Paul Merson lauded Cristiano Ronaldo’s “phenomenal” equaliser against Atalanta as “one of the best finishes of all-time” but insisted the 2-2 draw merely papers over the cracks for Manchester United.
Ronaldo, who had earlier finished off a flowing team move to cancel out Josip Ilicic’s opener, rescued a point for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side with a stunning volley in the second minute of stoppage time after Duvan Zapata had put Atalanta back in front.
Ronaldo’s latest heroics come just two weeks after he scored the winner in the reverse fixture against Atalanta at Old Trafford and his double takes him to nine goals in 11 appearances this season following his strike against Tottenham on Saturday.
His sensational second goal, crashed home from the edge of the Atalanta box, made the 36-year-old the oldest player in Manchester United’s history to score twice in a single European game, and Merson feels there is plenty more to come from him.
“It’s got to be one of the best finishes of all-time; it’s just out of absolutely nothing,” Merson said of his late leveller on Soccer Special.
“He didn’t touch the ball in the second half. Not through his fault, he just didn’t get the service. But it comes to him and there’s no snatching at it, he hits through the ball perfectly.
“It’s absolutely phenomenal and his first goal was brilliant as well.
“I was one of the big critics. I was one who wasn’t sure about him coming back. But if you give him chances, he will score goals. Thirty-six or 46, it doesn’t make any difference, he will finish.
“If you took away his two goals tonight, he’s a two out of 10. But his two goals are phenomenal and I’m lost for words.”
The draw puts United top of Group F, above second-placed Villarreal ahead of their trip to face the Spanish outfit later this month, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side were once again poor for long periods of the game.
Saturday’s 3-0 win over Tottenham had eased the pressure on the manager’s shoulders but their disjointed display in Bergamo raises familiar questions of the man in the dugout – despite Ronaldo’ late goal boosting their hopes of reaching the last-16.
“It’s another Polyfilla one, it’s just covering over the cracks, but it’s a result,” added Merson. “They’ve got a draw and they’re going to qualify.
“If they had lost, and they had gone and got beat by Villarreal, they were virtually out of the competition. Now you would expect them to qualify.
“As long as you’ve got Ronaldo on the pitch, you’ve got a chance. They hadn’t looked like scoring in a month of Sundays and then he goes and does what he’s done.”