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late drama Rio Ferdinand pays the ultimate tribute to Cristiano Ronaldo after Champions League heroics

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Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United scores their side's second goal during the UEFA Champions League group F match between Atalanta and Manchester United at Stadio di Bergamo on November 02, 2021 in Bergamo, Italy. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United scores their side's second goal during the UEFA Champions League group F match between Atalanta and Manchester United at Stadio di Bergamo on November 02, 2021 in Bergamo, Italy. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United scores their side's second goal during the UEFA Champions League group F match between Atalanta and Manchester United at Stadio di Bergamo on November 02, 2021 in Bergamo, Italy. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo saved Manchester United from a Champions League defeat against Atalanta, with his former United team-mate Rio Ferdinand quick to lead the chorus of acclaim after his latest wonder show in a thrilling 2-2 draw in Bergamo.

Having wrapped up comeback wins against Villarreal and the Italians at Old Trafford, the 36-year-old rose to the occasion in Bergamo as he saved under-fire Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side from defeat.

Ronaldo had already levelled once at the Gewiss Stadium, where Josip Ilicic's strike went underneath David De Gea at the start of a first half that ended with the forward firing home from Bruno Fernandes' exceptional backheel.

Duvan Zapata looked to have sealed Atalanta victory when his strike was awarded after an interminable VAR review, but United's star scored at the death to seal a vital point.

"People say he doesn't work hard enough but he does the hardest thing in the game - score goals," Ferdinand told BT Sport.

"At that critical moment he steps up - in any country, in any stadium, at any time. He just arrives on the biggest occasions and delivers.

"If United go out with that second half performance against Manchester City they will get slapped again, three, four, five goals. The intensity was not there. You look at it and you say what formation are they playing? It was in disarray. Cristiano Ronaldo saved them in the second half.

"United were fortunate Atalanta didn't score any more and the great man stepped up."

Ferdinand's former United team-mate Paul Scholes was not impressed with United's efforts, as he used a less than flattering word to describe their performance.

"It was a little bit messy," he told BT Sport. "When Raphael Varane went off (injured) it seemed to go all over the place again.

"They were really shaky, the quality in the middle of the pitch wasn't great again, giving the ball away far too often.

"I don't know if Harry Maguire is still injured or has got a hangover from the Euros. But he doesn't look right, he's not with it at the minute.

"With a performance like that second half, and no Varane on Saturday, it has to be a worry.

"City will think they have a good chance of winning, and with no Varane it makes it more difficult for United. Concentration is key, but United do always create chances."

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As Scholes suggested, this was another unconvincing performance from United, yet Ronaldo insisted the result was all that mattered.

"It was a difficult game, I know when we play in Bergamo it is always difficult, but we believe until the end and I am so happy," said the Portuguese forward, who has now scored 139 goals in 180 Champions League appearances.

"We never give up, we believe until the end, it is a good result for us. The beginning was tough, we knew Atalanta would do a lot of pressure, they have a fantastic coach, when I played at Juventus they were always difficult to play against We were a little bit lucky in the end but that is football.

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Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United celebrates after scoring their side's first goal during the UEFA Champions League group F match between Atalanta and Manchester United. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United celebrates after scoring their side's first goal during the UEFA Champions League group F match between Atalanta and Manchester United. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United celebrates after scoring their side's first goal during the UEFA Champions League group F match between Atalanta and Manchester United. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

"We have to still improve, we have different players, different system, we have to adapt with each other, but it will take time. we have time to improve and be better."

The pressure would have been back on United boss Solskjaer without Ronaldo's heroics, but he was satisfied with his side's efforts as they left Italy with a point.

"That is football, no one can question the character of these players, because they don't ever give up and give in, they just keep going. We had to make changes and they worked," said the Norwegian.

"The goal was a proper team goal, great quality on the passing, four or five or six passes before that little exchange as well.

"You don't plan to concede a goal, I thought it was offside, usually he would save that one. The atmosphere was electric, very physical and hard to play against."

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