Manchester United were able to take away a reasonably positive result from the Wanda Metropolitano with a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first-leg clash, despite producing a disappointing performance and being largely the second-best team.
The Red Devils started the game in shaky fashion and fell behind in the 7th minute after a brilliant header from Joao Felix. The Red Devils could’ve dominated over 65% of the possession in the first half, but were outplayed by Atleti in the key areas & almost conceded a second when the hosts hit the bar minutes before half-time.
United lost possession 61 times in a rubbish first-half performance and needed major improvements to get anything away from this leg in the second half.
But Atleti just couldn’t seal the deal and the Red Devils made them pay, with super-sub Anthony Elanga going through on goal and scoring a clever goal in the 80th minute to make it 1-1!
It was a boring, scruffy game which was expected from these two sides, really. United had to ride their luck as Atleti hit the bar twice in either halves, but they’ll take this result to Old Trafford after their underwhelming performance in the game.
Manchester United player ratings at Atletico Madrid
Ralf Rangnick (5.0)–
Rangnick got a lot of decisions wrong today and was bailed out by Atleti’s inability to convert chances or pounce on United’s problems. He made the inexplicable decision to play centre-back Lindelof in the right-back role over two right-backs Dalot or Wan-Bissaka. He also played the trio of Pogba, Bruno & Fred in midfield despite their history of struggling as a duo against formidable teams.
It resulted in a shambolic first-half performance in which United looked in disarray and were lucky to only concede once. His team-talk at least was nice as United came into the second half a much-recharged side as Atleti started to tire out. Rangnick got his subs perfect, fortunately, seeing Elanga score the equalizer and the others impress too.
David de Gea (6.0) –
The former Atletico player could only stand and watch as Felix’s thunderous header hit his post and went in for the early opener. Not really tested that much after that but lucky to see two shots hit the bar in either half.
Victor Lindelof (6.0) –
Victor’s playing in a surprising RB role today for some reason. Makes a fantastic tackle to deny a huge goal-scoring chance early on. To his credit, Victor did his defensive job really well but was non-existent in the attacking third. Subbed after being booked.
Harry Maguire (5.5) –
Maguire starts the game poorly, allowing Felix to go ahead of him for his goal. Fortunately for his side, he didn’t make any more errors after that and improved beside Varane – winning 6 duels and making 4 clearances – as well as moving the ball forward relatively well under pressure.
Raphael Varane (7.5) –
‘Champions League Varane’ was bought to excel on these occasions. He did exactly that. Arguably United’s best, least erroneous player on the day. He was in the right places at the right time to cut out Atleti’s attacks and frustrated them. Made 5 clearances, won 3 clearances & 5 recoveries in a really solid shift which restricted the hosts from getting sniffs at his goal.
Luke Shaw (5.5) –
Shaw had to work really hard to keep out Atletico’s threat down his side in the first half, but at least did his job reasonably well. He made 3 interceptions and won 2 duels, but his attacking output was really poor. Subbed off after the hour-mark.
Fred (5.0) –
Fred faced a stern test against some bullish midfielders in his deeper role. He struggled when having to protect the defenders, misplacing many passes from deep and getting the ball stolen out of him. Grew into the game and impressed once Pogba was taken off, getting the ball forward efficiently and working well in the pockets of space in midfield.
Paul Pogba (3.0) –
Pogba has been tasked to help United control things, but has looked really nervy. Getting bullied by the opposition midfielders, getting dispossessed easily and failed to create anything in the first half. Better in the second half as he sets up a huge chance for Bruno with a fantastic pass in the 54th.
That bit was probably the only ‘good’ thing he did all game. Absolutely ousted in midfield, as Atleti completely shut him down and did not allow him any freedom at all. Taken off after a really disappointing performance.
Bruno Fernandes (4.5)–
Fernandes comes into this in impressive form but had an awful first half, misplacing passes and losing the ball in bad areas. Couldn’t capitalize on Pogba’s pass or get a shot on goal in the 54th. After having a poor game, he does something good by sending Elanga through for his goal. Frustrating to watch but at least didn’t completely flop as he did assist the goal.
Marcus Rashford (2.0) –
Rashford’s back playing on the right again today. Made a few nice runs but still looks clueless on that side. Didn’t do much better after moved to the left either, attempting aimless shots & crosses that made no sense whatsoever. Drops another stinker.
Jadon Sancho (5.0) –
The in-form Sancho hopes to make good on his £70m price-tag by making a difference in this one. Being marked tightly and unable to create anything really prolific in the game. His best effort was an attempted volley that was blocked by a defender in the second half and all Sancho could do was move things around rather meekly.
Cristiano Ronaldo (4.0) –
Mr Champions League has an excellent record against Atletico. Can he extend that? He couldn’t. Smashes a shot way past the goal after a frustrating first half-hour. Barely fed anything inside the box in the first half. Couldn’t assert his authority in the game and wasn’t able to pounce on the half chances created for him. Will aim to work on improving his record vs Atleti in the second leg at Old Trafford.
Nemanja Matic (6.5) –
Matic was able to do what Fred or Pogba couldn’t, that was shield his defence properly against trouble. Did well to restrict Atletico’s attacking movement towards the end and help his side get a decent result.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (7.0) –
Wan-Bissaka was a major upgrade over Lindelof on the right-back role, proving why he should’ve started. Moved smartly through the right, completing 2 dribbles and winning 2 duels in a bright substitute display.
Alex Telles (6.0) –
Telles added more energy to the left side after replacing Shaw and whipped in some inviting crosses in the box towards the end, but unable to see them converted.
Anthony Elanga (8.0) –
The teenager makes the impact Rangnick wanted him to, cleverly getting past the defenders and coolly slotting past Oblak to get his side a vital equalizer. Did more in like 25 minutes than what Rashford, Sancho and Pogba did in more than 60. Needs to start over Rashford going forward.
Jesse Lingard (N/R) –
Lingard threatened with his smart movement towards the end and tested the goalkeeper with a whipped effort on goal in stoppage time.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Varane and Elanga were United’s brightest outlets today, but have to give this to Atletico’s forward Joao Felix. He lit things up with a fantastic goal, tormented defenders with his movement and set up so many exciting chances. He’s today’s MOTM, for me.