Across the two legs, United were made to look inexperienced and Atletico played like a side that had been there and done that.
Diego Simeone’s side came to England back in 2020 and knocked out Jurgen Klopp’s title-winning Liverpool. When they went ahead through Renan Lodi’s first-half header, Simeone’s side initiated their infuriating tactics and put on their streetwise approach.
Despite United playing into that strength and making silly challenges, Atletico ran down the clock and Ralf Rangnick’s side never looked like scoring.
Story of the game
A bright start from United included a high tempo and some quick passing across a slick surface, however, Atletico showed their threat on the counter and had it not been for a solid challenge from Raphael Varane Atletico could have been in on goal through Joao Felix.
Fernandes found space down the right and dribbled into the box unchallenged as he zipped a ball into Elanga. The young Swedish forward – who scored United’s equaliser in the first leg – flicked the ball from the six-yard-box which glanced off Oblak’s head wide. How much the Atletico keeper knew about the save, only he will know.
Moments later, Fred’s foot deflected Rodrigo De Paul’s long-range effort and nearly caught out David De Gea. But the United keeper excellently adjusted his feet before diving to his left to tip it wide for a corner.
Bruno Fernandes was then brought down in the box after a ball over the top. Reinildo won the ball but also caught the back of the Portuguese midfielder’s calf – it would have been a soft penalty.
Alex Telles was caught out of position and Felix nearly made the Brazilian pay when he finished Llorente’s low-driven cross. Koke split Telles and Harry Maguire with a sublime pass and United were fortunate Felix was offside.
Then Atletico took the lead after both United full-backs were caught sleeping. Felix cut the ball back to Antoine Griezmann who lobbed a ball to the back post which presented Lodi the opportunity to head past De Gea.
United nearly equalised when Fernandes caught Oblak off guard as his shot from outside the box was parried wide for a corner. The referee allowed the corner to be taken in stoppage time but United failed to pose a threat and the visitors went into the interval a goal to the good.
As United pushed for an equaliser, they played directly into Atletico’s strengths. Fouls in unnecessary areas of the pitch and moaning at the referee allowed the visitors to take the momentum out of the game and waste precious time.
As Atletico continued to frustrate in every way possible, Varane forced Oblak into his first real save of the night. Telles whipped in a cross for the Frenchman to get his head on it. It was powerful but not placed precisely enough to beat the Slovenian goalkeeper.
Rangnick threw on just about every United player onto the pitch as Juan Mata was the last to make an entrance but United still failed to create a clear-cut chance.
They launched balls into the box and Atletico defended like they have done their entire careers.
Simeone has been doubted this season but in the Champions League, he knows how to win and he did it once again.