Champions League hits and misses: Same old question from Manchester United, Ruben Loftus-Cheek shines for Chelsea | Football news

Ronaldo brilliance delays the same old questions

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his first goal against Atalanta
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Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his first goal against Atalanta

It feels like deja vu to see Manchester United and there is really nothing new to say about them. The Holy Grail 3-5-2, which helped them win at Tottenham on Saturday, lasted just under half an hour at Atalanta and we are already back to square one. Again.

United move from high to low in such a consistent state of disorder that even though Tuesday’s 2-2 draw in Bergamo ended somewhere in the middle, it still managed to raise the same old questions about Ole Gunnar Solskjær and his team.

Defensively, they were a mess and a total shadow of the team, denying Tottenham a single shot on goal on Saturday, with individual performances so poor that you have to question how poor the Spurs team was.

The loss of Raphael Varane did not help in Italy, but his absence did not force Harry Maguire into more of the kind of fundamental mistakes that have become worryingly common since he was rushed back from an injury last month, and ironically it was Eric Bailly – the man for whom he was brought back early to play in front – who far outshined him at night.

Man Utd are right on point with Villarreal
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Man Utd are right on point with Villarreal

Gary Neville is probably tired of describing his old side of playing “in moments” in his Sky Sports analyzes, but that was exactly how they both scored their goals in an otherwise well-known bold performance.

Without Cristiano Ronaldo’s individual brilliance, no matter what difficulties he may bring Solskjær more generally, United would be in real trouble in Group F, and it took two moments of magic from the striker to dig them out of a hole here, with the team’s performance. still no closer to winning victory through a well-executed game plan.

Paul Pogba continues to flatter to deceive and was a waste, even by his standards, against Atalanta, before being replaced by Solskjær in front of Scott McTominay, who had already been given a warning and was on a final warning from the referee. Maybe the Frenchman is finally losing his manager’s patience, but why now? Why not the countless other times he has proved a responsibility?

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Ole Gunnar Solskjær compared Cristiano Ronaldo’s influence at Manchester United to NBA legend Michael Jordans at the Chicago Bulls after the striker saved his team in their Champions League draw in Atalanta.

These are all problems that have haunted United for so long, and just as Solskjær is moving into the next ‘new dawn’, the club is wondering if it is another fake instead.

It must be frustrating for Manchester United fans that these are the same questions that come up time and time again. Even more of a concern would be that they still do not seem closer to any kind of definitive answer.

Just as Liverpool showed how Ronaldo’s magic can only do so much, so Europe’s elite could prove the same if United reach the quarterfinals.
Ron Walker

Loftus-Cheek embraces the chance under Tuchel

Ruben Loftus-Cheek got a start for Chelsea
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Ruben Loftus-Cheek got a start for Chelsea

Chelsea worked at times during their 1-0 win in Malmö, but it was a really big night for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who played a deeper role. There is a feeling that he is slowly pushing himself into Thomas Tuchel’s side on a regular basis.

The 25-year-old got his first Champions League start in six years and he gave Chelsea an extra dimension in their midfield, exactly what he was brought in to do.

Chelsea are behind Juventus by three points
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Chelsea are behind Juventus by three points

This was actually only his fourth start of the season, but he saw plenty of the ball in midfield and created three chances, completed seven dribbles and won 14 duels – almost twice as many as any other player.

“I was a little worried for the first 15 minutes that he might find another gear,” Tuchel of Loftus-Cheek said afterwards. “But it was symbolic for him that he did not remain invisible.

Loftus-Cheek

“He has to use his full potential and if he does that, he can become a big part of the squad. That’s why I’m happy. The next step is to show consistency and push himself because he has so much potential.”

After 32 minutes, a mistake by the home side’s left defense allowed Bonke Innocent to get through. He outclassed the home side’s keeper, adding another goal for the visitors.

Many of Tuchel’s crew have been out in the cold or on loan at various times of their careers. Loftus-Cheek is the perfect example of that. During a fluctuating period at Chelsea, his loan spell at a struggling Fulham last season suggested he was far from playing on that stage again.

But he showed the power, energy and drive that Jorginho and Matteo Kovacic do not necessarily have. It is crucial this season that the midfielder manages to keep himself in shape as his body has been broken in the past.

Hakim Ziyech celebrates the goal for Chelsea against Malmö
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Hakim Ziyech celebrates the goal for Chelsea

His last Chelsea goal was in a Europa League semi-final against Frankfurt in 2019, but it’s good to see him return challenging to those positions in midfield, and Tuchel is aware of the player’s strengths as a good tactical option in either using three of two in this area.

Loftus-Cheek showed great cunning on Tuesday, but his end product was again missing at times. That said, this was generally a positive evening where he showed off his abilities and added confidence that he is embracing his opportunity under Tuchel.

He may not have taken the match by the neck against Malmö, but more regular starts in the Premier League are on the way. Having promoted his cause, he must now produce the goods against more famous resistance.
Ben Grounds

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