Manchester United’s midweek opponents Atalanta warmed up for the clash at Old Trafford in style.

Having lost their last game before the international break 3-2 to AC Milan, Atalanta responded with a 4-1 away victory over Empoli.

Atalanta were inspired by a resurgent Josip Ilicic, who has hit form at just the wrong time for Manchester United.

Atalanta BC v AC Milan - Serie A
(Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

Ilicic back on form

A fully firing Ilicic is a scary prospect for United. The 33-year-old was a key part of their successful 2019/20 campaign in which Atalanta reached the Champions League quarter-finals.

Ilicic scored 21 goals that year before taking a step back with just seven last season.

And this season had not proved too productive for the veteran until the international break, with the forward failing to score between August and early October.

Then Ilicic sparked into life during the international break, scoring two goals in Slovenia’s 4-0 win over Malta and then once in their 2-1 defeat to Russia.

 

At the weekend Ilicic followed up this form with two goals in Atalanta’s 4-1 win over Empoli, netting twice in the opening 26 minutes.

With five goals in his last three games in all competitions, Ilicic has hit form when Atalanta need him, and at the worst possible time for Manchester United.

Atalanta’s most dangerous player

Getting a fully firing Ilicic back makes Atalanta so much more dangerous, adding him into an attack boasting South American stars Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata.

Ilicic is capable of playing as both a lone striker or secondary frontman, drifting deep to act as a link between midfield, and offering a more physical threat.

Empoli FC v Atalanta BC - Serie A
(Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)

Two seasons ago Ilicic scored all four goals in a 4-3 win over Valencia in the Champions League last 16.

Manchester United’s defence is not playing well and Ilicic is a tough player to depend against as he complements Atalanta’s other forwards so well.

United face a tough test to try and keep him quiet in midweek, with his form and the Red Devils’ defensive woes combining ominously.

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