Ralf Rangnick, acting manager of Manchester United, said he wasn’t entirely impressed with the performance in the 1-1 draw against Atlético Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16, but stressed he was happy with the outcome of his trip to the Spanish capital may be.
Manchester United lacked spark throughout the game but a late goal from substitute Anthony Elanga salvaged a 1-1 draw with Athletico Madrid on Wednesday.
United, looking incoherent and without spark, were cornered from the start by a relentless Atleti, who opened the scoring after seven minutes with a brilliant header from Joao Felix following a Renan Lodi cross.
Atlético had plenty of chances to extend their lead, hitting the post twice but being punished with a defensive error that gave the ball away to Bruno Fernandes 10 minutes from time.
The Portuguese playmaker found Elanga from behind the defensive line and the 19-year-old striker scored with a precise cross shot, one of just two shots on target by United in the entire game.
United faced a hostile atmosphere at the Metropolitano Stadium as home fans packed the sold-out venue and cheered loudly as their side got off to a quick start.
“We were fully aware of what was expected of us by the crowd and on the pitch, but it’s one thing to prepare for it and deal with it and fight against it on the pitch. But we missed that today, we showed that in the last half hour and that’s how the game took a different turn,” said Rangnick.
“In the end we deserved to get back into the game, although we could have been two-zero behind, but we were only one-zero behind, but we knew from personal experience that we were only 1-0 up The end has conceded the equaliser, but today we were on the other side and equalized with five or ten minutes left.”
Atletico smothered United’s defense with a fierce, high-pressing game, dominating the ball with nearly 70% possession.
The Premier League man was denied by a shot on target in the first half and the hosts almost increased their lead just before half-time when a Sime Vrsaljko header hit the bar.
With his team unable to break through Atleti’s compact defences, Rangnick made four substitutions, replacing Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford with Alex Telles and Elanga, who equalised.
Atlético substitute Antoine Griezmann almost gave the hosts a late winner, but his shot from inside the box hit the post.
The two teams will meet at Old Trafford on March 15th in Game 2 of the Round of 16.