Man Utd evoke Spirit of '99 with Juventus comeback as Mourinho has the last laugh

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The Red Devils somehow pulled three points out of the bag at the Allianz Stadium having looked dead and buried after Cristiano Ronaldo's opener

In so many ways it could hardly have been any different to the characterful display of April 21, 1999, but Manchester United again came from behind to beat Juventus in the Champions League.

Twenty seasons ago it was Roy Keane, Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole who delivered the most unlikely of 3-2 victories from 2-0 down to send United to their moment with destiny in Barcelona five weeks later.

On this night it was a somewhat more slapdash, fortuitous comeback but that made it no less incredible that United should come from behind to win 2-1 at the Allianz Stadium to put themselves within a win of likely qualification for the last 16.

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For once, there were things to really admire about the way that United started following countless late showings. They had a higher tempo, they pressed further up, and they looked to gain a foothold in the fixture rather than roll over. But as soon as Juve threatened to get out of first gear it was clear who the better side were.

The Reds looked ok when defending as a unit but they appeared to have little threat in attack, and too often when they had the ball in midfield there was only Alexis Sanchez to aim for and a sea of black-and-white shirts to breach.

Paul Pogba was sloppy and pedestrian for the most part, while Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial so rarely looked ready to offer support to the isolated Sanchez ahead of them. While Cristiano Ronaldo and, in particular, Paulo Dybala both seemed primed to explode at any moment there was no such life in United’s final-third play.

When the Juve goal came it was an inevitability, but that made the action itself no less appetising. Leonardo Bonucci’s wonderful ball into the channel was bettered only by the magnificent finish of Ronaldo, who volleyed inches inside the near post for his first Champions League goal in a Juve shirt .

The Bianconeri could have had more, and for the most part it felt like they had everything United didn’t in the opposition half. The home side were always finding space, always had runners available, but those in blue looked like imposters when it came to supplying the same sort of threat.

But, after Marouane Fellaini came on for Ander Herrera to add extra height and physical presence, United suddenly had a new edge about them.

Jose Mourinho Juventus Manchester United Champions League 2018-19

Juan Mata had come on at the same time, and when Pogba was fouled 20 yards from goal with four minutes remaining the Spaniard was given the opportunity to instigate the kind of comeback his free-kick goal against Newcastle had managed a month ago.

He delivered again, leaving Wojciech Szczesny with no chance as he floated the ball beyond the wall inside the near post, sending the 2,088 visiting fans into ecstasy.

There was, incredibly, even better to come. A left-wing cross by Ashley Young aimed for Fellaini escaped to the far post, where neither of Bonucci and Pogba could get an effective touch and Alex Sandro nudged it helplessly past Szczesny.

It was a three-minute spell which left the home fans stunned and belied much of the flow of the game. It may not have been in the true vision of that night in 1999, but United’s win was earned with a similar spirit nonetheless. They fought to the last and got their rewards. It was also the first time United have scored twice in the final five minutes to come back and win a Champions League game since their famous 1999 final triumph over Bayern Munich.

Jose Mourinho will mark this one down as a victory for his pragmatism. Whatever the question marks over his side’s performance for the majority of this one, they somehow got the job done. He also had his fun afterwards, engaging Bonucci in an argument after cupping an ear to the Juve fans who had berated him all night .

He had the last laugh, just as United have done so often before.

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