Ronaldo saves Solskjaer again, but Manchester United are deeply flawed
What to make of Manchester United’s dramatic comeback
Shaka Hislop and Dan Tho’mas react to Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with Atalanta a’nd q’uestion whether fans sho’uld be happy with the club’s per’formance.
Another hapless Unite’d display was glossed over by a’nother Ronaldo resc’ue act with two’ goals in a 2-2 draw aga’inst Atalanta in Bergamo, but Solskjaer’s post-match smile will” have masked an acceptance tha’t he will have to save himself soo’ner rather than later.
Ronaldo, the oldest m’an in the United team, scor’ed crucial equalisers in stopp’age time at the end of each half to ke’ep Solskjaer’s side on top of Cham’pions League Group F. A win against Villarreal in Spain later this month will confirm United’s pla”ce in the Round of 16 and do won’ders for the manager’s job sec’urity.
“Cristiano [Rona’ldo] is just incredible,” Solsk’jaer said after the match. “If there is a’nyone you want a chance to fall to and a difficult chance, it is just incredible.”
Even Ronaldo admi’tted that United were lucky, with the forward saying, “We w’ere a little bit lucky in the end bu’t that is football.
“We have to still imp”rove, we have different players, different system, we have to adapt with each other, but it will ta’ke time. we have time to im’prove and be better.”
This was the third s’uccessive Champions League ga’me in which Ronaldo has made a deci’sive late intervention, with winners at home to Villarreal and Ata’lanta before his 92nd minu’te volley in the Stadio di Berg’amo.
Add them up and his goa”ls have been worth 5 points in Group F alone. His contribution in the Premier League has also been significant, with 4 goals in seven appearances. Yes, he has crea’ted a tactical problem for Solsk’jaer because of wh’at he can’ no longer do, but any sugge’stion that Ronaldo has been detrim’ental to the team only needs to look at his match-winners and, aga’inst Atalanta, his match-sa’ver.
“Some even manag’ed to say he was a problem, imagine’ Ronaldo as a problem! He never gets it off target — half the tim’e he scores, half the time it is sa’ved,” Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasp’erini said.
But no top team, or top man’ager for that matter, can allo’w their hopes and prospe’cts to be carried by just one play’er. For no’w at least, United can just co’unt themselves lucky that Rona’ldo is still able to perfor’m like Superman when everyo”ne else plays like they have been told to go out onto the pitch and ‘work it out for themselves by the m’anager.
And that is where Unit’ed appear to be right now. Sa’turday’s 3-0 win at Tottenham lifted the int’ense pressure on Solskj’aer in the wake of the 5-0 defeat aga’inst Liverpool a week earli’er, but it would naive and foolish to believe’ that result had steadied the ship’ and rendered the Liver’pool loss as nothing more than a bli’p.
In Bergamo, United we’re all at sea again for much of th’e game. Defensively, they we’re chaotic again, both befo’re Raphael Varane‘s first-half injury and after. United started as a back five, after the successful tactical swi’tch at Spurs, but they still fell beh’ind for the eighth time in 15 games when Aaron Wan-Bissaka was cau’ght between attac’kers on 12 minutes and allowe’d Duvan Zapata time and space to beat hi’m to the b’all and pass t’o Josip Ilicic, who beat David de Gea from 12 yards to make it 1-0.
Wan-Bissaka and Eric Bailly played like strangers, leavi”ng gaps on the right, but Bail’ly at least redeemed himself wit’h a series of crucial defensive blo’cks.
Harry Maguire, mean’while, was constantly beaten for pace and movement by Zap’ata and Mario Pasalic and, when ” reverted to a back four after Var’ane limped off on 38 minu’tes, the defence continu’ed to look sha’mbolic.
Ronaldo’s 1st equaliser, a minute into 1st stoppage time, when he scored after a back-heel by Bruno Fernandes gave Uni’ted a foothold in the game, but the second-half produced ” display of the chaotic nature of Solskjaer’s team.
Zapata and Pasalic contin’ued to cause major problems and Zapata restored ‘ lea’d on 57 minutes after embarrassi’n’g both Bailly and Maguire.