By Nick Ware

30th Sep, 2021 | 6:00am

Owen Hargreaves compares Atalanta to Leeds United

Owen Hargreaves has compared Italian outfit Atalanta to Leeds United in a stark Champions League warning to Manchester United.

The Red Devils were fortunate to escape with all three points at Old Trafford on Wednesday in a 2-1 win over Villarreal, leading ex-England midfielder Hargreaves to offer some words of wisdom for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.

Hargreaves told BT Sport [29/09/21]]: “The best team outside Manchester United in this group is Atalanta, and that’s going to be tough home and away. They play some proper football so that game could go either way. They’re rollercoaster, they’re like Leeds.”

The next level

It’s not the first time we’ve heard this comparison, but it’s an intriguing point to reflect on given the current situations in both camps.

Both enjoyed brilliant 2020/21 campaigns – Atalanta finished third in Serie A to secure Champions League football while Leeds placed ninth in their return to the Premier League – but their fortunes have differed from each other this season.

Atalanta have enjoyed a steady start under the evergreen Gian Piero Gasperini, going unbeaten in two Champions League games against Villarreal and Young Boys and losing just once in Serie A.

Leeds, however, are yet to taste success in the league this season, and they have conceded 14 times in just six Premier League games, as opposed to Atalanta’s six in as many games.

The Italian side’s defence has been levelled against them as their weakness over the years but they appear to have taken steps to improve that area, while still maintaining their attractive brand of front-foot football.

Marcelo Bielsa is his own man and own tactician, but the longer their defensive woes continue, perhaps he may look to Gasperini for some unlikely inspiration.

In other Leeds United news, a journalist has suggested the Whites may look to offload this player in January if Marcelo Bielsa reduces his minutes.