He plays on the left, he plays on the right, that boy Ronaldo made – well, you know the rest. At Manchester United, they certainly do.
And now they know what it feels like to be on the end of one of those performances by Cristiano Ronaldo, too. Left, right, through the middle, each positional switch causing its own problems, each change showing up the limitations of the local heroes.
This wasn’t Lionel Messi against Tottenham at Wembley earlier in the month. This wasn’t one for the ages. But Ronaldo still made Juventus’ winning goal, had a free-kick and a powerful second-half shot saved, and was a complete nuisance from the moment the match started.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Manchester United: de Gea, Young, Lindelof, Smalling, Shaw, Pogba, Matic, Rashford, Mata, Martial, Lukaku
Subs not used: Romero, Bailly, Andreas Pereira, Fred, Ander Herrera, Darmian, Chong
Juventus: Szczesny, Joao Cancelo (Douglas Costa 87), Bonucci, Chiellini, Alex Sandro, Bentancur, Pjanic, Matuidi, Cuadrado (Barzagli 81), Dybala (Bernardeschi 78), Ronaldo
Subs not used: Perin, De Sciglio, Benatia, Kean
Goalscorers: Dybala 17
Booked: Matuidi, Chiellini
Referee: Milorad Mazic.
Manchester United, as is their style in recent weeks, were a different team after half-time once chasing the game, and could even have snatched a point had a 74th minute shot from Paul Pogba not struck the near post. Yet this was Juventus’ night.
They controlled the opening 45 minutes with 71 per cent possession, and defended impressively once United came back at them. And while it was far from the result they would have wanted, it wasn’t the worst night for Manchester United with Valencia and Young Boys drawing in Switzerland.
That left Jose Mourinho’s team in second place with a two point advantage over the Spaniards. The trip to Turin is to come for United, however, and no matter the second-half resurgence, Juventus look much the better team of the two. While Wojciech Szczesny was barely troubled in Juve’s goal, it needed another fine display from David De Gea to prevent United being exposed further.
His best save came from, who else, Ronaldo after 51 minutes, picking up on a clever pass inside from Juan Cuadrado and striking a shot that would have conjured a second for Juventus with a lesser figure between the posts. Still, the result left him all smiles as did the warm reception on what is only his third return to Old Trafford since leaving in 2009 – one with Real Madrid, one with Portugal and now this.
It is 5,547 days since he made his debut here as a substitute against Bolton, and what a player United nurtured. He played on the left, he played on the right – and United are far from the first opponents he has left looking, well, slightly inferior.
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