MANCHESTER (England) -- It will be interesting to see what Manchester United's victory over Atalanta, which saw them come back from two goals behind to win 3-2, really means. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will hope it becomes a turning point after a miserable month of four defeats in seven games rather than a Jose Mourinho-against-Newcastle United moment.
In October 2019, there was intense speculation about Mourinho's future. United won 3-2 despite being down 2-0. The Portuguese coach survived to fight another day but was fired eight weeks later.
United are at least showing some momentum with three goals against Atalanta in the second period. They may have to simply try to outscore Jurgen Klopp’s team, because it would be a minor miracle for them to stop Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane after conceding six goals in five consecutive days.
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After being criticized for his work rate, Solskjaer fought back.
Solskjaer said, "Don't even begin," when it was suggested that the players might have shown they were still playing for him. "Don't be disrespectful to the players. They are the lucky men in the world, and they play for Man United. Tonight, I told them that. They are the luckiest men on the planet, the 11 and subs can play for Man United and this is what millions of girls and boys want to do.
Ronaldo's attitude and work ethic can be criticized by anyone who watches the match today. "I said that we should get the next goal, and I was certain we would win the game as long as we didn't concede the next goal."
Solskjaer's passionate post-match interview was a better defense than the team could manage all night. While there have been many worrying aspects to this season's performances, none was more concerning than their inability or unwillingness to defend. Solskjaer relegated Paul Pogba from the game, explaining that his team was "too open" before kickoff. However, it didn't seem like it made much difference.
Atalanta is good at scoring goals, they were the top scorers of Serie A last year. But it's also helpful when the opposition wants to help. Josip Ilicic made a good pass to space down the right, but it was too late. Ten seconds later, the ball was in the net. Mario Pasalic came in front of Scott McTominay and tapped in Davide Zappacosta’s cross.
United has not kept a clean sheet in 20 of their last 20 games, and that is at Old Trafford since March. Their worst home record in nearly 60 years is this 12-game run. United cannot defend open play and they are unable to defend set pieces. Merih demiral out-jumped Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire before the first period was over to take Teun Koopmeiners' place.
It was remarkable that United managed to concede two goals almost as bad as the four at Leicester City on Saturday. Solskjaer's fourth set-piece goal in five games was Demiral's. United also went in at halftime of a Champions League tie with two goals in front.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains in charge of Man United. But for how long? Getty
United fans, who started the game singing "Ole’s at the wheel", were booing the whistle that ended half-time. After 45 minutes of harrowing matches, it quickly became chants of the "red army" and the Stretford End supporters vented their disapproval.
Maguire said that "We conceded two poor goals", which is a slight understatement. "We knew that coming in at half time the next goal was crucial. We deserved the win in the end, I believe. It was difficult but we won. At half-time, we showed great unity in the dressing room. We received tremendous energy from our fans and achieved the result we deserved."
Solskjaer said, "They had two chances and scored 2 goals. That has to stop."
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Despite United's issues at the back, they still have the most attacking players in the world. In the second half, they discovered that Atalanta was just as bad as their defence.
Rashford was sharp in his first start after undergoing shoulder surgery. Maguire scored the equalizer at the back post. Solskjaer hopes it will signal a return of form for Bruno Fernandes (poor at Leicester) who scored both goals.
David De Gea had to still make his weekly world-class save in order to deny Duvan Zpata. But the winner was reserved only for Ronaldo. United's No. 7 scored a header from a Shaw cross to the net.
The sound almost destroyed Old Trafford's roof, but "Ole's at it again" was there. The match-goers still want the Norwegian to win.
Sunday will see the return of the chant. But the question is, for how long? Only time will reveal if you are covering up the cracks or turning a corner.