Anthony Elanga says he has “dreamt of moments” like his late equaliser in the the first leg of Manchester United’s Champions League last-16 draw at Atletico Madrid.
The 19-year-old had been on the pitch less than six minutes after replacing Marcus Rashford, when he raced onto Bruno Fernandes’ perfectly-weighted pass to roll the ball past home goalkeeper Jan Oblak with his first touch to earn his side a 1-1 draw.
“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% every time I step onto the pitch,” Elanga told BT Sport.
“I just do what I can do, I want to be the best player on the pitch and I appreciate the boss.
“He [Ralf Rangnick] said to me to make the defenders scared and run in behind when I get the opportunity.
“I have dreamt of moments like this, scoring in the Champions League against top European teams like Atletico Madrid, [it is] a dream come true.”
Until that point it appeared as though Diego Simeone’s Spanish champions were going to take a narrow advantage to Old Trafford after delivering a masterclass in controlling the game without the ball.
Joao Felix’s early header from Renan Lodi’s inviting cross gave the hosts a dream start with United looking ragged on their right, where interim boss Rangnick’s deployment of Victor Lindelof at full-back failed badly.
Rangnick later conceded that his plan “was in the dustbin” after seven minutes with the Swedish central defender, who was uncomfortable throughout, being booked for a tug on Felix before his second-half withdrawal.
By then Atletico should have been two goals ahead with Sime Vrsaljko heading the ball off Lindelof and onto the United bar in the closing moments of the first half after some more dismal defending.
While Rangnick’s side enjoyed plenty of the ball, they were slow and indecisive in possession and barely looked capable of carving open their well-drilled opponents who repeatedly picked off every sloppy United pass in midfield.
Atletico were also unlucky to not score late on themselves when Antoine Griezmann rattled the visitors crossbar.
However, Elanga, who missed the crucial penalty when Rangnick’s side lost in the FA Cup to Middlesbrough earlier this month, followed up his goal at Leeds on Sunday with another important intervention to change the complexion of the tie before the second leg in Manchester in three weeks time.
“He is playing as though it is a dream come true,” Rangnick added. “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.”
United stumble into second leg all square
For long periods of this encounter United served up the sort of fare that has typified Rangnick’s three-month reign as boss.
Disjointed in possession, misplaced and overhit passes were produced with alarming frequency as Fred, Paul Pogba and Fernandes failed to impose themselves on the game and the athleticism of Scott McTominay was sorely missed in midfield.
There were also several elementary mistakes at the back, such as Fred’s charge out towards the ball and the lack of communication as Felix stole past Harry Maguire to head the opening goal.
Lindelof’s unfamiliarity with his adopted position hardly helped and it was notable that United’s main improvement came after the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Alex Telles and Elanga were introduced.
Elanga in particular provided the pace to run in behind – an option that had barely been utilised with the visitors until then.
And it reaped immediate dividends, with the Sweden under-21 international registering United’s first shot on target with his goal to become the club’s youngest goalscorer in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
‘Young kids are fearless – Elanga galvanised United’
Former Everton midfielder Leon Osman on BBC Radio 5 Live: “It was exactly what I have been saying [all night]. Elanga has come on and made runs off the ball and probably for the first time all evening long Bruno Fernandes gets his pass right.
“For 75 minutes of this game you felt that Manchester United would have been happy to take a 2-0 defeat back to Old Trafford but they hung in there and those substitutions gave them that bit more control and Elanga got the goal.”
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand on BT Sport: “Man United would have taken your hand off for that result. They were lucky tonight and were poor tonight.
“David de Gea did not have much to do [but] you are looking for a better performance.”
Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes: “Ralf Rangnick’s record is very good and his subs have been very good. It is not strange for me, it is a typical Manchester United performance under this manager.”
Former Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves: “Anthony Elanga gave them some urgency, young kids are fearless and he galvanised United. They will be delighted by that result, they were not great today.”
- 2GiménezBooked at 78mins
- 23MandavaBooked at 63mins
- 14LlorenteBooked at 77mins
- 16HerreraBooked at 45mins
- 12Lodi dos SantosSubstituted forLemarat 76′minutes
- 7SequeiraSubstituted forGriezmannat 76′minutes
- 5de Paul
- 1de Gea
- 2LindelöfBooked at 60minsSubstituted forWan-Bissakaat 66′minutes
- 23ShawBooked at 50minsSubstituted forTellesat 67′minutesBooked at 83mins
- 17FredBooked at 74mins
- 6PogbaSubstituted forMaticat 66′minutes
- 10RashfordBooked at 65minsSubstituted forElangaat 75′minutes
- 18Bruno Fernandes
- 25SanchoSubstituted forLingardat 82′minutes
- 7Cristiano Ronaldo
- Ovidiu Hategan
Match ends, Atletico Madrid 1, Manchester United 1.
Second Half ends, Atletico Madrid 1, Manchester United 1.
Attempt saved. Jesse Lingard (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Fred.
Foul by Anthony Elanga (Manchester United).
Geoffrey Kondogbia (Atletico Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Manchester United. Conceded by Marcos Llorente.
Foul by Nemanja Matic (Manchester United).
Ángel Correa (Atletico Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid).
Corner, Atletico Madrid. Conceded by Bruno Fernandes.
Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid) hits the bar with a left footed shot from the right side of the box. Assisted by Marcos Llorente following a corner.
Corner, Atletico Madrid. Conceded by Raphaël Varane.
Attempt missed. José Giménez (Atletico Madrid) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Stefan Savic with a headed pass following a set piece situation.
Hand ball by Nemanja Matic (Manchester United).
Alex Telles (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Alex Telles (Manchester United).
Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Manchester United. Jesse Lingard replaces Jadon Sancho.
Goal! Atletico Madrid 1, Manchester United 1. Anthony Elanga (Manchester United) right footed shot from the right side of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Bruno Fernandes with a through ball.