Mourinho’s best-ever United result silences Ronaldo
At the end Jose Mourinho strode on to the pitch, cupping his right ear, curling his lip, with his long dark coat flapping, and showed his disdain for his treatment from the Juventus supporters. If he felt insulted then they felt injured. This was a smash and grab. Another Italian job in Turin and, for once, that old cliche really was justified. Manchester United blew the bleedin’ doors off Juventus’s formidable defence.
Behind to a wonder goal by Cristiano Ronaldo – who else? – with just four minutes to go, United struck twice from free-kicks to win this tie, to defeat what Mourinho had described as a “super-favourite” to win the Champions League and, dare it be said, summon the “spirit of Turin”; the spirit of 1999; the spirit that has characterised their European dreams.
In fact it was the first time United had scored two goals in the final five minutes of a Champions League game … since their triumph in the final in Barcelona 19 years ago.
This may have only been a group game and not a semi-final as it was then, when United came from two goals down to beat Juventus to reach the final, but if that was regarded as Sir Alex Ferguson’s defining match in this completion then this was Mourinho’s finest result as the club’s manager. Shame he made it all about him – yet again – at the end.
If he was riled by Juve then they were riled by him with Leonardo Bonucci, who was involved in the decisive own goal, protesting at his behaviour as did Paulo Dybala and Rodrigo Bentancur before first United captain Ashley Young intervened and then a Uefa official led Mourinho away.
Even in a moment of glorious triumph, after making shrewd substitutions, Mourinho just seems so on edge that it is allowed to almost overshadow everything.
If comebacks have characterised United of late this, one was on a different scale from beating Newcastle United or Bournemouth although it must be said that Juventus, having already struck the goalframe twice, missed three easy chances after they scored to kill this contest.
The unlikely result means that United went from having to probably go to Valencia for their final group game in need of a result to now being able to secure qualification for the last 16 if they beat Young Boys at Old Trafford.
Despite Juventus’s chances this was a very different encounter from the meeting two weeks ago, when the Italian champions were utterly dominant and United did not have an answer. Here they were more resilient, and set themselves up well also for the Manchester derby this Sunday.
Mourinho had said that it would be the games against Young Boys and Valencia that would “define” this Champions League campaign but suddenly with this extraordinary victory that dynamic has changed. Can they capitalise on it?
And to think it was all set up to be about Ronaldo, about the old hero haunting United and giving them a glorious glimpse of what they used to have after he ran on to Bonucci’s excellent ball forward, left Victor Lindelof in his wake and struck a world-class volley on the run that flew between the post and David De Gea.
For all Ronaldo’s exploits in the Champions League, this was right up there in terms of the quality of the goal scored, which was his first in the competition for Juventus.
Before that, the home side had struck a post and then the crossbar. In the first half Ronaldo cut the ball back to Sami Khedira, who was unmarked and eight yards out but his wasteful first-time shot clipped the base of a post and deflected away for a goal-kick. Then, in the second half, Dybala collected possession from Juan Cuadrado and from the corner of the area he curled a left-foot shot that thumped off the bar. It left both Dybala and De Gea with their arms out-stretched in disbelief.
Ander Herrera had made a difference in the midfield but, frankly, Paul Pogba, on his return against his old team was poor. Very poor. And once behind it appeared United would crumble as chances came thick and fast.
There was an excellent onehanded save by De Gea, on his 28th birthday, to deny Miralem Pjanic and then the midfielder was teed up by Cuadrado but, with the goal beckoning, he steered his shot wide.
If those were bad misses then the worst of all came from Cuadrado after Ronaldo ran into the area and slipped the ball to him. Leaning back he shot woefully over and smiled in embarrassment at what he had just done.
Mourinho sensed weakness. On came Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini and they all made a difference. Juve coach Max Allegri reacted to Fellaini’s presence and the inevitably more direct football, by taking off Cuadrado for defender Andrea Barzagli but his team lost a little impetus.
Still United needed help and it came with a foul by Blaise Matuidi right on the area’s edge. If there is a weak link in this Juventus team it may well be goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and he just did not look confident as he lined up his wall – only for Mata to flight the ball past him and into the corner of the net.
Suddenly the impetus switched. Juve, usually so disciplined, conceded another needless free-kick out on the United left and Young swung the ball in. Fellaini tried to flick it on, causing a distraction and Szczesny allowed it to run through. It rebounded off Bonucci, then off Pogba and then off Alex Sandro before dribbling over the goal-line. Remarkably United were ahead, off a Juventus head. And took the points.
Hear I am: Jose Mourinho taunts Juve