Big Match Feature: Atalanta v Man United

football02 November 2021 08:46

Atalanta let slip a two-goal lead to lose at Manchester United on Matchday 3 and now welcome the new Group F leaders to Bergamo. Catch the action live on SuperSport with live streaming on DStv.

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The teams' first ever meeting on Matchday 3 proved to be a thriller, Atalanta taking a 2-0 half-time lead through Mario Pašalic (15) and Merih Demiral (29). United came roaring back after the break, however, Marcus Rashford halving the deficit in the 53rd minute before late goals from Harry Maguire (75) and Cristiano Ronaldo (81) completed a memorable turnaround.

That made it two wins in a row for United, who had needed an added-time Ronaldo goal to earn a 2-1 Matchday 2 victory at home to Villarreal, their conquerors in last season's UEFA Europa League final.

Those were the English club's first points of this season's UEFA Champions League after an opening defeat at Young Boys by the same scoreline, while Atalanta edged out the Swiss side 1-0 in Bergamo in the second round of matches having drawn their first fixture 2-2 at Villarreal; they are now level with the Spanish side on four points.


ATALANTA Having never featured in the UEFA Champions League before 2019/20, Atalanta are making their third successive appearance in the group stage. Quarter-finalists on debut two seasons ago, they again reached the knockout rounds in 2020/21, losing to Real Madrid in the last 16.

The Italian club were second behind Liverpool in Group D last season, sealing progress with a 1-0 win at Ajax on Matchday 6. That gave them 11 points, two behind Liverpool who had won 5-0 in Bergamo on Matchday 3 Atalanta's heaviest European defeat – before Gian Piero Gasperini's side turned the tables with a famous 2-0 victory at Anfield.

The club from Bergamo were subsequently beaten 1-0 at home and 3-1 away by Real Madrid in the round of 16.

Atalanta have won only three of their nine home UEFA Champions League matches (D3 L3) with the defeat of Young Boys on Matchday 2 this season their first victory in Bergamo in the competition (D2 L2) having played their home games in Milan in 2019/20. They have, however, suffered only four defeats in their 26 home European matches overall (W13 D9).

Atalanta were third in Serie A for the second season in a row in 2020/21 and also reached the Coppa Italia final, losing 2-1 to Juventus.

Atalanta have been paired with an English club in all three of their UEFA Champions League group campaigns. In 2018/19 they lost 5-1 at Manchester City on Matchday 3 before gaining their first ever point in the competition with a 1-1 home draw; last season they suffered that 5-0 reverse to Liverpool in Bergamo, but bounced back with a 2-0 away win thanks to goals from Josip Ilicic and Robin Gosens.

Atalanta's only other fixtures against an English club came in the 2017/18 UEFA Europa League group stage, when they beat Everton 3-0 at home and 5-1 away, Gosens scoring on Merseyside.

Manchester United

United are making their 24th appearance in the UEFA Champions League group stage, an English record, with Arsenal (19) second on that list and Chelsea (18) third. Overall, only Barcelona and Real Madrid (both 26) and Porto and Bayern München (both 25) have featured more often.

The Red Devils have qualified for the knockout phase on 18 occasions, also an English record, although they missed out in 2020/21.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær's side finished third in their section in 2020/21 behind Paris Saint-Germain and Leipzig, a 3-2 loss in Germany on Matchday 6 enabling the latter to leapfrog United into second place.

United therefore moved into the UEFA Europa League, beating Real Sociedad (4-0 a, 0-0 h), AC Milan (1-1 h, 1-0 a), Granada (2-0 a, 2-0 h) and Roma (6-2 h, 2-3 a) en route to their final defeat against Villarreal, in which they went down 11-10 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at the Stadion Gdansk.

United have lost their last three away games in the UEFA Champions League, and five of the last seven; the other two games in that sequence were both wins at Paris Saint-Germain.

United have won their UEFA Champions League section 15 times, although only once since 2013/14.

The Manchester club finished second in the Premier League in 2020/21, 12 points behind local rivals Manchester City.

European Cup winners in 1968, United lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy in 1999 and 2008, also reaching the final in 2009 and 2011 – the latter four all under Sir Alex Ferguson.

United played four matches against Italian clubs on their way to last season's UEFA Europa League final, beating Milan in the round of 16 and Roma in the semi-final.

United's record away to Italian clubs is W6 D3 L11, last season's defeat at Roma ending a three-game winning run. Including last season's round of 32 victory against Real Sociedad in neutral Turin, that loss at Roma is United's only defeat in their last eight matches on Italian soil (W5 D2).

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Four days after losing at United, Atalanta were held 1-1 at home by Udinese in Serie A despite taking the lead through Ruslan Malinovskyi.

Malinovskyi has scored 11 goals from outside the penalty area since joining Atalanta in 2019/20, fewer only than Lionel Messi (17) among the top five European leagues.

On 27 October Atalanta came from behind to win 3-1 at Sampdoria and twice recovered from a goal down to draw 22 at home to Lazio on Saturday.

Duván Zapata, who got the second goal at Sampdoria and the first against Lazio, has scored in four of his last five Serie A games and has six in nine league matches this season. He has a goal or an assist in each of his Serie A appearances in 2021/22.

Marten de Roon scored an added-time equaliser on Saturday, his first Serie A goal since September 2020.

Josip Ilicic scored Atalanta's third against Sampdoria and has six goals in his last seven games for club and country.

Atalanta have now scored 39 goals in Serie A away games in 2021, behind only Milan (41) and Napoli (40).

Rafael Tolói has not played since suffering a thigh injury against Empoli on 17 October.

José Palomino picked up a thigh injury against Sampdoria and missed the draw against Lazio.

Berat Djimsiti had to undergo surgery on his left arm after suffering a fracture in Albania's 1-0 qualifying victory in Hungary on 9 October and has not played since.

Matteo Pessina has not played since suffering a thigh injury on 3 October.

Robin Gosens been sidelined by a thigh injury suffered against Young Boys on 29 September while Hans Hateboer has been out since undergoing surgery on his left foot in August.


Cristiano Ronaldo's Matchday 3 appearance was his 179th in the UEFA Champions League, group stage to final, extending his own competition record. He had gone ahead of Iker Casillas's previous best of 177 in the second round of games.

Bruno Fernandes made his 50th appearance in UEFA club competition on Matchday 2.

United have lost five of their last ten games in all competitions (W4 D1), including two in a row in the Premier League before Saturday's 3-0 win at Tottenham.

Ronaldo, who opened the scoring at the weekend, has seven goals in ten appearances for United since rejoining the club this summer, including two on his second debut in a 4-1 win at home to Newcastle on 11 September. They were his first Premier League goals since 10 May 2009; that gap of 12 years 124 days is the second longest in Premier League history, after Matt Jackson (13 years 187 days).

Ronaldo also broke Damien Delaney's Premier League record of 11 years 155 days for the longest gap between matches; his previous appearance had come 12 years 118 days earlier.

Edinson Cavani scored United's second goal at Tottenham, his first of the season; Marcus Rashford got the third to make it three in four appearances in 2021/22.

Ole Gunnar Solskjæer's side were beaten 5-0 at Old Trafford by Liverpool on 24 October, the first time they had conceded five goals at home without scoring themselves since February 1955.

It was also the first time United had been 4-0 down at half-time in the Premier League era.

United have conceded 11 goals in their last four games.

A 4-2 loss at Leicester on 16 October was United's first away league defeat in 30 games, since a 2-0 reverse at Liverpool in January 2020, and the first time they had conceded four goals in an away league game since a 4-0 loss at Everton in April 2019.

A 2-1 win at West Ham on 19 September was United's 29th successive away league game without defeat (W19 D10), extending the new English Football League record they had set with a 1-0 victory at Wolves on 29 August before it was ended at Leicester.

Mason Greenwood scored in United's first three league games this season although he has managed only one since. He is only the fourth teenager to score 20 or more goals in the Premier League, after Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Wayne Rooney.

Raphaël Varane suffered an adductor strain in France's 2-1 win against Spain in the UEFA Nations League final on 10 October, returning to play 90 minutes at Tottenham.

Rashford underwent shoulder surgery in early August and marked his first appearance since the UEFA EURO 2020 final on 11 July with a goal at Leicester before making his first start on Matchday 3, when he also scored.

Amad Diallo has not played this season due to a thigh injury.

Anthony Martial has been absent through injury since a 1-1 home draw against Everton on 2 October.

Fernandes and Ronaldo are both on the 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or, with the winner to be announced on 29 November.

On 7 October Rashford received an honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester.