After an 18-game unbeaten streak in Europe, the 2-0 defeat at FC Bayern München in their quarter-final first leg has left Juventus with their backs against the wall. The Bianconeri, however, should draw inspiration from a Manchester United FC vintage whom they have come to resemble in several ways.
First and foremost, Juventus coach Antonio Conte is seen by many as a new Sir Alex Ferguson. "I have had two coaches who demand determination and ruthlessness," said Paul Pogba, who joined Juventus from United last summer. "They are both very tough to please, both perfectionists."
There are other similarities between the Italian champions and the English side that won the treble in 1998/99. There are the influential goalkeepers in Peter Schmeichel and Gianluigi Buffon, midfielders who are effective at both ends – United's Paul Scholes and Roy Keane, Juventus's Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio – and the free-kick maestros David Beckham and Andrea Pirlo.
The rotation system involving striking quartet Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Teddy Sheringham was also instrumental in that United team's success. It is an approach replicated by Conte, with Mirko Vučinic, Sebastian Giovinco, Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella. Juventus, though, need to show they also have United's knack for unlikely comebacks.
As a midfielder, Conte faced United in the 1998/99 UEFA Champions League semi-finals. The Bianconeri dominated the Old Trafford first leg, with Conte on the mark for the visitors and United lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw. In the return, Filippo Inzaghi scored twice in the first 11 minutes to put the Old Lady on the verge of a fourth consecutive final. United had a mountain to climb but captain Keane headed in a Beckham corner in the 24th minute to give United hope. Yorke and Cole then got the goals that booked United's place in the final.
Many consider that fightback a turning point for the Red Devils in Europe. "Even at 2-0 down I remember Becks saying, 'We can do this,' and he's not really the type for that," former United defender Gary Neville recalled in an interview. "To have belief even in that situation was incredible, because the defence had endured a 20-minute nightmare."
Nightmare is probably the right word to describe the Juventus showing in Munich. "I struggled to sleep the night after the match," said defender Giorgio Chiellini. "We are not the side that played so badly in Munich, we are much better than that and are eager to turn the page as quickly as possible. I hope the one in Turin will be our game."
In 1999 the 'comebacks kings' famously repeated the trick in the Camp Nou showpiece – yes, against Bayern – with substitutes Sheringham and Solskjær turning defeat into victory with goals in added time. They did so without the suspended Scholes and Keane. The absences of Stephan Lichtsteiner and Vidal for Wednesday's return leg are therefore no excuse for Juve. If they want to keep their European dream alive, they will require one of those magic nights which made United what they are today.
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