Champions League

Manchester United 0-1 Juventus: Five things we learned

 • by Andrew Gibney
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Juventus took control of Group H on Tuesday night, beating Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford in the Champions League.

Paulo Dybala‘s first-half goal was enough to hand Jose Mourinho’s side to their first defeat in three group games, with Valencia’s draw with Young Boys the best result of the day for the English side.

A burst of pace down the right after 17 minutes saw Cristiano Ronaldo jog the memories of the home fans, before he gave them a dose of reality. His cross was nearly met by Juan Cuadrado, but failing to clear the chance properly, Dybala followed up to finish with his left foot.

United reacted well after the break, but apart from Paul Pogba‘s late shot which hit the post, the failed to fully test Wojciech Szczęsny in the Juvnetus net.

Defeat means the Red Devils have won just one of their last seven fixtures. Here are five things we learned from their 1-0 defeat to Juventus.

Dybala out of the shadows

All eyes were on Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford. The Portuguese hadn’t set foot in Manchester’s Theatre of Dreams for six years and understandably all focus was on his every movement.

He may have finished the game without a goal or a direct assist, but the attention on the former Real Madrid superstar fell into the hands of Juventus’ young star, Paulo Dybala.

Mostly in the first half, as the away side dominated the game, it was the little Argentinean  emerging out of Ronaldo’s shadow.

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There was a warning early in the first half when he ghosted in behind the defence to get his head on a cross from the right. A warning which United failed to heed.

Listed as the centre-forward, he occupied the areas between the defence and midfield and it was his following up of the play which helped him open the scoring, firing in his his left foot after Ronaldo crossed for Cuadrado.

As you can see from his touch map above, courtesy of WhoScored, he didn’t play as a striker, but as the link.

During his transformation into a proper no.9, Ronaldo is the man to lead the attacks, so to play beside him, you need to adapt, and now we are seeing the young forward thrive in his new role, with four goals in two Champions League games.

This looks like the start of something truly special.

Lindelöf shows promise

In a match with little in the way of positives for United, you have to take what you can get, and in a night where he finished with five clearances, three interceptions and one block, Swedish centre-back Victor Lindelöf was one bright spot at the back.

Although the waves of Juventus attacks slowed down after the break, when he was called upon, the 24-year-old did his job well.

Criticism will come from his positioning for the goal, but more should be pointed at the lack of tracking from the midfield.

This is not to say he is the answer to United’s defensive issues, but he did enough to show he’s not as dreadful signing as perhaps it was once seemed. Something to keep an eye on over the next few weeks.

Two old heads guide the Old Lady

You used to see it on game shows all the time. Fans of Bullseye on a Sunday evening would watch in amusement as Jim Bowen told the losing finalists, “let’s see what you could have won!”

Out came a speedboat, wheeled out, paraded in front of the contestants and then taken away, never to be seen again.

Watching  Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci on Tuesday night, United fans and even players had a glimpse of what might have been.

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It must be nice to have two competent and experience centre-backs leading your defence.

The returning Bonucci has come under some criticism this season, but beside his old partner on Tuesday, they held off the United advances, especially in the second half and Szczęsny only had to make two saves from the Red Devils six shots.

They combined for four tackles, one interception, ten clearances and one blocked shot. With their experience and composure, Juventus don’t need a pure defensive midfielder and it gives them more creativity and freedom across the pitch.

Sounds nice doesn’t it.

Busy Bentancur Bosses Old Trafford

With names like Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi beside him, you could have forgiven Manchester United fans for not worrying too much about the presence of Rodrigo Bentancur before Tuesday night’s game.

Yet, after the first 45 minutes, a few heads at Old Trafford would have noticed the Uruguayan maestro pulling the strings in the middle of the park.

As the Old Lady pulled and pushed the home side around the pitch, the 21-year-old was key to their dominance.

At the break he led Juventus with 55 touches, 52 of them turned into passes, to which he completed over 96 per cent.

This continued after the break and although they had less of the ball, the youngster kept possession well and looked mature beyond his years

No one touched the ball more during the 90 minutes and he completed 90.7 per cent of his 86 passes and was a low-key reason why the Italian side left Manchester with three points.

Return of the Ex

Both Ronaldo and Pogba were playing against their former clubs on Tuesday. The 33-year-old won the three points, but did he win the battle against the Frenchman?

The summer signing managed two shots on target, one key pass and was fouled four times. However, only the goalkeeper made fewer passes and saw less of the ball from the players who started.

Pogba, on the other-hand, led United in shots attempted. He won two tackles, one interception and made one clearance. No one in his team made more passes. The Frenchman hit the post late on, which could have changed the game.

Ronaldo is the star, and grabbed maximum points, but it was the former Juventus man who was more involved during the 90 minutes. Yet, sadly, for Pogba, it was a case of winning the battle, but losing the war.

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