Juan Mata asked captain Ashley Young to step aside so he could launch Manchester United’s stunning Champions League comeback at Juventus.
A sublime Cristiano Ronaldo goal against his old club put the Serie A champions ahead but Mata, who had not long been introduced from the bench alongside Marouane Fellani, dispatched a free-kick after Paul Pogba was fouled on the edge of the area.
An Alex Sandro own goal then gave Jose Mourinho’s men a stirring triumph – one made possible by diligent practice on the training ground by their Spanish playmaker.
“As soon as there was the free-kick in there, I had the confidence that I had to take it,” Mata told United’s official website.
“I told Ash, ‘Please let me take it, because I can go over the wall’.
“It’s very difficult for the goalkeeper because they don’t see a lot [with the wall so close].
“So, I tried to do what I do in training a lot of times, practicing, practicing. It was important to score to make it 1-1 and, after, it led us to the 1-2. I think because of the venue and the importance of the game, it’s one of the best [that I’ve scored].”
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United are now second behind Juventus in a keenly contested Group H, with games against Young Boys and Mata’s former club Valencia to come.
“We came back and did the most difficult thing, which is scoring twice when you’re losing away against Juventus,” he said.
“Fantastic team, fantastic stadium, great atmosphere, very difficult to play against. But this is football and when you have two dangerous free-kicks you have to make the most of them and we did that in the last five minutes. It was a very, very positive feeling at the end of the game.”
With the Manchester derby at Etihad Stadium to come on Sunday, Mata added: “I will highlight the passion of the team, the personality of the team, the effort of the team.
“We kept believing we would have one or two chances and maybe score one.”
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