Manchester United weren’t at their blockbuster best against Atletico Madrid but were still able to leave the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium with a draw to their name.
Joao Felix’s goal looked to have gave the La Liga giants a first-leg lead. Yet Anthony Elanga struck in the closing stages to spare Ralf Rangnick from scrutiny.
United had to dig deep against Atletico.
They were inferior to their La Liga counterparts throughout the majority of the match, with the hosts hitting the woodwork in both halves.
Had those efforts found the back of the net, United would have been comprehending a devastating defeat.
Yet, in the end, they were able to secure a draw.
Felix got Atletico’s stadium rocking with a bullet header in the first half, showing exactly why he’s still regarded as one of the best young players on the planet in the process.
But United secured a draw through Elanga, who is now becoming too good to ignore.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed the 22-year-old his debut last season but it’s under Rangnick where he’s really showing his true talent.
No matter how bad United were under Solskjaer, he always appeared reluctant to turn to the young Swede.
That, despite the likes of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood often struggling under his watch.
Yet with three goals to his name, Elanga has arrived to become an undroppable presence.
Speaking to BT Sport after the game, he revealed how Rangnick motivated him prior to his introduction as a substitute.
“He (Ralf Rangnick) said to me to make the defenders scared and run in behind,” he said.
“When I get the opportunity to take it. I wanted a good result for the fans because they came a long way.”
Elanga also revealed how grateful he was for Rangnick’s support, too.
“I have dreamt of moments like this, scoring in the Champions League against top European teams like Atletico Madrid, a dream come true,” he stated.
“It is only first half, we have to be ready for the second half at Old Trafford.
“I told you how calm and cool I am and whenever I am given a opportunity I want to repay the manager and give 150 per cent every time I step onto the pitch.
“I just do what I can do, I want to be the best player on the pitch and I appreciate the boss.”
With Rashford still out of sorts, Greenwood unavailable and Martial out on loan, Elanga simply has to become a regular fixture in the starting XI.
And another player who should be given more of a chance is Nemanja Matic.
The Serbia international was brought on in the second half and provided some much-needed composure on the night.
With Paul Pogba poor, and Bruno Fernandes erratic, Matic was exactly what the Red Devils needed.
It’s obvious he’s entering the twilight years of his career.
But United are better when Matic starts, with the former Chelsea and Benfica star still capable of being an important asset.
Fred was dire, with the Brazilian clearly better-suited to playing further forward.
Scott McTominay was missing and, any case, remains too inconsistent.
However, in Matic, United know they have a Mr Reliable who can be trusted – no matter how hostile the atmosphere.
Rangnick, meanwhile, praised Elanga after the game by saying: “He is playing as though it is a dream come true, it is a joy and fun to watch him play, I wish a few other players would take him as an example and as a role model.
“Football is an important sport, even more so for the supporters, and it is a ball game.
“This is what I wish us to do especially in the second leg.”