A familiar face looked to have put them in a precarious predicament when Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring emphatically just past the hour. But a late one-two counter punch from Juan Mata and a Alex Sandro own goal saw the Red Devils sneak a precious 2-1 triumph.
Here is our report card from Allianz Stadium.
United press their case – A huge feature of United’s performances in recent weeks has been their stirring second half comebacks – though they have been required after utterly abysmal first-half showings.
As if keenly aware of this, the visitors tore into the hosts from the start, pressing high and employing an overall high-energy tempo that didn’t allow Juve time to settle.
Cris of death – He’d actually been a passenger in a game driven chiefly by Paulo Dybala’s dynamism and Miralem Pjanic’s panache, but Ronaldo did what Ronaldo always does so often – steals the show.
The opening goal owed as much to Pjanic’s precision pass, but the Portuguese still had plenty to do as the ball dropped over his shoulder. On the periphery until that point, his first-time finish was perfection.
Poor Pogba – Paul Pogba is oft been accused of failing to justify his inflated £89m price tag since leaving Italy for England. But if there was ever a game you could guarantee he’d be up for, it was his return to Turin.
Wrong. While Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera buzzed about midfield, Pogba floated about anonymously. He had little meaningful impact, was dispossessed a team-high five times and posted a fourth worst pass percentage of 81.6 per cent.
Juventus finishing – A spirited United performance shouldn’t gloss over the fact they absolutely stole a result. They started brightly and were a tad unlucky to fall behind to a stunning goal. But Juve could and should have been out of sight after taking the lead, with David De Gea’s goal leading a charmed life.
Juan Cuadrado and Dybala were guilty of passing up opportunities while the hosts twice hit the woodwork through Dybala’s dipping drive and Khedira’s clipped shot.
TACTICAL TURNING POINT
Matuidi’s energy allows Pjanic more space
In Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi, the Old Lady possess two veterans entering the twilight of glorious careers. Yet the German and Frenchman, both 31, offer very different options for Massimiliano Allegri.
Khedira started yet was hooked on the hour after an ineffective outing, his 77.4 per cent pass accuracy was a team low for an outfield player bar late sub Andrea Barzagli. Matuidi replaced him and offered an instant injection of pace and energy. Deployed further forward, he gave Pjanic more breathing room in midfield. He used it wisely, his sumptuous delivery teeing up Ronaldo.
Took control of the game towards the end of the first half and when they broke the deadlock, the result looked inevitable. Played some scintillating stuff going forward as they looked to kill the game off. How they ended up losing 2-1 is unfathomable as it is unforgivable.
Manchester United B
The definitive smash-and-grab performance from the visitors, who must be commended for setting out with a positive mind frame in favour of trying not to get beat. They were stoic and steadfast in the face of superior opposition and hung in there, making Juve pay for not finishing them off.
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