JUVE GOT TO BE JOK­ING

Mata sparks un­likely come­back win for United and si­lences Turin af­ter Ronaldo’s stun­ner

Sport360 - - Front Page - By Matthew Jones @Mat­tJones360 ✉ mat­tjones@sport360.com

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.

The good

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.

The bad

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.

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