Manchester United talking points: Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini help Reds beat Juventus

Manchester United scored twice in the last four minutes of normal time to secure a memorable 2-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League.

United were trailing to Cristiano Ronaldo’s brilliant volley midway through the first half in Turin, but Juan Mata’s free-kick levelled the scores and United clinched the win with Alex Sandro’s own goal soon afterwards.

Late show gives United memorable win
Juventus 1-2 Man Utd as it happened

Here, we pick out the key talking points from the game…

United boost ahead of derby

It was only two weeks ago that Juventus outplayed Manchester United at Old Trafford, a performance which led to questions about the gap between United and the elite sides in Europe.

However, this was a far better display.

Instead of sitting off and letting Juventus play as they did for much of the game at Old Trafford, United pressed higher, kept the ball better themselves and asked more questions of their opponents.

Yes they rode their luck as Juventus struck the woodwork twice and wasted a couple of good chances with the game at 1-0. However, United hung in the game and made some crucial blocks to help set up a remarkable late comeback.

With three wins on the spin, United look in far better shape for the Manchester derby on Sunday than they did a few weeks ago.

“It’s a big result ahead of the weekend,” said former United striker Andy Cole on The Debate. “To leave Italy with a win is a major boost for United.”

Mata’s brilliance

Mata was United’s hero, curling his crucial free-kick over the wall and past Wojciech Szczesny after Paul Pogba was fouled just outside the Juventus box. It was a brilliant strike which continued his recent resurgence. Having been a peripheral figure in the first two months of the season, it’s all changed for Mata now.

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This was not the first time in the last few weeks that he has stepped up when United needed it most. In the 3-2 win over Newcastle at the start of October, the result which changed the course of their season, it was another superb free-kick from the Spaniard which sparked the comeback.

This was the first game in last five in which the Spaniard has dropped out of the starting line-up, with Mourinho opting for the steel of Ander Herrera instead, but he will be confident of returning to the team for Sunday’s Manchester derby. Mourinho and United will be hoping for another sprinkling of Mata magic at the Etihad Stadium.

The value of Fellaini

Marouane Fellaini only touched the ball five times following his introduction from the bench in the 79th minute. He did not have any shots on goal or even make a tackle, but like his fellow substitute Mata, he made a crucial contribution to the victory.

The big Belgian is not universally loved among United supporters, his physical style at odds with the club’s footballing traditions, but Mourinho bemoaned his absence in his post-match press conference after United’s 1-0 loss to the same side two weeks ago and the winning goal in Turin was an example of why he is valued so highly by his manager.

Fellaini did not make contact with Ashley Young’s delivery, but his presence alone was enough to cause panic in the Juventus box. The 30-year-old occupied three defenders, including Giorgio Chiellini, and his jump ensured Szczesny was unsighted, allowing a combination of Paul Pogba and Chris Smalling to help force the ball over the line via Leonardo Bonucci.

“Fellaini gave us an option to be alive again, by playing directly, bringing the game again to the last third, and by being in the last third, it gave us the chance to create situations like we did,” said Mourinho afterwards.

This was Fellaini’s first appearance for United in a month following a spell on the sidelines, but you would not bet against Mourinho turning to him again against City.

Mourinho fires up Juventus fans

Jose Mourinho had said this was “not a crucial match” for Manchester United as he thought their chances of qualifying would depend on their final two group matches against Young Boys and Valencia.

But the final result seemed to mean plenty to Mourinho.

The former manager of Inter Milan – great rivals of Juventus – cupped his ears to the crowd at the end of the game, nodding and grinning as he walked onto the pitch and turned to the stands. The gesture infuriated supporters and also Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci, who appeared to express his displeasure to Mourinho before he was escorted down the tunnel.

It was vintage Mourinho and reminiscent of his celebrations after the 2010 Champions League semi-final when he ran onto the pitch after Inter beat Barcelona and was confronted by Victor Valdes.

Will there be more of the same if United can get a result against City on Sunday?

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