Last time Manchester United were in the Champions League it was none other than Cristiano Ronaldo who‘s winner against Villarreal, in “Fergie Time” clinched all 3 points but the mood has somewhat shifted since then. In what had seemed, on paper at least, a fairly straightforward Champions League group could turn into a nightmare for Ole Gunnar Solskjær if his side slips up against Atalanta on Wednesday night.
Manchester United will be looking to bounce back from a series of disappointing results when they take on the Italian side at Old Trafford as the pressure piles onto Solskjær – despite official statements of backing from the boardroom, and he will be desperate to pick up a win on Wednesday and perhaps regain some momentum to utilise in both Europe and domestically.
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A relatively strong start to the season is now all but forgotten as The Red Devils have picked up just one point from their last three Premier League games, coming from a 1-1 draw with Everton sandwiched between a loss at home to Aston Villa at the end of September and Saturday’s dramatic 4-2 defeat at Leicester City as they sit sixth in the Premier League table. And in Europe’s premier competition it hasn’t been much better (performance-wise) with a 2-1 upset to Swish outfit Young Boys and an underwhelming performance dressed up with a last-minute winner vs Villarreal leaves United 3rd in the group with 3 points in what now seems like a crucial game.
Atalanta may have made a strong start to their European endeavours, but their Serie A form has been a little more hit-and-miss – winning four, drawing two, and losing two of their eight games for a total of 14 points, putting them in sixth place in the table – mirroring United’s form in their respective league. Despite this, they have hit six goals in their last two Serie A games and have failed to find the net just once in all of their games so far this season so they are going to pose a real threat to a United defence that hasn’t kept a clean sheet at Old Trafford since the 15th of April despite David de Gea’s resurgence of form.
Man United will be without Raphael Varane, Amad and Anthony Martial through injury; however, Harry Maguire made a quicker return to action than expected and, whilst he struggled against his old side Leicester, he will likely keep his place in the backline on Wednesday.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is eligible after UEFA reduced his two-game suspension following a successful appeal by the club. The right-back was sent off during the defeat to Young Boys and has already missed the 2-1 win over Villarreal in the competition.
Fred and Edinson Cavani returned late from international duty and missed Saturday’s game, but will hope to be part of the team against Atalanta.
🗣 Solskjær: Raphaël [Varane] is still not with us but Edinson [Cavani] and Fred are back available which is good for us.” [MU]— UtdDistrict (@UtdDistrict) October 19, 2021
Atalanta look set to be without Robin Gosens, after he suffered a thigh injury against Young Boys. Hans Hateboer and Berat Djimsiti are also absent, the latter following a foot operation, and Matteo Pessina missed the weekend win vs Empoli and Italy’s recent internationals.
One to Watch
Having missed the opening stages of the campaign following a shoulder operation in the summer, Marcus Rashford didn’t take long to get back among the goals for the United in Saturday’s 4-2 defeat away at Leicester City. he is expected to make his first United start of the season on Wednesday night.
With The Red Devils attack looking predictable in attack, Rashford’s return will be met with great satisfaction from Solskjær who will be hoping the 23-year-old sharp direct play and blistering pace takes the United attack up a notch – which has looked lethargic in recent games. A man for the big occasions especially under the European lights at Old Trafford and against a high-flying, all-out attacking Atalanta side, it will be a perfect opportunity for Rashford to show his threat.Embed from Getty Images
Response is needed
There are many words to describe United’s recent form and positive is far from it. But it’s important for Solskjær’s men to start getting the results, and just as importantly, need to start performing, as a top team. Solskjær has shown a mysterious ability to achieve results when all the odds are stacked against him, and he must conjure up whatever powers it is if he’s to get United through these run of difficult fixtures.