Ole Gunnar Solskjær is facing the serious blow of being without Raphaël Varane for the visit of Manchester City on Saturday after the defender injured a hamstring in Manchester United’s 2-2 draw at Atalanta.
The centre-back only returned for the 3-0 win at Tottenham last Saturday following a groin problem and was among United’s best performers as they kept only a second clean sheet of the season. Yet at the Gewiss Stadium Varane was forced off in the first half and Solskjær said: “It’s a hamstring and I didn’t want to take a risk. On the first assessment it doesn’t look good but we will assess him again tomorrow.”
As United’s defence was again a problem against Gian Piero Gasperini’s side the loss of Varane, for what might be a number of weeks, would be a setback.
Solskjær, though, praised the “incredible” Cristiano Ronaldo after he was again United’s saviour when equalising twice – in added time of the first and second half – to earn what might prove an invaluable draw.
It means United head Group F with seven points on goal difference from Villarreal with the Spanish club and Young Boys left to play. Ronaldo’s fourth and fifth strikes of the phase cancelled out Josip Illicic’s opener and Duván Zapata’s second, which had each given Atalanta the lead.
Solskjær brushed off any concern that United are too reliant on the 36-year-old forward. “We all have our roles and responsibilities,” the Norwegian said. “Cristiano is a leader in the group, he scores goals. I’m sure Chicago Bulls didn’t mind having Michael Jordan, either – sometimes the teams have the players they have and that’s why they are Manchester United, Chicago Bulls, you come up with those moments.
“Cristiano is getting better and better for us, he’s feeling better and up to speed now – he didn’t have a full pre-season. We’re not happy conceding two goals. The first one I think should be offside, the second one he’s maybe offside last season, it’s fine margins.
“The point here tonight is very important – I’ve said if you win your home games and a point or two away from home then you will qualify. In the first half we were a bit too sloppy, we gifted them a few too many transitions and turnovers but we did create some openings, and could’ve scored more.”