Asif Norat gives us his preview of Manchester United vs Atalanta in the Champions League this evening, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side try to salvage their campaign.
Manchester United vs Atalanta – 3 key battles
Manchester United’s form in the Premier League is inconsistent. They don’t have a consistent style of play and rely on individual brilliance, which is starting to dry up. Without an improvement in form they could be out of the title race early this season.
However, the focus tonight is on the Champions League group stages, as their chance of success is arguably higher in Europe than in England. So far this season, the side have beaten Villarreal and lost to Young Boys, leaving them in third place in Group F. Up next, they take on Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta, who are the most exciting team in Italian football.
The Serie A side normally set up in a 3-4-2-1 setup, where they like to be proactive in possession and attack through the wing-backs, as well as play long balls from the back into the two strikers up front. Although they do not have many household names within the starting line-up, their players fit the system perfectly, leading to some thrilling performances.
Here’s my preview of three key battles that could decide Manchester United vs Atalanta.
Mason Greenwood vs Joakim Maehle
Mason Greenwood has been Manchester United’s most effective forward so far this season. Through his moments of brilliance and incredible finishing ability, he is capable of producing a goal out of nothing and is a player that cannot be given any time or space on the ball. Without his presence through the middle or down the right, the Red Devils lack the energy and movement in the final third of the pitch.
Greenwood is expected to come up against Joakim Maehle, who can comfortably play on both flanks as a wing-back but plays more down the left. Signing for Atalanta in January 2021, he has become an important individual within Gasperini’s style of play and played a crucial role over the summer in helping Denmark to reach the European Championship Semi-Finals. Given his technical ability and energetic presence down the touchline, he provides an extra dimension of width for the Italian side. Whoever wins this duel could have a big impact on Manchester United vs Atalanta.
Luis Muriel vs Victor Lindelof
Atalanta have a few players to rely on for goals in Duvan Zapata, Josip Ilicic and Ruslan Malinovskyi, however, the go to man is none other than Luis Muriel, who notched 22 goals and 9 assists in 36 Serie A appearances last season. The former Sevilla and Sampdoria striker provides the ideal movement on and off the ball, whilst ensuring he can be a focal point of attack for the side’s wingbacks. He is seen as a complete forward, with the types of goals he can confidently produce.
Muriel will be closely marked and watched by Victor Lindelof, as Raphael Varane continues to remain on the sidelines with a groin injury and Harry Maguire is yet to return to his best so far this season. Given that United’s best centre-back is injured and their captain has been performing below his usual standards, Lindelof has a chance to take this opportunity to prove himself as a superior defender, who is yet to show composure and dominance against a striker with pace and power.
Bruno Fernandes vs Marten de Roon
Despite Solskjaer’s constant changes in the midfield pivot, from Fred and Scott McTominay to Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba, there is no doubts or fears of Bruno Fernandes not starting in the number ten role behind Cristiano Ronaldo during Manchester United vs Atalanta. The Portuguese international has become more of a playmaker since the arrival of his international team-mate in the summer, where he looks to provide the key passes and aims to create the big chances for players like Ronaldo and Mason Greenwood.
On the other hand, Marten de Roon is most likely to play as the deep individual in Atalanta’s midfield, as he will be the player to carry out the defensive duties to prevent the side from being caught out, when losing the ball high up the pitch. With the team losing their best centre-back Cristian Romero to Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, the side have been defensively unconvincing and quite open at the back, resulting to the opposition creating and scoring without any difficulties. So, the 30-year-old Dutchman will have a vital role to play just in front of Atalanta’s high backline.
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