Uniteds Champions League thriller at Juventus was memorable and not just for another Cristiano Ronaldo special
I was expecting a Juventus win, with the team in very good form. Manchester United have had their problems this season but their surprise victory was the kind of performance you used to associate them with in the Champions League in terms of not playing very well but winning in the last five minutes. After doing the same against Bournemouth last weekend, this could be a turning point for them and their manager, José Mourinho.
I thought Juve were very unfortunate to lose after looking great in possession and dangerous around the box, but as soon as Juan Mata stepped up to take that free-kick I had a feeling it was going in. Mata is a genius in those type of situations and after that Juventus looked unsettled.
Manchester City’s punishing form If shock home defeat to Lyon instantly killed Manchester City’s complacency, that was bad news for every team who would have the subsequent misfortune to cross their path. If the 0-0 draw at Anfield was a result of Pep Guardiola’s fear of being counter-attacked to death and Riyad Mahrez’s late missed penalty, it was the only fly in the luxurious ointment. Since Lyon, City have scored 33 goals in 11 matches and conceded only twice.
Read more Again the back pages are dominated by Mourinhos provocative behaviour at the end. There you have United winning, playing really well towards the end, but all the focus is still on what the manager did after the game. I think some of the media became distracted with the sideshow antics rather than focusing on the fact Manchester United just beat Juventus, which is probably their best victory under Mourinho thus far.
United kept possession very patiently but without Romelu Lukaku did not have a clear threat up front. They looked comfortable on the ball, with Luke Shaw and Ashley Young often staying behind the play in the first half, but they did not really have a shot on goal. Alexis Sánchez came deeper to get possession so there was no obvious threat to Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini at the back either.
Juventus, on the other hand, looked dangerous every time they went forward thanks to the link-up play between Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala. I went to Ronaldos home debut for Juventus and it just wasnt quite happening back then – he looked like he just needed a goal to get him started. His effort on Wednesday – the pass from Bonucci, the run from Ronaldo and then to volley the ball as it was coming over his head – was just unbelievable. Another great goal in the Champions League for Ronaldo, and he seems to be collecting them at the Allianz Stadium after the unforgettable overhead kick for Real Madrid there last season.
Paul Pogba A brilliant result for his team, but a night on which Pogba again laboured in Manchester United’s midfield back at the place he calls “home”. If the Juventus fans who roared his name in appreciation before the game had their way then Pogba would be back in black and white next summer, but the likely reality is that the Frenchman will stay in Manchester. Jose Mourinho cannot trust his club to spend the potential proceeds wisely.
I watched the game with all my Juventus teammates and we were talking about whether he should have celebrated scoring against his former club. Its been nine years since Ronaldo left United so although there is a respect there, you cant score a goal like that and not celebrate. It was very Ronaldo to take off his shirt and show off his 20-pack!
Paul Pogbas return did not quite go so well against his former club and he again struggled to show his best form. I dont buy into the view that he is not a big-game player – you only have to look at his performance in the World Cup final to see that he is. But even so United won and that was a good sign. I think Anthony Martial has been very important for them recently because he gives them the ability to get past players and supplies a finishers touch up front.
Im not sure whether Lukakus absence has affected their approach, but Sánchez definitely offers something different when he plays in the striker role. With Lukaku they are more inclined to play direct, whereas Sánchez is really good at dropping deeper and linking up with the midfield and wingers.
Theres an expectation that a club like United should get through in the Champions League every season and it looks as if they are going to qualify for the last 16. Its a very open competition this year with several teams capable of going all the way, especially with the holders, Real Madrid, lacking Ronaldo. Im not sure United have what it takes, but you never know.
Regardless of how well they are playing, however, its going to be very tough for them against Manchester City on Sunday. City have scored 12 goals in their last two matches and are in unbelievable form, with Riyad Mahrez showing why he was right to leave Leicester and join a bigger club.
Hes an artist who plays the game with so much class but he also has that cutting edge, as well as unbelievable feet and balance. Ive been really impressed with how he has managed to force his way into Pep Guardiolas plans.
Playing in this stadium did Pogba no favours. It evokes memories of him dominating matches through his presence and persona, even despite his tender years. As Pogba has grown older, that ability has mysteriously disappeared. If the previous accusation was that Manchester United’s formation needed to be built around him, Mourinho has now tried several different combinations. None of them have really worked.
United will be confident but Im not sure Mourinho is the type of manager who will go for it at the Etihad. I can see him setting up the side defensively and trying to get something from the game. If they can show the patience they did against Juventus then it could be a good day for his team.
It was a disappointing week for Juventus Women as we were beaten 3-0 by Milan on Sunday. They are going to be big rivals as we try to retain the title so it was a tough defeat to take. We are not putting in consistent performances at the moment but theres still a long way to go and we still have a chance of pulling it back. I have always felt it is better to lose earlier on in the season than at the end of a title race, because you have time to find the fire to win again and catch up. Lots of work to do – it is a marathon not a sprint.
For Henry, whose new-manager bounce is nowhere to be seen, a coaching career already looks bleak less than a month after taking over. Having been reportedly given the choice between Aston Villa and Monaco and opting for his former club, the clever option might have been neither. An inexperienced manager needs a solid platform to find his feet. Henry has the opposite. Failure will tarnish his reputation.
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.
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.
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.
But a fortnight later, United were no longer in awe. They matched Juventus’ away win. Of course they rode their luck, and could easily have been three or four goals down before Juan Mata’s equaliser. Juventus hit the post in the first half and the bar in the second, while Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado and Miralem Pjanic were all guilty of missing presentable chances to extend a 1-0 lead.
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.
But they fell apart in the last five minutes as Jose Mourinhos side came from a goal down to claim a famous victory.
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.
Now, in Smalling’s mind, Juventus operate on such a different plane to United that one of their longest-serving players felt that the team were in awe of their opposition. There may be nothing that more accurately highlights United’s slide into comparative mediocrity, the wheels greased by the incompetence of the club’s hierarchy.
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,
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.
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.
Marouane Fellaini The game turned on its head as soon as he came on, and that’s no coincidence. Fellaini’s threat is as much a latent one as direct. His mere presence on the pitch gives defenders something to think about, and makes them panic. He is Manchester United: hated, adored but never ignored.
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?
Virgil van Dijk and Alisson There’s no doubt that an expensive new central defender and goalkeeper have improved Liverpool beyond measure, but this was not the time to suffer a dip at the hands of Milan Pavkov. Van Dijk lost his man for the first goal, and Alisson went with his wrong hand for the second.
Wednesday was the third time in their past six matches that United have come from a goal down to win.
If you keep beating teams like that – from behind and without playing especially well – then that starts to build belief.
Between 1996 and 2003, these two giants of their domestic leagues played each other eight times. Juventus won three of the first four, United three of the next four. In many ways, their improved performance against The Old Lady represented United’s improvement from European Cup also-ran to contender.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.