Mour­inho’s best-ever United re­sult si­lences Ronaldo

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Champions League - Ja­son Burt CHIEF FOOT­BALL COR­RE­SPON­DENT in Turin

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.