Cristiano Ronaldo goal not enough for Juventus as Manchester United seal win: Five things we learned
But with only five minutes left on the clock, substitute Juan Mata fired home to ensure United remain second in their group.
Paul Pogba then bundled a winner over the line to complete a famous away victory for United. Here are five things we learned.
Ronaldo rises to the occasion
What a goal. What a player. The Xaviesque pass over the top from Leonardo Bonucci was superb. The Cristiano Ronaldo volley to beat David de Gea at his near post was sublime. Running of the shoulder of Victor Lindelöf, Ronaldo flicked out his right boot at the exact right moment, thundering a first-time shot high into the corner of the net.
De Gea didn’t even have time to dive.
It was Ronaldo’s first goal for Juventus in the Champions League. It won’t be his last – but it is highly unlikely he will score one better. He did not deserve to be on the losing team.
Mata makes his point
Juan Mata dropped to the bench after starting United’s last match against Bournemouth, but he showed Jose Mourinho why he should be starting with an important late equaliser. Another late goal then won United the game, to leave Champions League Group H in the balance.
Catching Juventus will still be difficult – but United’s win leaves them two points above Valencia, who beat Young Boys 3-1 earlier in the evening.
United could therefore seal progression to the knockout stages if they beat Young Boys and Juventus do them a favour against Valencia next time out.
In awe no more
In the wake of the defeat at Old Trafford two weeks ago, Chris Smalling readily admitted that United had treated their opponents with too much respect. “We started the game a bit in awe,” he said. “We were off the pace, and they were on the front foot.” As such, it was no surprise to see United fall behind courtesy of a Paulo Dybala in the 17th minute. It was a blow Mourinho’s side never recovered from.
This time round, there was no hesitancy and no respect. United meant business and for much of the match attempted to take the game to Juventus. Whether this meant surging counter-attacks through the likes of Anthony Martial or crunching tackles from Nemanja Matic, United showed they weren’t willing to rollover and expose their soft underside to the reigning Italian champions, particularly at the end of that dramatic second-half.
Pogba fades into the background…
Manchester United won this match in spite on Paul Pogba. Not because of him.
This was meant to be the return of Turin’s favourite son but there was nothing favourable about Pogba’s display tonight. By the 45-minute mark, the Frenchman had not recorded a touch in the opposition box yet, had made less passes (23) than Ander Herrera (28) and Nemanja Matic (24) and had given the ball away more times than any other United player.
In the build-up to this match, the World Cup winner insisted no less than nine times that he remains ‘happy’ at Old Trafford – but this performance did little to suggest that this is the case. The lethargy and apathy which underpinned tonight’s performances stand in stark contrast to his displays for France over the summer. Despite his well-publicised overtures, it’s his feet that do the talking – and it doesn’t take a genius to see what they’re saying.
…while Pjanic pulls the strings
28-year-old Miralem Pjanić – who cost Juventus €32m when he signed from Roma in 2016 – actually finished the 2015/16 Serie A season level on assists with Pogba. The Bosnia and Herzegovina international’s neat, tidy passing game is never likely to generate as many headlines as the Frenchman, but he’s more significant to Juventus’ style of play than Pogba ever was.
No player touched the ball more than Pjanić. Nobody made as many passes. And nobody created as many significant chances. While Pogba glides around in the spotlight attempting the incredible, Pjanić darts around off set, mastering the basics and maintaining his team’s rhythm. He is the Italian champion’s secret weapon.