Proud of Turin
Growing up watching United in the 90’s has always meant that Italy holds a certain prestige for me. From highlights on Football Italia to European matches against the big Italian teams; Inter & AC Milan, Fiorentina and the opponent we used to face so regularly, Juventus. Whilst we haven’t visited Turin for over 15 years they’re certainly still top dogs in Italy, with a record 34 domestic league titles, including the last 7 in a row, and appearances in 2 of the last 4 European cup finals.
After Spain, Italy is the most frequently visited country for United on the road, however we’ve not played there since a 2010 game in Milan. The latest trip to Turin would be to face Juventus in their third stadium in four decades; the Allianz Arena opened in 2011 whilst they shared the Stadio Comunale with city rivals Torino until 1990. Our last two trips took place at the Stadio Delle Alpi, with the 2003 ‘second group stage’ game famous for a Giggs double, and the 1999 semi final 2nd leg which needs no introduction.
Travelling to Turin
Booked straight after the draw, flights from Liverpool were the most attractive option at just £57 return to Milan Malpensa. With few options for direct flights from Manchester to Turin, a £20 return train and shuttle bus to John Lennon airport wasn’t the biggest inconvenience. It was a new airport for me too, and surprisingly small, with all of the days flights showing on a single screen. A popular route however for travelling reds, with reds taking up at least 75% of the flight.
The cities of Milan and Turin are a little further apart than Manchester and Liverpool, 90 miles separating them. A direct coach from Malpensa east to Turin set me back £20 for a 2 hour trip; it was half an hour longer on the slow train with a change at Milan, but you can’t beat it as the way to travel, whether sat drinking, reading or taking in the views. The coach journey was a better option for the early return flight from Milan, not least for sleeping on after a few days taking in Italy.
The City of Turin
Turin’s two train stations, Porta Susa and Porta Nuova are connected by the metro, which bizarrely only ran on a single line, with the bus terminal opposite Susa. It meant a bit of walking was required to get around, but the city was compact enough for this. Due to a lack of options I ended up staying at the Monolocale Rosso, which was essentially a small apartment room situated just south of the city centre.
Situated in the northwest of Italy, the city of Turin is flanked by the Alps to the west and the river Po, which flows to the east. The immediate city centre is just north of the riverside Parco del Valentino, intercepted by the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II road which was where United fans congregated for much of the trip. There were plenty of bars along this open stretch, and we joined some of the locals to watch the other Italian teams, Napoli and Inter, in their Tuesday night matches.
Walking through the rest of the city was a bit of a maze, with high rising buildings and narrow streets intercepting each other. These often opened up into small squares, or more notable areas like Piazza Castello, which, amongst other historic buildings, housed the Royal Palace of Turin and it’s gardens. What was more interesting however, hidden behind the Palace, was the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista – the Cathedral of John the Baptist.
Climbing up the Cathedral tower was worthwhile for the views of the city, with the Alps clearly visible to the other side of the compact city. One of the major landmarks in Turin is the spire of the Mole Antonellian whilst the Cathedrals own spire was equally impressive. Within here was the Guarini Chapel, home of the Shroud of Turin; a relic that’s surrounded in mystery and debate, allegedly the burial cloth of Jesus. Unfortunately it’s safely secured inside a chapel, with only blown up images of it on display, but still a worthy sight.
In the build up to the match we’d been given numerous warnings about the Italian police and stewards at Juventus, with United expecting them to be hostile and thorough searching fans entering the ground. The Allianz Arena is located about 4 miles outside of the city, and so there were shuttle buses laid on for us. Despite the warnings there were relatively few problems; we were welcomed off the bus by lines of riot police and herded in for thorough searches, with passports checked and as well as our shoes, which was a first.
The new Juventus stadium is pretty impressive, with two tall spikes either end holding up the roof, and just a slight obscured view of the pitch with pillars in each corner. Juventus’ ultras (Drughi) were in the end opposite us, but put on less of a show than most teams we’ve visited, with a correographed pre match performance from the whole ground, lights out and a sing along that wouldn’t have been out of place in a West End musical.
Having missed our first European away game this season, a 3-0 win at Young Boys of Bern in Switzerland, this game was the first chance I’ve had to have a beer, at my seat, during the match! A novelty given UEFA have only just relaxed the rule of no alcohol on match days from this season. A lot of these €5 pints ended up in the home end and vice versa as the match unfolded. It was no surprise that Ronaldo opened the scoring with a world class volley that De Gea has little chance to stop, this came after a solid first hour from United, one of our best performances so far this season.
It always felt like we’d get a goal and the equaliser came in magnificent form a few minutes from time; Juan Mata with another pivotal goal as his free kick snuck over the Italian wall.ur end was in great voice all night, with a rendition of the United calypso going on for a large period of the first half, and we were jubilant following the equaliser, happy with a result against a superior opponent. Juventus have built a reputation as solid defenders, with Buffon having been there for many years with Chiellini and Bonucci in from of him. Another late free kick saw Ashley Young trick them both, with the latter bundling it into his own net for our winner.
It was great to celebrate a significant European win, one of the best in years in the Champions League, the atmosphere and away end too. The comeback was unexpected, but came after a solid performance and a period of good results for us. It left us in a good position to qualify from the group too, edging us ahead of Valencia who are our next trip away. There’s still a few concerns with the team and performances have been so inconsistent this season, one of the main offenders being Pogba, great on his day but frustrating just as much. As the rest of the team celebrated in front of us after the match, Pogba thought a solo lap of honour to milk the applause from the Juve fans was a better way to enjoy the result. However this season ends it’ll be without one of him and Jose.
The journey back via Milan and Liverpool had a silver lining too, with Jamie Carragher forced to share his assumably quiet flight home with a plane full of humble, hungover United fans. No spitting incidents on this occasion.
Total travel costs: £123
Miles travelled: 1,745
Match ticket: £55 (€60)
Average cost of pint: £4.20 (€4.80)
United allocation: 2,000
Result: Juventus 1: United 2
Match played 07/11/18