Bruno Fernandes.

The state of play in Group F

Tuesday 23 November 2021 14:00

Champions League Group F could go down to the wire as the clubs battle for a place in the knockout stages of the competition.

The Reds were facing the prospect of being in third spot ahead of our next outing against Villarreal, until Cristiano Ronaldo popped up with his second equaliser on another dramatic night away to Atalanta at the beginning of November.

It was a priceless goal that took us back to the top of the table and avoids the scenario where defeat in Spain on 23 November would have been the end of our chances of progressing.

Highlights: Atalanta 2 United 2 Video

Highlights: Atalanta 2 United 2

Enjoy the best action from a crazy match in Bergamo, plus those two majestic Ronaldo goals...

Young Boys look to be struggling after losing each of their fixtures since shocking United on matchday one, with their 2-1 victory over the 10-man Reds securing their only points in the group.

United are ahead of Villarreal due to the head-to-head rule after our 2-1 win over the Yellow Submarine, even though Unai Emery's side have a superior goal difference.

Atalanta sit in third spot after twice surrendering leads to the Reds but they will be confident of beating Young Boys in their next fixture to really pile the pressure on their rivals.

Victory against Villarreal would now be enough to secure one of the top two spots in the group and progression to the round of 16 in 2022.

Although the Europa League holders could still move on to 10 points by beating Atalanta, our head-to-head record would keep us ahead of the side from La Liga, regardless of the outcome of our tie with Young Boys.

A draw would leave both teams with eight points going into the final round of games, which will also be the case for Atalanta if they win at Young Boys. In that scenario, of course a draw in Bergamo would send the other clubs through if United were to lose to our Swiss opponents. However, a point would suffice for the Reds to finish top of the section, due to what would be a better head-to-head record with Villarreal and Atalanta.

Obviously, Young Boys could still have a say in matters and are not yet out of the competition. If they manage to pull off victory against Atalanta in Bern, they would move on to six points and be propelled back into contention.

It should be noted that fixture takes place after we have finished our tie at Villarreal, as it kicks off at 20:00 GMT, while our game is at 17:45 GMT.

Depending on how United get on, it is also worth remembering that Young Boys could end up beating the Reds on the head-to-head rule after their 2-1 win in the opener. However, the only way this would happen is if we lose both of our games and David Wagner's men draw against Atalanta before winning at Old Trafford.

Press Conference: Villarreal (A) Video

Press Conference: Villarreal (A)

Michael Carrick and Harry Maguire spoke to the press ahead of our Champions League group game in Spain…

Defeat for the Reds at Villarreal could certainly set up a tense final night, when even success against Young Boys may not be enough to ensure a smooth passage on 10 points.

Providing Atalanta beat Young Boys, they would be on eight points and could obviously reach 11 if they also see off Villarreal in Bergamo. That would leave United and the Yellow Submarine level, a point adrift, and if Villarreal manage to win by more than one goal they will progress with a better head-to-head record. With away goals no longer counting, a single-goal margin would then bring goal difference into play - they are currently three better off.

Hence, the probable worst-case scenario is a loss by more than a goal to Villarreal as they would be guaranteed a place in the last 16, irrespective of their result against a highly motivated Atalanta team that would also qualify if they secure two wins.

Avoiding such a headache is, therefore, crucial and winning both games would clinch top spot for the Reds and a stress-free route into the latter stages of the competition. Indeed, a draw in Spain and final-night victory would take us up to 11 points and that would also be enough to win the group.

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1. UNITED 7 pts
2. Villarreal 7 pts
3. Atalanta 5 pts
4. Young Boys 3 pts

To play:

23 Nov: Villarreal v United (17:45 GMT), Young Boys v Atalanta (20:00 GMT)
8 Dec: Atalanta v Villarreal (20:00 GMT), United v Young Boys (20:00 GMT).