Gian Piero Gasperini believes the game changed with a David De Gea double save, but Atalanta ‘showed we can have our say’ in the Champions League with their 3-2 loss at Manchester United.
La Dea had been leading 2-0 at half-time, despite their injury crisis, with Mario Pasalic and Merih Demiral goals, but losing Demiral too left them with only one first-choice defender.
Manchester United poured forward and turned it around through Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire and a Cristiano Ronaldo header.
“I don’t know if we couldn’t have done more. Of course, we believed, but in an environment like this it just takes a spark to get them fired up again,” Gasperini told Sky Sport Italia.
The coach saw the David De Gea double save on Duvan Zapata and Ruslan Malinovskyi as the key moment of the match.
“We had the sensation we were holding out, we went very close to going 3-1 up and their goalkeeper made a wonderful double save, then the 2-2 happened.
“Inevitably, we might’ve held out longer with a few more players available, but we conceded three goals on fairly messy situations.”
It’s still a very balanced group, with Manchester United on six points, Atalanta and Villarreal on four and Young Boys three.
“We keep learning! These are top level fixtures, you must learn to hold out during their moments of enthusiasm.
“We hoped to be in there at the end, because Manchester United throw a lot of forwards on and are dangerous, but they also leave spaces at the back. Manchester United comebacks and late wins are typical at Old Trafford, I’ve lost count of how many times they’ve done it here, so it’s a characteristic of theirs.
“We played with character, there were moments when we couldn’t get out, but we did try to attack every time we had the chance. We weren’t clinical enough in our finishing.
“The second leg is going to be tough, as they are so dangerous when spaces open up, but we showed tonight that we can have our say in this group and at this level.”
Atalanta are decimated by injuries, as in the second half they had Jose Luis Palomino, midfielder Marten de Roon and teenager Matteo Lovato in the back three. Who will Gasperini field this weekend in Serie A?
“We played with De Roon in defence tonight. He struggled a little at the start to get the measure of the role, then improved. We’ll see how Demiral is doing. The trouble is we don’t have time to get anyone recovered, we’re doing well in Serie A and need to focus on that before thinking about the Champions League in 15 days.”
The worst possible start for Man Utd…
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 20, 2021