The last time Manchester United scored two goals in the last five minutes to win a European match was indeed that famous historic night in Barcelona in 1999. Of course, the recent game won’t go down in history with the same prestige as that memorable night but after a stuttering start to the season this was a game that will mean so much to the players and especially Jose Mourinho. Putting together a team performance of that calibre could do wonders for the rest of their season.
Coming into this game off the back of a comeback win against Bournemouth courtesy of a late Rashford goal, Manchester United’s recent troubles have started to diminish yet they lie 7th in the Premier League and are out of the Carabao Cup and their Champions League qualification was also in doubt before this game. The team was set up for a classic Mourinho away performance; which displays characteristics of a solid team performance based on a defensive physical structure aiming to break on the counter. But Juventus had much of the better play and started to create chances after the half an hour mark – most notably Khedira, who should of finished after a lovely Ronaldo cross as he found himself unmarked in front of the penalty spot but he could only clip the post with De Gea helpless.
United made to half time, and the second half began slowly before Juventus started to flex their attacking muscle once again. Then, in the 65th minute, we were treated to one of Cristiano Ronaldo’s best goals of his career which is really saying something – Pjanic’s delightful direct through ball over the top of the United’s defence was met on the volley by Ronaldo running at full pace as he volleyed past De Gea from just inside the box. One of those goals that gets better every time you see it. Incredible technique and a goal that only few players in the world could probably score. After that, you imagined Juventus to go and kill the game with the first goal lifitng the pressure off. What followed was an assault on United’s defence and Juventus missed several chances to win the game, Khedira, Dybala and most notably Cuadrado’s chance on the counter.
All these missed chances meant United were always in with a chance of nicking a late goal, and after Pogba was brought down on the edge of the Juventus box after a good run, Mata stepped up to take the free kick. A free kick which required a careful angling placed shot rather than the pacier, powerful curved technique of Ashley Young. Mata and Young stood over the ball and Young ran over the ball to deceive the keeper and Mata angled and placed it round the wall to bring United level.
On came Fellani, probably in Mourinho’s thinking just to solidify the defence and guarantee a point. But United then won a free kick on the far left, and then up came the Centre backs, Fellani and Matic. Suddenly, they had a presence in the box. A good ball in seemed to flash across the box, Fellani causing havoc allowed the ball to end up going in at the back post after the ball bounced around and eventually went in off Bonucci for an own goal giving United a second and winning goal, if not a scrappy and perhaps fortunate on of that.
That confirmed the United comeback and the win and after an incredibly happy Mourinho had the customary handshake with Juventus manager Max Allegri – he made gestures to the Juve fans, holding his hand to his ear to signify their chants hadn’t affected him. More of a throwback to when Mourinho used to be very animated through his time with Chelsea and of course, who can forget when he ran round the Nou Camp after that iconic two leg win against Barcelona on route to the treble with Inter Milan that year.
However, the night wasn’t about Jose, not matter how much he wanted it to be; this win shows that United are capable of performances like this. The type of team performance that had no individual standout performances but their resolve to go until the end can only leave them in good stead going forward in what can only be described as their very mixed season so far.