Juventus defeated Manchester United on Tuesday night at Old Trafford in a match that saw two halves differing from each other in equal amounts. If the first belonged to the team from Turin, the second was when one could see a United renaissance which, unfortunately, could not translate into goals. Football writers and pundits across the world have been saying that United were horrible and the competition was actually one of the men versus boys, but that was not the case.
United have developed a tendency to discover the fight within themselves only after they have gone down a goal or two. We saw that in their matches against Newcastle before the international break and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. They emerged on the winning side against the Toon army but a late Ross Barkley strike meant that they could settle only for a draw against the Blues.
The goal Juventus scored was thanks to an unlucky fumble and a simple tap-in that Paulo Dybala drove home. Apart from that, Juventus did not look otherworldly. The fact that Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling could keep Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala at bay is a victory in itself for Manchester United.
Juventus were exemplary, yes, and the way Miralem Pjanic built upplay and brought Rodrigo Bentancur and Alex Sandro in the game was mightily impressive. The Brazilian Sandro was a revelation in himself, flying down the flanks when the attack built but when the time came for defending, he was found a bit wanting.
Juan Cuadrado was excellent on the right wing and gave plenty of good balls to both Ronaldo and Dybala. Massimilano Allegri has built this team on the foundation of fast, dissecting passes and they have adapted well. However, what Manchester United can learn from Juventus is the way they pass the ball and press high when they lose it.
If Leonardo Bonucci and Georgio Chiellini laid down the law of the land on how to defend, as Jose Mourinho praised them for, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof were not too far behind. The Swede was especially quick on the ball and defended with complete authority. Smalling, on the other hand, has been the best United central defender this season and showed another promising performance.
It was wonderful to see Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic come into their own in the centre of the park and when the former started showing off, he made the game look so much easier. The only place United were found wanting was in the number nine spot, with Belgian Romelu Lukaku's goal drought worrying for Mourinho and his staff.
This is to say that there was no gulf in quality between Manchester United and Juventus on the night and given a better framework to battle in, the former can surely give the latter a run for their money in the return fixture. Sure, United lost out on a lot of quality signings and do not exactly have the best players in the world, but heart, desire, resolve, and the Manchester United badge, can sometimes be just enough.