Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised the “incredible” influence of Cristiano Ronaldo after the superstar forward struck twice – including another late goal – to once again rescue Manchester United in the Champions League.
Ronaldo cancelled out strikes from Josip Ilicic and then Duvan Zapata in added time at the end of each half as United twice recovered from behind to draw 2-2 with Atalanta on Tuesday.
The first goal rounded off a slick passing move that also involved substitute Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes, while the second was a perfectly executed volley from range that flew away from Atalanta goalkeeper Juan Musso.
Ronaldo has now scored in all four of United’s Group F fixtures, having also netted a 95th-minute winner against Villarreal and an 81st-minute winner in last month’s 3-2 win against Atalanta in the reverse fixture.
The Portugal international’s latest brace prevented United from falling to a fourth successive away defeat in the European Cup/Champions League for the first time ever and keeps his side top of their group, level with Villarreal and two points better off than Atalanta.
Reflecting on the competition’s record all-time scorer’s match-winning display, Solskjaer told BT Sport: “Cristiano is just incredible. That’s what he does. If there’s any chance you want to fall to in the last minute, and a difficult chance, then it’s him.
“He keeps his eye on the ball and his technique on that volley is incredible. That’s football. No one can question the character of these players as they didn’t give up, they don’t give in and they keep going.
“We had to make a few changes and they worked. The first goal was a proper team goal with great quality in the passing and that was the first moment that we played the football that we should do.”
Atalanta’s opening goal was awarded after a VAR check for a possible offside infringement against Mario Pasalic, who was stood near David de Gea when the goalkeeper somehow let Ilicic’s drive squirm through his grasp.
Zapata’s strike was initially ruled out for offside, meanwhile, only for the officials to correctly adjudge the forward was onside following a VAR check lasting two minutes.
Atalanta outperformed their opponents 1.55 to 1.04 in terms of expected goals value, but Solskjaer is pleased with the way his side refused to give up in the eventful draw at Gewiss Stadium.
“Sometimes, you don’t plan to concede a goal and we’re at a difficult place,” Solskjaer added. “The atmosphere was electric and they’re a very physical and aggressive side. The character was spot on again. They kept going.
“It was a tight game, flaws both ways. Their two goals are very tight to being offside. I feel for the first, it’s very close to a player interfering with David’s view, and for the second it’s very close.”
United were already without defender Victor Lindelof, who sustained a knock in training this week, and lost centre-back Raphael Varane – making his second start since returning from a three-game lay-off – to injury shortly before half-time against Atalanta.
Providing an update on the France international ahead of Saturday’s Premier League derby showdown with neighbours Manchester City, Solskjaer said: “He felt his hamstring and that of course you can’t take any risks with.
“Rapha has been such a calming influence when he’s on the pitch and we lost him so that’s football.”