What a difference those two late goals in Turin made.
1-0 down, United were set to go into Matchday 5 in 3rd spot. Most importantly, Juventus were through as group winners, it would have been hard to see them playing at the same level at home to Valencia, a game United would need them to win.
The group had now changed. While United were still chasing Juventus for top spot, most importantly, they knew that a win, coupled with Valencia failing to beat Juventus, would see United reach the Last 16 with a game to play.
Even though they were playing against bottom side, already eliminated, United were coming off a 0-0 draw at home to a team they should have been beating, Crystal Palace.
Unfortunately, the only sign of storm clouds disappearing and things being a lot calmer at Old Trafford only applied to the weather rather than the mood, as I made my first visit of the season to see United.
As Linfield have found in recent weeks, when you face a team set up to defend, don’t give them something to defend.
United needed an early goal.
They should have had it in the first five minutes when Marcus Rashford was played through with the keeper in no man’s land and fired it over the keeper, but over the bar. Surely it wouldn’t be one of those nights?
A few minutes later, Fred had a shot from just outside the penalty area go just over.
United had stated their intention to attack. They now needed to convert it into goals.
United’s dominance didn’t dampen the spirit of the Swiss visitors, all dressed in yellow coats, looking like they had gone to the game straight after finishing their shift on the Metrolink.
They even had a chant to the tune of We’re Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister, a song title which could sum up the mood at Old Trafford these days. Disappointingly, Young Boys supporters missed out on the obvious chant of having one to the tune of Wild Boys by Duran Duran.
Most of United’s play was coming down the left, usually through Luke Shaw. Frustratingly, Anthony Marial seemed to be on a different wavelength when trying to collaborate with him.
Far too often, the build-up play was decent, but the final pass wasn’t. United were overdoing it and having too many passes. Somebody just needed to take the ball and fire it at goal, like how Paul Pogba did in the first game between the sides.
Marcus Rashford did just that, but his shot went just wide.
0-0 at half-time, but no need to panic. If United keep up this pressure, surely they would put the ball in the net.
But United didn’t keep up the pressure, prompting Jose Mourinho to make some changes, bringing on Pogba and Lukaku for Fred and Lingard.
Remember back in September when the two side met on Matchday 1? That was the last time you could say that Romelu Lukaku had scored in the previous match for United. That was a long time ago.
United fans were hoping he would be motivated by revenge, with Switzerland having eliminated Belgium from the UEFA Nations League earlier in the month.
One supporter described him as a bigger fraudster than Sally Webster. I didn’t even know she was on trial.
Young Boys were now starting to show themselves as an attacking force, with a deflected shot forcing David De Gea into a goalline save just as it looked set to sneak in, and even diverted the ball away from the Young Boys attackers eyeing up a rebound.
I was behind that goal, and it looked like it was going in, with De Gea even having time to give a thumbs up to supporters behind the goal signing his name.
Juan Mata came on for Antonio Valencia as United searched for a winner.
By this point, Juventus were 1-0 up against Valencia. United knew that if they got the win, they would go through.
One supporter behind me kept saying “Come on United, we’ll get one chance” repeatedly in the final minutes. It was probably based on history or optimism rather than what was going on out on the pitch.
But he was right. As the clock hit 90 and the board for injury time, United got that chance, and it got them a goal.
Romelu Lukaku flicked on for Maroaune Fellaini to finish to give United the points and put them into the Last 16.
Group placings will be decided in Matchday 6. I’d be surprised if Juventus don’t beat Young Boys and win the group.
Finishing 2nd doesn’t mean certain elimination. They lost to group runner-up Sevilla last season.
In 2012-2013, United finished top of their group and drew Real Madrid while group runner-up Galatasary drew Schalke.
Of possible group-winners (as it stands) only Porto stand out. From the same group, Schalke would be the runner-up you would want to draw.
Hopefully, by the time the Last 16 comes around, United’s League position will be a lot healthier.
As much as I enjoyed doing a double header against Feyenoord and West Ham when United were in the UEFA Cup in 2016-2017, it’s not a weekend i’d want to do on an annual basis.
My next Old Trafford visit is in late January for the League match against Will MacKenzie’s favourite team, Burnley.
I’m going Tuesday to Thursday as the match will be either Tuesday or Wednesday. I’ll be keeping an eye out for possible nearby matches on my free evening. Huddersfield v Everton is very tempting.
While I was at Old Trafford, I wasn’t keeping a check on the score of Linfield’s County Antrim Shield Semi-Final against Ballymena, as it was postponed.
Considering they’ve been playing Midweek-Saturday for the past few weeks, I don’t think Ballymena will be too unhappy with that postponement, not that i’m suggesting David Jeffrey was doing wheelies on the pitch in a monster truck on Tuesday afternoon.
The new date, Tuesday 18th December, isn’t really convenient for Linfield in what will be a packed month. I’ll look at that in the next Linfield match blog.
In case the League match at Ballymena is postponed, here’s some thoughts on Euro 2020.
Pot 3 is inconvenient, but it is doable to qualify from.
From Pot 1, England would be great for the trip, Poland is the most winnable of the teams in that pot.
Pot 2 – Iceland, Russia and Ukraine look the most beatable, Wales is appealing for the trip. Germany the one to avoid.
Pot 4 – Lithuania or Georgia please.
Pot 5 – Gibraltar.
Pot 6 – San Marino or Andorra.
If Northern Ireland draw England, Switzerland, Portugal or Holland, they will be in a five team group. It will be interesting to see what the IFA do for fans who have already purchased Euro 2020 Qualifying tickets if it is four games instead of five.
In South America, the Copa Libertadores Final between River Plate and Boca Juniors has been moved to Madrid. Was never going to happen, it would have been amazing if it was at Windsor Park.
It’s the other continental club final in Madrid this season that interests me. Hopefully, United will be in it.