Cristiano Ronaldo rode to Manchester United’s rescue late on for the third time in four Champions League matches to salvage a 2-2 draw at Atalanta on Tuesday.
The competition’s all-time top-scorer struck a sweet volley from outside the box in the 91st minute to keep United on top of Group F.
However, another disjointed display bailed out by Ronaldo’s brilliant finishing will do little to ease the pressure on coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Norwegian bought himself some time from the calls for him to be sacked with a 3-0 win at Tottenham this past Saturday.
Solskjaer’s switch to a back three at the weekend resulted in some much-needed defensive solidity.
However, that was just the Red Devils second clean sheet in 22 games and their problems at the back were again easily exposed in Bergamo.
The visitors could have taken an early lead when Scott McTominay’s deflected shot came back off the post.
But the majority of the chances were coming Atalanta’s way and they made the breakthrough on 12 minutes thanks to an error from David De Gea.
The Spaniard has been one of United’s best performers of a desperately disappointing season so far, but he let Josip Ilicic’s shot squirm under his body.
Duvan Zapata had two glorious chances to double the Italians’ lead, but the Colombian firstly fired high and wide before being denied by a brilliant block by Eric Bailly.
United suffered another blow when Raphael Varane was forced off midway through the first half with what appeared the recurrence of a groin injury.
However, the individual quality in the United squad was in evidence for a brilliant equaliser in first-half stoppage time.
Mason Greenwood played in Bruno Fernandes, who picked out Ronaldo with a backheel for the Portuguese to blast home 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 period.
After a review that took over two minutes, the Gewiss Stadium erupted in celebration when the goal was given.
Late Ronaldo winners at home to Villarreal and Atalanta have kept United’s chances of progress alive.
And despite being starved of service for the majority of the second half, he delivered again in stoppage time.
Greenwood flicked the ball towards the 36-year-old, who arrowed the ball into the bottom corner.
United even had a late chance to snatch all three points when substitute Donny Van de Beek was denied by Juan Musso from a narrow angle.
But they barely deserved the point that keeps them ahead of Villarreal on head-to-head record with both sides locked on seven points.
Atalanta are two points further back with two games remaining.
In other Champions League results:
Malmo 0-1 Chelsea
VfL Wolfsburg 2-1 RB Salzburg
Bayern Munich 5-2 Benfica
Atalanta 2-2 Manchester United
Dynamo Kiev 1-0 Barcelona
Villarreal 2-0 Young Boys
Sevilla 1-2 Lille
Juventus 4-2 Zenit Saint-Petersburg
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