starters in the three-man backline and are likely to be partnered by youngster Matteo Lovato on Wednesday while Davide Zappacosta and Joakim Maehle take up the wing-back duties.
Marten de Roon will be in charge of breaking up play in the middle of the park. He will have support from Remo Freuler, with the duo looking to stifle the output of Pogba and Fernandes. Ruslan Malinovskyi will have the creative onus upon his shoulders, slotting in as one of the two attacking midfielders for the visitors.
Josip Ilicic, who scored twice in the game against Empoli, will be the second attacking midfielder, although he is likely to play much closer to the centre-forward, who is likely to be Duvan Zapata, with Luis Muriel dropping out to the bench.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Musso; Lovato, Palomino, Demiral; Zappacosta, de Roon, Freuler, Maehle; Ilicic, Malinovskyi; Zapata
- Manchester United and Atalanta have never faced in any competition previously, with La Dea being the seventh different Italian team that the Red Devils will be coming up against in Europe.
- Atalanta have won three of their six UEFA European matches against English opponents (D1 L2).
- Manchester United have won six of their last seven home games in the UEFA Champions League against Italian opponents. However, the most recent of these was a 0-1 defeat to Juventus in 2018.
- Atalanta have only lost one of their last seven away games in the UEFA Champions League, winning five and drawing the other.
- Since making his first UEFA Champions League appearance for Manchester United in October 2020, Bruno Fernandes has been directly involved in more goals in the competition than any other player for the club (7 – 4 goals, 3 assists).
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— utdreport (@utdreport) October 19, 2021
Invariably all eyes will once again be on that man, Cristiano Ronaldo. The 36-year-old, more often than not, steps up for his team at the time of the need, especially in the UEFA Champions League, as was the case last time out against Villarreal when he scored a late winner to get Manchester United off the mark in Europe for this season.
However, Ronaldo’s signing has come under a lot of scrutiny of late, with several pundits opining that the team is suffering from his inclusion in the lineup, with his lack of pressing from the top being cited as a major issue. It hasn’t helped that the veteran hitman has failed to score in the last couple of matches. He will be hoping to silence the critics with a match-winning display against Atalanta on Wednesday.
Manchester United 2-2 Atalanta
Manchester United showed how vulnerable they still are defensively in the weekend defeat to Leicester City. And against an Atalanta side who are finally getting into their groove and are known for their free-scoring style, the Red Devils could be in for a tough outing again.
However, the visitors’ injuries in defence could mean that United will fancy getting a few goals in themselves, potentially paving the way for a high-scoring encounter at Old Trafford. The Hard Tackle predicts this one to end in a scored draw, which could further increase the pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.