Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini believes David de Gea’s superb double save proved the turning point in his side’s defeat at Manchester United.
United were left reeling once again after falling behind in the Champions League, Mario Pasalic and Merih Demiral both having netted first-half goals.
However, a superb comeback from the hosts helped send them top of a tightly-contested Group F, and Gasperini has been left to rue De Gea’s heroics.
The stopper, who looks back to his best this season after enduring a lengthy dip in form, denied Duvan Zapata and Ruslan Malinovskyi with Atalanta narrowly ahead.
‘I don’t know if we couldn’t have done more, Gasperini told Sky Sport Italia.
‘Of course, we believed, but in an environment like this it just takes a spark to get them fired up again.’
He added: ‘We had the sensation we were holding out, we went very close to going 3-1 up and their goalkeeper made a wonderful double save, then the 2-2 happened.
‘Inevitably, we might’ve held out longer with a few more players available, but we conceded three goals on fairly messy situations.’
United lead the way on six points, with Atalanta and Villarreal on four and Young Boys with three – and Gasperini believes his side ‘can have our say’.
‘We keep learning! These are top level fixtures, you must learn to hold out during their moments of enthusiasm,’ he said.
‘We hoped to be in there at the end, because Manchester United throw a lot of forwards on and are dangerous, but they also leave spaces at the back.
‘Manchester United comebacks and late wins are typical at Old Trafford, I’ve lost count of how many times they’ve done it here, so it’s a characteristic of theirs.
‘We played with character, there were moments when we couldn’t get out, but we did try to attack every time we had the chance. We weren’t clinical enough.
‘The second leg is going to be tough, as they are so dangerous when spaces open up, but we showed tonight that we can have our say in this group and at this level.’
United rallied back after goals from Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo at a jubilant Old Trafford, in a display which pleased Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
‘I thought we played well in the first half but two chances for them, two goals and that has to stop,’ United manager Solskjaer said.
‘We’ve got a habit of doing this at this club but in the first half I thought we played well – they never stopped believing and kept going.
‘We need to defend better – I know that – because we are playing against very good teams in the next few weeks.’