Report: United 3 Atalanta 2
Manchester United staged another famous European comeback to beat Atalanta 3-2 at Old Trafford with a second half treble in front of the buoyant Stretford End.
It was a poor first half for the Reds as we looked for a second Champions League home win in Group F, having beaten Villarreal 2-1 in late dramatic style last month.
Atalanta took charge in the first 45 minutes as United slipped to a shock 2-0 scoreline, after 29 minutes, as Mario Pasalic and Merit Demiral struck to stun Old Trafford.
But the hosts rallied superbly on another cracking European night with a sensational second half fightback.
Goals from Marcus Rashford and skipper Harry Maguire hauled us back into the match before Ronaldo’s winner in the 81st minute put another three points on the board to ensure we go top of the group after Young Boys were beaten 4-1 in Switzerland by Villarreal.
FIRST HALF - ATALANTA ROCK UNITED AT THE DOUBLE
Rashford was a livewire for United in the opening exchanges and pulled a shot wide when he was through on goal in the third minute. He was ruled offside but nevertheless, it was a promising opening for our No 10 in his first start since the Europa League final last May.
However, Atalanta, too, were looking dangerous and had the bulk of the early possession and made it pay after just 15 minutes on the clock. The Italians carved the Reds defence open with a slick attack, ending with Davide Zappacosta crossing for Pasalic to stab home in front of the Stretford End.
The restart was delayed as VAR checked for offside but, eventually, the visiting support from Italy could resume their celebrations as Polish referee Szymon Marciniak signalled the goal was good.
Fred reacted to the setback with a shot that was tipped over the bar by keeper Juan Musso as United finally got on the front foot. But we couldn’t make the response count and Atalanta shook Old Trafford when they went 2-0 up after 29 minutes. A corner was met powerfully by Demiral as he rose and outjumped both Maguire and Luke Shaw.
United struggled visibly to get over the shock and it wasn’t until Fred struck a decent chance wide in the 44th minute that United offered a credible response and that was followed by Rashford crashing a great opportunity against the bar after a rare lapse at the back from the visitors.
SECOND HALF - CLASSIC COMEBACK
United had a great early chance to kickstart a response, just two minutes after the interval. Ronaldo was put through on goal but Atalanta No 1 Musso stood up to our striker and saved well. But if the Italians thought they’d staved off the threat they reckoned without a superb ball from Bruno Fernandes in the 53rd minute to release Rashford.
It was a big moment and the striker kept his cool and calmly curled a low right footer into the far side of the net to raise the roof.
The Reds' high-tempo response had the Italians rattled and forced both substitute Matteo Lovato and Pasalic to be booked three minutes apart as they took desperate measures to stop Ronaldo and Shaw respectively.
United were a different side altogether now and Scott McTominay almost levelled when he hit a post in the 58th minute and Ronaldo had a 63rd minute snapshot in the box saved.
Solskjaer made his first changes in an effort to up the ante further, bringing on Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani for McTominay and Rashford.
Atalanta turned the Red tide after 71 minutes in a bid to restore their two-goal lead but found David De Gea in superb form. He repelled two blockbusters from subs Duvan Zapata and Ruslan Malinovskyl to deny the Italians.
The Spaniard's double stop provided the platform for United hit back again with a much-needed goal from captain Maguire. Fernandes swung a right-wing cross in and it beat everyone, with Cavani maybe getting the merest of touches, but our skipper was the back post to slam the ball home for the equaliser.
There was still plenty of time for another astonishing script to be written as Shaw crossed for Ronaldo in the 81st minute. Our Portuguese hitman typically hung in the air to meet the delivery and steered it home with his head as Old Trafford exploded. This was another memorable night that had the crowd buzzing at the final whistle.
The Reds executed a stunning turnaround to sink Atalanta.
United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire (c), Shaw; Fred (Matic 88), McTominay (Pogba 66); Greenwood (Sancho 72), Fernandes, Rashford (Cavani 66); Ronaldo
Subs not used: Henderson, Bailly, Mata, Lingard, Dalot, Telles, van de Beek, Elanga.
Goals: Rashford 53, Maguire 75, Ronaldo 81.
Bookings: Shaw, Matic, Cavani.
Atalanta: Musso, Maehie, Palomino, Koopmeiners, Muriel (Zapata 56), Freuler, de Roon, Demiral (Lovato 45), Ilicic (Miranchuk, 67), Zappacosta, Pasalic (Malinovskyl 67).
Subs not used: Rossi, Sportiello, Pezzella, Scalvini, Piccoli.
Goals: Pasalic 15, Demiral 29.
Bookings: Lovato, Pasalic, De Roon.