Cristiano Ronaldo (Getty Images)
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has compared Cristiano Ronaldo’s talismanic influence at Manchester United to NBA legend Michael Jordan after scoring twice to save a 2-2 draw at Atalanta on Tuesday.
For the third time in four Champions League appearances since returning for a second spell at Old Trafford, Ronaldo saved United with a late goal as his soft 91st-minute volley snatched a barely-deserved point for Bergamo.
The 36-year-old also scored late winners at home to Villarreal and Atalanta, when United went from 2-0 to win 3-2 two weeks ago.
However, another rambling display bailed out by Ronaldo’s brilliant finish will do little to ease the pressure on United boss Solskjaer.
“Ronaldo is one of the best that has ever played this game. I’m sure that’s the same feeling Chicago Bulls had with Michael Jordan,” Solskjaer said, referring to the American star who won six two-period NBA titles with the Bulls.
“If you want the ball to fall on someone at the last minute, it’s Cristiano. He’s done it so many times for us and I’m ok with him scoring more goals than me.”
Ronaldo’s brace saw him surpass Solskjaer’s 126 goals for the club.
Solskjaer’s move to three backs for a 3-0 win at Tottenham on Saturday resulted in some much-needed defensive solidity after a humiliating 5-0 thrashing at home to Liverpool.
However, it was only the Red Devils’ second clean sheet in 22 games and their problems at the back were once again easily exposed in Bergamo.
David de Gea has been one of United’s best performers in a hopelessly disappointing season so far, but he was at fault letting Josip Ilicic’s shot squirm under his body and down the line.
Duvan Zapata had two glorious chances to double the Italian lead, but the Colombian first shot high and wide before being countered by a brilliant cross from Eric Bailly.
United suffered another blow when Raphael Varane was sent off midway through the first half with what appeared to be a recurrence of a groin injury.
However, the individual quality of the United team was on display for a brilliant equalizer in the first half of stoppage time.
Mason Greenwood starred in Bruno Fernandes, who picked off Ronaldo with a backheel for the Portuguese to score his eighth goal in 12 games since returning to Old Trafford in August.
But United have only won five of those games as Solskjaer continues to struggle to find the right balance.
The offside flag initially came to United’s rescue when Zapata finally found the net 11 minutes into the second half.
After a review that lasted more than two minutes, the Gewiss Stadium burst into joy when the goal was scored.
Despite being out of service for most of the second half, Ronaldo delivered again in stoppage time.
Greenwood kicked the ball towards the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who sent the ball into the bottom corner.
United even had a late chance to snatch the three points when substitute Donny Van de Beek was denied by Juan Musso from a tight angle.
But one point is enough to keep them ahead of Villarreal top of Group F on a head-to-head record with both teams locked on seven points.
Atalanta are two points behind with two games to play.