Can United get a much needed win against Atalanta?
Manchester United will host Atalanta in the third group stage match in the Champions League. This is such a pivotal moment for Manchester United. They can push to the top of their UCL group with a win and build momentum ahead of a tricky run of games. Following the utterly embarrasing defeat to Leicester City, United face Liverpool, Spurs, Atalanta away and Manchester City. Ole is under pressure for results despite having the backing of the Old Trafford crowd, the players and the board. He needs results and they need to start yesterday. A win against Atalanta could boost morale and momentum ahead of a crucial home match against Liverpool.
Teams: Manchester United and Atalanta
Date: Wednesday 19th October 2021
KO Time: 20:00GMT
Stadium: Old Trafford
Managers: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Gian Piero Gasperini
Referee: Szymon Marciniak
Manchester United could have Cavani and Fred back for Wednesday night after their late return from the international break. They provide a much-needed energy that was desperately missing against Leicester and could be straight back into the linuep against Atalanta. Marcus Rashford joined Ole in the press conference today and is set to start following his instant impact off the bench against Leicester.
Dean Henderson could start after making the bench this weekend. David de Gea has been in sensational form this season. However, this would provide him with some valuable rest and Henderson with equally valuable game time. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is now available to feature. Wan-Bissaka was given a two-game ban following his red card against Young Boys. However, the ban was reduced and the England defender should start with Dalot still defensively liable.
Phil Jones is featuring regularly for the u23’s and may not be part of the squad. Amad has returned to training but may be well away from featuring for United yet as he improves his fitness. Martial and Varane will not feature due to injury.
Atalanta are missing defender Berat Djimisti through a hand injury but do have enough cover to replace him. I Nerazzurri are also without midfielder Matteo Pessina and crucially, wing-backs Robert Gosens and Hans Hateboer. These three will be big losses for Gasperini’s side but have decent covers in Remo Freuler, Davide Zappacosta and Joakim Maehle.
Manchester United vs Atalanta Predicted Lineups
Ole need to make changes. He cannot field the same team he did against Leicester. It had no energy, no defensive awareness and no pressing ability.
At least one of McTominay and Fred have to start in midfield as United could slice them apart on the counter. Liverpool did this with ease last season and Atalanta aren’t much different from that. I would ideally love to see McTominay and Van de Beek together if Fred is not ready to start. I think the pair compliment each other and could be a good box-to-box pivot. Of course it depends on whether Ole believes it can win games as they have never played in a pivot together before.
In attack I think Ole starts Bruno Fernandes with Rashford on the left and Sancho on the right. It seems clear United need a creative winger and an inside forward. Sancho would do wonders on United’s right and it will be amazing to see Rashford back and fully fit. Up top is a tricky one. Can you have Ronaldo in the team after a full 90 and where you need more pressers or do you field Cavani or Greenwood and bring Ronaldo on? It’s a tough call for anyone let alone a manager under pressure.
Atalanta are set to play 3-5-2 with their favoured wingbacks. Gasperini’s side have a lot of leaders at the back. Captain, Rafael Toloi should hold the fort alongside loanee, Demiral and fourth captain, Jose Palomino. Atalanta do have a few options in midfield even with Pessina out. Atalanta could field a midfield three of Freuler, De Roon and Koopmeiners. The trio would add defensive stability and pressing energy. With Gosens and Hateboer out, Zappacosta and Maehle should play in their stead.
Up top, Illicic and Zapata will look to continue their good form. The Slovenian international bagged a brace against Empoli at the weekend and missed a penalty. Zapata has also been in good form with two goals in his last two games and is both a lethal finisher and a big aerial threat.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford; Ronaldo
Atalanta (3-5-3): Musso; Toloi, Palomino, Demiral; Zappacosta, Koopmeiners, De Roon, Freuler, Maehle; Illicic, Zapata
Manchester United have everything they need to win and win big. Atalanta can be countered very easily with long balls to eager runners as Liverpool showed last season and United have that in abundance. The Old Trafford crowd will want an early goal and the players will be desperate for one too. I hope for an electric European night to boost confidence and push United to the top of the group.
Predicted score: United to win 4-1