Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was “sure” Manchester United would beat Atalanta after match-winner Cristiano Ronaldo completed a dramatic Champions League comeback on Wednesday.
Ronaldo was the hero again at Old Trafford, where United overturned a two-goal deficit to stun visiting Atalanta 3-2 on matchday three in Group F.
United trailed 2-0 before the half-hour mark in Manchester after Mario Pasalic and Merih Demiral shocked the Theatre of Dreams.
Reeling after a 4-2 Premier League defeat at Leicester City last time out and just two wins in their previous seven games, the Red Devils were given a glimmer of hope when Marcus Rashford pulled a goal back eight minutes into the second half – the club’s 300th strike in all competitions under Solskjaer.
United captain Harry Maguire equalised with 15 minutes remaining before superstar Ronaldo stepped up to complete the fightback nine minutes from time.
On what he said at half-time, Solskjaer told BT Sport: “I said make sure we get the next goal, because then we win the game.
“As long as we don’t concede I was pretty sure we would win the game. It was just about taking chances.”
“I thought we played well first half too. Two chances, two goals. It had to stop if we are to survive,” Solskjaer said after United rallied from two or more goals down for the third time – no side has done so more often in the Champions League.
“We have a habit of doing this at this club. I thought we played well and they scored a goal out of nothing and then another set-piece. But they never stopped believing and kept going.”
“The fans are a big, big part of this club,” Solskjaer added. “The singing section here today kept the players going in their belief. That is what you do at Manchester United on a Champions League night.”
Solskjaer defended Ronaldo following some criticism that he does not work hard or defend enough for the Premier League giants.
Ronaldo has now scored in three consecutive Champions League games for United for the second time – the 36-year-old five-time Ballon d’Or winner previously doing so in November 2007 en route to lifting the trophy with the Red Devils.
“If anyone wants to criticise him for work rate or attitude, just look at the way he runs around in this game,” he said.
Solskjaer has found himself under growing pressure amid United’s poor form and performances and when it was put to him whether the squad had played for him midweek, the Norwegian responded: “Don’t disrespect the players.
“They played for Man United and they are the luckiest men in the world because they’re the ones who get to play for Man United and millions of boys and girls would love to do that.”