For Manchester United to go to Turin and beat Juventus was a monumental result when you consider the form the Italian champions are in, and their defensive stability.
Juve were too good for United at Old Trafford a fortnight ago and, until Wednesday night, had not been beaten all season or conceded a single goal in the Champions League.
The goal record is astounding, both by Serie A standard and considering that Icardi is playing for a club who fought gamely merely to finish in the top four last season. Since August 2017, Icardi has played 46 Serie A and Champions League matches and scored 38 goals. Watch him make a succession of runs without being found, challenge for aerial duels and keep two central defenders busy and you quickly become convinced that Icardi is the perfect central striker. He also has enough passion for Inter’s entire squad to share between them.
This time around, Cristiano Ronaldo put the Italian champions ahead with a perfectly-executed volley that was one of the best strikes I have ever seen.
Football news – Why its time to start taking mischievous Jose Mourinho seriously again
But they fell apart in the last five minutes as Jose Mourinhos side came from a goal down to claim a famous victory.
It says something about his typical excellence that Kane has now scored ten times in 14 matches this season and yet the focus is on where his form is lacking. He is now the eighth top English goalscorer in Champions League history, and he has played only 14 matches in the competition. Anyone who scores at almost a goal a game at this level deserves only respect. If Kane can somehow manufacture Tottenham’s path past Inter in the final two gameweeks, he might as well be knighted.
United pulled off a result that was never on the cards based on their performance at Allianz Stadium, but they hung in there and came away with three points that no-one expected they would get beforehand either – I certainly didnt.
Even if they had nicked a draw, I would have been delighted. A point was the least they needed to have a chance of qualifying for the last 16 but winning was amazing, and now they are in a strong position to make the knock-out stage.
This was not a great United performance but it was an outstanding result. United deserved their win because they took their chances and Juve didnt.
And, if you can come to Allianz Stadium and take three points from a team as good as Juve, then you have done something right.
As I said on 5 live, I would not single out any of Uniteds players for praise. They worked hard, but nobody stood out,
Klopp must take his share of the blame. Roberto Firmino, Joe Gomez and Naby Keita were all rested, and Sturridge’s early miss cost Liverpool dear. More importantly than that, Sturridge’s link-up play with the other forwards is far below Firmino’s level. They did create enough chances to warrant victory, but only three of their 22 shots were on target. As the game wore on, Liverpool became desperate and shot from range.
It was their substitutes, Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini, who helped make the difference after coming on in the 79th minute, so Mourinho deserves credit for that change.
Club Brugge A first Champions League group-stage win since 2005, achieved in the style that befitted their glitzy surroundings. Having won the league in his first full season in charge, Ivan Leko is making a name for himself in Europe and has surely earned his club an unlikely post-Christmas European campaign. Just pray those investigations into money laundering and match-fixing don’t turn up anything unpleasant.
With Fellaini on the pitch, Juve fell back and became more defensive. That changed the balance in midfield and left Juve disjointed.
Straight after Mata had put Uniteds equaliser in the net, I saw Fellaini drop back into a holding position alongside Nemanja Matic to shore things up.
But he went jogging forward into the box for Ashley Youngs free-kick a couple of minutes later and caused panic in the Juve defence.
For the ball to bounce in off Sandros head was an ugly way for United to clinch the win but it gave them the result they wanted, so who cares?
Wednesday was the third time in their past six matches that United have come from a goal down to win.
It has been a difficult start to the season for Kane. He is taking shots in the Premier League at a rate of one every 27 minutes compared to every 17 minutes last campaign, so shots on target are also well down (one per 52 mins vs 41 mins). The suspicion is that he is fatigued, and how could he not be given the workload. But this is Kane – he doesn’t particularly benefit from being rested.
If you keep beating teams like that – from behind and without playing especially well – then that starts to build belief.
You always think you have a chance in any game, even if you concede first, and also if you are not playing well – which is the way you could describe some of Uniteds performances in the past few weeks.
In Turin, yet again, they stayed in the game and did not allow Juve to get too far in front, then got a bit of luck at the end to win it through Alex Sandros own goal.
With a bit more luck, they might be able to get something out of Manchester City at Etihad Stadium on Sunday too, but they will need some extra quality as well.
I am expecting the Manchester derby to follow the same pattern as Wednesday night, with City having more possession and United defending for long periods.
Liverpool, allowing complacency to creep in If defeat in Naples should have rid Liverpool of any complacency brought on by the victory over Paris Saint-Germain, Jurgen Klopp’s side did not learn their lessons. Liverpool were embarrassingly dominant during the home fixture against Crvena Zvezda, but allowed any momentum gained to slip away in Belgrade.
Unfortunately for United, if City create chances like Juve did – and the Italian champions had two other clear-cut openings as well as their goal – then City will score. That is the difference between the two sides at the moment.
I am expecting City to create more chances, too. I think they are a better side than Juve, which is a big statement, but based on current form, I have no doubts.
How good are City? Well they would not just be my favourites for the Premier League, they are favourites for the Champions League too.
They seem to be winning and scoring at will, and they have got so many good players their bench is always so strong too.
Whatever competition they are playing in, and whoever they are playing against, you just cannot bet against them and I am always expecting them to score two or three goals.
United will have to concentrate for the whole 90 minutes and their back four in particular have got a heck of a job on their hands.
Harry Winks 104 touches, a passing accuracy of 91% and four tackles in central midfield are all lovely things, but on Tuesday evening Winks created seven chances. Only four times has that been bettered in a Champions League game since the start of last season. Stay free from injury and he really can be a bloody star.
It is a big ask for United to stop them, and they will have to play much better than they did against Juve to stand a chance.
This was poised to be a tribute to the great Cristiano before José Mourinhos side produced a group-stage homage to 1999
Instead of which on a mild, still, occasionally fevered night in Turin United produced a moment of Barcelona-lite, a group stage homage to the triumphs of 1999, turning 1-0 down into 2-1 up in the final four minutes.
The mood has not entirely shifted, and could easily lurch again after Sunday’s derby, but Champions League qualification has been virtually secured. Slowly but surely, Mourinho is clawing back his goodwill. Winning in Turin, the site of so many Manchester United memories, can only be good for the soul.
Read more There was even time for some high-grade toxic José Mourinho theatre at the end. First Uniteds manager could be seen waving his arms and stamping his feet like an angry little marionette as Marcus Rashford, through on goal, had the temerity to try to actually score rather than running it into the corner, or hiding in a hole with the ball up his jumper, or poking a passing pensioner in the eye, or whatever else José had in mind.
As the final whistle was blown Mourinho could be seen punching the air furiously. Not a punch of joy, but an actual nose-crushing series of straight rights in his moment of triumph. Finally he marched out on to the pitch and was confronted by Leonardo Bonucci, irresistibly riled by this figure in black, cupping his ear to the crowd, producing a horribly weird, mocking sneer.
It’s not that Pogba is in desperately poor form, or that he isn’t involved in some of United’s best moments. But we’e still waiting for him to click on a consistent basis, to the extent that even our expectations of such a magnificent player have dropped to meet his level.
A match that had looked like fading out into the mutual handshake of a useful draw with an hour gone had become something else entirely. A match that had looked like becoming a paean to the great Cristiano with 63 minutes gone had become something else again.
But the team Klopp picked should have been good enough. There was a sloppiness to Liverpool’s attacking and defending that angered their manager. Asked after the game if he could put his fingers on what went awry, Klopp joked that he only had ten fingers. But he was not smiling.
And from here there will be a temptation for some to see turning points, thresholds crossed, a sense of ignition for whatever third-season, late-stage José United is supposed to look like. If this is perhaps a leap too far two things are certain. First, this United team produced a display that Mourinho will treasure for its discipline and its hard edges.
And second, this is the best single result of the Mourinho era. Juventus dont lose in Turin. Stretching back to 2003 Juventus had been beaten just once in 35 home Champions League group stage games before last night. The Allianz Stadium is an ugly, remote, strangely impenetrable fortress, shoved in behind a shopping mall moat and a high wire fence. Inside its a magnificent, steeply banked amphitheatre, with its deafening Eurotrash PA, the familiar squeal of AC/DCs Thunderstruck as the home players come out to warm up. Juve under the lights like state-of-the-art stadium rock football. Except, not quite this time.
For the first hour United had been tough and gristly, a team playing an older version of European football, a matter of stilling the crowd and calming the tempo. It is worth remembering who they were up against too, and not just the man Mourinho referred to as that player afterwards. Although, yes, mainly him. There had been a mere six pages on this game in Gazzetta on Wednesday morning, under the heading Il Big Match. Cristiano Ronaldo the sun king, dominated most of it, with Paul Pogbas return little more than a curio.
Read more With 15 minutes gone Ronaldo had taken 10 touches, three of them shots at goal. There were a few moments of dizzyingly fine close control from Paulo Dybala, who appears to have a strangely hypnotic, sensual relationship with the ball. United were quietly playing well. They were compact and calm in their charcoal grey away kit, the kind of colour the artisan paint charts call armadillo breath or autumn toenail. Runs were tracked. A shape was maintained. Ashley Young has become a vocal leader in this team. Before kick-off he went around hugging every one of his teammates and whispering words of succour in their ears. And he was solid and spiky here, a skinny little warrior on that right flank.
When it came Juves opening goal was a masterpiece conjured up out of some steady pressure. It was made by Bonuccis sublime lofted pass, but mainly by the run, Ronaldos feet suddenly pounding the turf like a boxer hitting the speed bag as he drove through the centre of the United defence. As the ball fell, slowly, gently over his shoulder he didnt have to break stride, spanking it with the top of his right foot past David de Gea. He ran to the corner, arms outspread, and raised the hem of his shirt in celebration, rippling those 33-year-old abdominals. And so we remember, at this difficult time, not only Cristianos ab-ripple, but also Pardews dance, its close forebear in the vanity-hubris stakes.
Uniteds change changed the game. Juan Mata floated in a lovely free-kick to score with his third touch. The winner was bundled in from another set piece. United had silenced, and then infuriated, the stadium. And whatever happens from here to this muscular, pared back, increasingly convincing side, they will always have Turin.