Manchester United will face off against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday evening hoping to make the quarter-finals of the Champions League. The tie is very much in the balance at the halfway stage after the Red Devils drew 1-1 with their La Liga counterparts in the reverse fixture in Spain. Yet Ralf Rangnick has a brilliant double act who can step up and propel his team through.
United haven’t exactly been convincing in Europe this season.
They were fortunate to top their group, winning just three of their six matches against Villarreal, Atalanta and Young Boys.
And while United were poor against Atletico in the first fixture at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, they were able to leave with a draw courtesy of Anthony Elanga’s late strike.
United won’t be winning the Premier League title this season, instead watching the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool battle it out for glory on that front.
They won’t be claiming the FA Cup or Carabao Cup, either, having lost to West Ham and Middlesbrough respectively.
Therefore, the Champions League represents their last shot at a trophy this term.
Fortunately for Rangnick, however, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho are coming good at a crucial time.
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Sancho, in particular, has been nothing short of sensational in recent weeks.
The former Borussia Dortmund star endured a slow start to life at Old Trafford, toiling when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in charge.
Yet he’s come good over the last 10 matches, managing six goal involvements during that time.
Sancho has netted against the likes of Manchester City, Southampton and Middlesbrough to become an undroppable presence.
And he’s also clocked up assists against Leeds and Tottenham, too.
Rangnick has been left impressed by his recent improvement, saying the 21-year-old has regained his mojo and is now back to his best after his electric performance against Spurs.
“Jadon Sancho is now getting closer to the Jadon Sancho I knew in Germany,” he said.
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“Sancho has managed to adapt to the intensity and the physical aspect of this league. I’m happy to see him playing at this level at the moment.
“In the end, it’s a question of trust. Playing time, trust. He performed at a very high level.
“If you’re not being successful, if you’re not playing well as a team, tell me one single player in football who can still develop his own career. It’s impossible.
“We can only be successful as a team.
“It’s only possible with raising the level of performance of the whole team. This is what happened [against Spurs].”
Sancho is just one part of United’s deadly double act, however.
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It certainly bodes well for the Red Devils that Ronaldo has rediscovered his goalscoring touch, with the veteran sparkling during the match with Tottenham.
The 37-year-old’s three goals were all equally impressive in their own right.
His first was a screamer from the edge of the box, baring a resemblance to his memorable strike against Porto back in 2009.
Ronaldo showed predatory awareness for his second, tapping in from close range after Sancho put the ball on a plate for his team-mate.
And his third was a trademark header, with the veteran out-jumping Cristian Romero to secure his team all three points.
Now Ronaldo is on song, Atletico can be forgiven for fearing the worst.
He has, after all, scored a staggering 25 goals in 35 career matches against Diego Simeone’s outfit.
And Rangnick was delighted with his showing against Tottenham, saying: “Cristiano is an important player, of course.
“With his reputation and with the way he can still play, he has influence on the team for sure.
“But there are also other players in the team who have to take responsibility, who have to perform, who can be leaders of the team.
“He can be a leader with a performance like today. This is what I’ve been telling him since I arrived – that with a performance like today he can be one of the engines of the team.”
As United prepare for the match with Atletico, they’ll be hopeful Ronaldo and Sancho can fire them through.
They’re becoming quite a double act at Old Trafford and can show what they’re made of on the biggest stage of all on Tuesday night.