JUVE GOT TO BE JOKING
Mata sparks unlikely comeback win for United and silences Turin after Ronaldo’s stunner
Manchester United’s progression to the Champions League knockout stages is alive and kicking after they climbed off the canvas to deliver a knockout blow to group heavyweights Juventus in Turin.
A familiar face looked to have put them in a precarious predicament when Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring emphatically just past the hour. But a late one-two counter punch from Juan Mata and an Alex Sandro own goal saw the Red Devils sneak a precious 2-1 triumph.
Here is our report card from Allianz Stadium.
United press their case – A huge feature of United’s performances in recent weeks has been their stirring second half comebacks – though they have been required after utterly abysmal first-half showings.
As if keenly aware of this, the visitors tore into the hosts from the start, pressing high and employing an overall high-energy tempo that didn’t allow Juve time to settle.
Cris of death – He’d actually been a passenger in a game driven chiefly by Paulo Dybala’s dynamism and Miralem Pjanic’s panache, but Ronaldo did what Ronaldo always does so often – steals the show.
The opening goal owed as much to Pjanic’s precision pass, but the Portuguese still had plenty to do as the ball dropped over his shoulder. On the periphery until that point, his first-time finish was perfection.
Poor Pogba – Paul Pogba is oft been accused of failing to justify his inflated £89m price tag since leaving Italy for England. But if there was ever a game you could guarantee he’d be up for, it was his return to Turin.
Wrong. While Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera buzzed about midfield, Pogba floated about anonymously.
He had little meaningful impact, was dispossessed a teamhigh five times and posted a fourth worst pass percentage of 81.6 per cent. Juventus struggle to find back
of the net – A spirited United performance shouldn’t gloss over the fact they absolutely stole a result. They started brightly and were a tad unlucky to fall behind to a stunning goal.
But Juve could and should have been out of sight after taking the lead, with David De Gea’s goal leading a charmed life.
Juan Cuadrado and Dybala were guilty of passing up multiple opportunities while the hosts twice hit the woodwork through Dybala’s dipping drive and Khedira’s clipped shot.
Tactical turning point Matuidi’s energy allows Pjanic
more space – In Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi, the Old Lady possess two veterans entering the twilight of glorious careers.
Yet the German and Frenchman, both 31, offer very different options for Massimiliano Allegri.
Khedira started yet was hooked on the hour after an ineffective outing, his 77.4 per cent pass accuracy was a team low for an outfield player bar late sub Andrea Barzagli. Matuidi replaced him and offered an instant injection of pace and energy.
Deployed further forward, he gave Pjanic more breathing room in midfield.
He used it wisely, his sumptuous delivery teeing up Ronaldo.
Smash and grab: Ashley Young’s free-kick caused havoc in the Juve box, with defender Alex Sandro’s own goal giving United a precious three points.