Manchester United are still well in the fight for the Champions League quarterfinals! In their round of 16 first leg match in Madrid against Atletico, Man United earned a 1-1 draw that will bring them a good opportunity to get the win in the return leg at Old Trafford and qualify for the next round. However, the start of the match did not really bring the feeling of such possibility.
Atletico opened the scoring just seven minutes into this tie. Joao Felix scored after Renan Lodi’s assist and it seemed United could be in for a lot of problems. But Atleti being Atleti, they decided to defend instead of take their chances against a side shaken by an early conceded goal away from home. In such circumstances, United got back into the match and substitute Anthony Elanga leveled with 10 minutes to go, following Bruno Fernandes’ assist.
Lindelof At Right-Back Not A Great Idea
It was a surprise from Rangnick when the starting lineups were announced, that United had three centre-backs in the team. It was expected then for United play with three at the back, but it turned out, Victor Lindelof was to be a right-back, with Varane and Maguire as the usual centre-back partnership. And this idea did not work out well. Lindelof looked out of place in this position, uncomfortable in a role he is not used. The Swede did not rush forward to help Rashford in attack, nor did he bring the needed width. He was often afraid to cross the halfway line and it was far from a surprise when he was substituted, giving place to Wan-Bissaka.
Pogba Lacks The Necessary Discipline – Again
Another player that had to be substituted after a not so great performance was Paul Pogba. He started as one of the two central midfielders, alongside Fred, but that did not work out either. After so many years at United, Pogba is still not disciplined enough for this role, still being the player that would probably more enjoying playing in a midfield three in a 4-3-3 system. Here, he needed to be more responsible and give the ball away less, remain positionally disciplined, but he is still lacking those qualities.
Rashford And Sancho Struggle Against The Block
After United conceded the goal, Atletico decided to defend and create their opportunities after United’s mistakes in possession and short bursts of transitions. This meant United had to fight against their low block in a 3-5-2 formation. Such block is great for denying the space and the pockets necessary for Man United’s wingers. Rashford and Sancho struggled to find that space and in order to be more dangerous. They lost possession on 17 occasions in total, without creating a chance, adding one blocked shot, one off the target shot and one completed dribble. No wonder Rangnick had to make changes.
Good Result For The Second Leg
One of the changes was to bring in Anthony Elanga, who ended up hero, scoring the equaliser to make it 1-1. This goal came after Atletico’s mistake in defensive transition and that goal meant Man United got a good result for them away from home. If there was the away goal rule still in use, this would have been an even better result, but either way, Man United will have the chance to put this tie to bed at their own stadium. It will be far from easy, but at least Man United have put themselves in a good position.