Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t able to find the back of the net against his former side, Manchester United, but the striker along with his new team Juventus return to Italy with three more points in hand and one step closer to reaching the Champions League knockout round.
It was a match that largely saw United’s defense dominated by the experience and depth of the Italian champions. While the final score presents Massimiliano Allegri’s men as narrowly claiming victory by Paulo Dybala’s lone goal in the 17th minute, the scoreline could have been much worse.
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 1-0 loss to Juventus.
United’s attack still leave much to be desired
Despite an improved second half offensively, José Mourinho’s men failed to generate the same magic that saw them emerge victorious against Newcastle weeks back. Sure, Newcastle and Juventus are two clubs with contrasting experience levels. However, the fluidity United showed against the Magpies to nab three vital points was sorely missing in last night’s performance.
One of United’s concerns continue to be finding the back of the net on set pieces. With a questionable attack that has left superstar striker Romelu Lukaku in a goal drought, the opportunity to score off a free kick should be met with fervor. Even so, the Red Devils couldn’t even manage to remain onside in that endeavor. The deliveries were poor, the kicks were heavily lofted, and the enthusiasm was stale. Juan Mata continued to shine in the no. 10 role, finding space in unlikely situations. Unfortunately for the Spaniard, his teammates weren’t able to meet him halfway.
Red Devils no longer possess desire to shine at home
What used to be a fortress of extraordinary sport, Old Trafford now stands as yet another venue for opponents to embarrass their hosts. For the first time since 1996, the Old Lady reigned supreme at the Theatre of Dreams, and the same has been previously said for many of United’s foes in recent years. United have now faced defeat in each of their last three Champions League home matches, and their chances of advancing to the knockout stages remain in limbo.
With a short commute, screaming fans and familiar sites to your advantage, one would hope that this storied club would capitalize on these assets and put on a performance that attendees would never forget. Instead, the starting XI looked tired, bored and unfazed by the enthusiastic chants ringing from both ends. It has been said before, but the allure of playing on the same pitch that George Best, Eric Cantona and Paul Scholes once laced their boots is a triumph few experience. For the current roster, it was nothing more than an appearance fee for their weekly wages.
The defense at least kept Ronaldo off the scoresheet
Plagued by sexual assault allegations, Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the very place that proved to be a turning point in his career with a vow to let his football do the talking. United’s former number 7 wasn’t met with the same pomp and circumstance he experienced in 2013 when he arrived with former side Real Madrid, and last night’s reception could be interpreted in many fashions. United supporters could be likely separating the man who spent his final year in Manchester fishing for higher wages from Real Madrid from the club legend who filled trophy cases in rapid form.
The Portuguese star graced across the pitch with ease, with his first touch exposing the imperfections of Marcus Rashford’s form. Without missing a beat, he darted by a dormant Luke Shaw with a clinical cross to Dybala who finished the pass with a flick past David De Gea.
While his assist proved to be the gamechanger in last night’s match, the United defense might take solace in knowing that Serie A’s newest star has yet to open his Champions League goal account in an Old Lady shirt. November’s rematch in Turin is a second chance for José Mourinho’s back four to rectify the hasty mistakes of last night’s collapse.