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  21 Oct 2021, 12:20

Ronaldo salvage job masks Man Utd's failings

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Oct 21, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - Cristiano Ronaldo's
second coming at Manchester United has already produced two memorable moments
with late winners against Villarreal and Atalanta to edge the Red Devils
towards the last 16 of the Champions League.

  However, Ronaldo's return has also come at a cost with Ole Gunnar
Solskjaer's men increasingly looking like a disjointed bunch of talented
individuals rather than a team.

  United were on course for a fifth defeat in eight games when Atalanta led
2-0 at half-time at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

  A stirring second-half fightback eases the pressure slightly on Solskjaer
as United went from bottom of Group F at the break to top by full-time.

  Ronaldo completed the comeback with a towering header after goals from
Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire brought the home side level.

  The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has come under fire in recent weeks for
the detrimental impact his arrival has supposedly had on the rest of the
team.

  Ronaldo's lack of running off the ball has been scrutinised as a cause for
United's dreadful defensive record.

  But he is delivering at the other end with six goals in nine appearances.

  "He's great in front of goal," said Solskjaer. "If anyone wants to
criticise him for work rate or attitude just watch this game. Watch how he
runs around."

  A much-needed three points reduces the risk of crashing out at the group
stage for a second consecutive season, although there remains plenty of work
to do with trips to Atalanta and Villarreal still to come.

  - Spotlight still on Solskjaer -

  The spotlight also remains on Solskjaer ahead of Liverpool's visit to Old
Trafford on Sunday, with Tottenham and Manchester City also to come before
the November international break.

  United have taken just one point from a possible nine in the Premier League
against Aston Villa, Everton and Leicester to fall five points off the
leaders.

  "That first half was worrying. It looked anything but a team," said former
Man United midfielder Paul Scholes.

  "Can they play Liverpool like that? Never in a million years. Can you play
Manchester City like that? Can you play a top Champions League team like
that?

  "I don't want to sound like a party pooper but that first half was a major
worry for me."

  Not for the first time this season, Solskjaer was indebted to goalkeeper
David de Gea for a huge double save when Atalanta still led 2-1 inside the
last 20 minutes.

  Despite the Spanish goalkeeper's return to his best form, United have still
kept just one clean sheet in their last 20 games.

  "We need to defend better, I know that," added Solskjaer. "It's perceived
we are so inconsistent in general performance when you concede easy goals.

  "Today, (we conceded) another couple of easy goals and we need to eradicate
that because we are playing good teams in the next few weeks."

  Solskjaer's nearly three years in charge have been littered with ups and
downs. He is yet to win a trophy, but is credited for getting the club
regularly back in the Premier League's top four and has consistently reached
the latter stages of cup competitions.

  Ronaldo's return has set off another rollercoaster season in motion, but
the wheels could come off over the next few weeks unless there is a marked
improvement in performances.

 

 

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