Matchday three of the Champions League sees Juventus continue their unbeaten start to the campaign with a resounding victory at Old Trafford, and Lee Davy shares his view on the game.
In 2016/17, Jose Mourinho won the League Cup and Europa League in his first season in charge of Man Utd. Last season, they finished second in the Premier League. Considering the malaise that went before, it seemed the club that used to dominate English football was on the ascendency.
And then last night happened.
Juventus came to town, and at times it felt like the Italians were holding imaginary guns to the heads of the United 11, threatening to pull the trigger, should they dare touch the ball.
I thought the formula for playing home in European football was simple. Walk down the tunnel with the blood of lambs smeared on your face, soak up the aggression, jubilance and tension from the crowd. Unleash it on your opponent like a crazed Care Bear, and force them to entrench into the goalmouth for the first 20-minutes, with wave after wave of attacks.
It seems a bunch of centipedes must have chewed through those instructions because United did the opposite.
Collectively, they froze like a man made out of tin who thought it would be a good idea to sing in the rain, a bottle of tequila in hand, sombrero hanging on the coat stand next to the umbrella.
It was an embarrassment.
Jose Mourinho had to walk the final half a mile to Old Trafford hidden behind a hoodie after a traffic jam wrapped its leggings around the team bus, and I think he should have kept on walking.
All the talk was of Ronaldo returning to the club where he broke his top class footballing virginity, and he received a hero’s welcome, as one would expect.
The last time United suffered a European defeat on home soil, it was Ronaldo who scored the winning goal. The man we now talk about in the same breath as Pelé, Diego Maradona, and Lionel Messi, as the greatest player to ever kick a football, didn’t find the net in this one, but he did set up the winner, in the 17th minute.
Ronaldo began on the left but managed to drift all over the pitch like a robotic hoover, thanks to the gaps in midfield Paul Pogba created as he continues to show his inability to add the art of taking instructions to his vast array of dazzling skills.
In one of many sweeping moves from the Old Lady, Ronaldo turned up on the right, flung in a cross, and Paulo Dybala waltzed into the penalty area unaccompanied to fire home his fourth Champions League goal of the campaign, on his 150th appearance for his club.
Ronaldo wasn’t the only player facing his old club.
Paul Pogba became the most expensive player in the world when he left Juventus to join Man Utd in 2016 for £89.3 million, but the difference in class between the two players was evident despite an eight-year age gap.
Ronaldo influences games.
Pogba is a player with silky skills, who doesn’t seem to understand the basics of playing in central midfield.
Juventus ended the first half with 70% of the possession, and that happened because of Pogba’s inability to create a wall alongside the impressive Nemanja Matic.
Mourinho needs to find a different place in the side for this maverick.
Maybe, it’s Pogba who needs to play the Juan Mata role, with the United board finding a new midfielder in the January transfer window. Something has to change because if it doesn’t, Pogba will be on his bike without ever showing his real potential, as he didn’t the first time he popped around for a cup of tea.
And yet despite his inability to influence the game like an £89.3 million pound man should, it was the French World Cup winner that came closest to scoring for United, when his brilliant turn and shot struck the base of the post, before rebounding, smacking Wojciech Szczęsny in the jaw, and going out of play for a corner.
Man, how often do those bad boys end up back in the net? And yet you dared not utter the words, “It wasn’t our night.” Juventus murdered the team in red, despite a much better performance in the second half, with the Italians keener to sit back in a come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough pose that a team captained by Giorgio Chiellini creates.
The win for Juventus continues their best start to a season in the club’s history with 11 wins from 12 games, with only a surprise 1-1 home draw against Genoa blighting the copybook.
The Italians are now five points clear at the top of Group H and will win the group if they beat United when Mourinho’s team visit the Allianz Arena for another 90-minutes of shaming on the 7 November.
For United, Mourinho will be plastering the following Ralph Waldo Emerson quote on the dressing room wall.
“Finish every day and be done with it…You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.”
The defeat against Juventus was their fourth home defeat in their previous 13 games, as many as they lost in the 81-matches that went before, and they have only won once in seven games in all competitions, and more worryingly, Romelu Lukaku hasn’t found the net in eight games.
The only saving grace for United is that Valencia and Young Boys played out a 1-1 draw, leaving United second in the group, two points clear of the Spanish side.
Here are Tuesday night’s results, groups, and odds.
AEK 0 v 2 Bayern Munich
Young Boys 1 v 1 Valencia
Ajax 1 v 0 Benfica
Real Madrid 2 v 1 Plzeñ
Man Utd 0 v 1 Juventus
Hoffenheim 3 v 3 Lyon
Roma 3 v 0 CSKA Moscow
Shakhtar Donetsk 0 v 3 Man City
1. Ajax – 7
2. Bayern Munich – 7
3. Benfica – 3
4. AEK – 0
Group Winner Odds
Bayern – 1/6
Ajax – 9/2
Benfica – 20/1
1. Man City – 6
2. Lyon – 5
3. Hoffenheim – 2
4. Shakhtar Donetsk
Group Winner Odds
Man City – 1/10
Lyon – 7/1
1. Real Madrid – 6
2. Roma – 6
3. CSKA Moscow – 4
4. Plzeñ – 1
Group Winner Odds
Real Madrid – 1/3
Roma – 5/2
1. Juventus – 9
2. Man Utd – 4
3. Valencia – 2
4. Young Boys – 1
Group Winner Odds
Juventus – 1/50
Man Utd – 10/1
Champions League Winning Odds
Man City – 9/2
Barcelona – 5/1
Juventus – 6/1
PSG – 8/1
Bayern Munich – 9/1
Liverpool – 9/1