UEFA Champions League 2018-19: Reviewing Manchester United's performance against Juventus at Old Trafford
With the camera lens focused on the Portuguese Jose Mourinho for yet another night, Manchester United fans around the world were certainly expecting a performance mimicking the one at Stamford Bridge a few days ago.
Another man sharing equal focus was none other than the man making just his second return to the Theatre of Dreams, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Starting with the same lineup and formation as in the last game, Manchester United were expected to go all guns blazing from the word go, having high expectations from the likes of Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic. The Spaniard's role was considered as key to United's tactical shape throughout the game.
The Red Devils started out with early set pieces, but it was largely ineffective.
The Bianconeri, having lined up big names like Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo, had already started to play with the minds of the United players, which is why they were unable to give due diligence to players like Joao Cancelo and Miralem Pjanic, who, throughout the entirety of the game, created plenty of chances for Juve.
The United back four was vulnerable early in the first half, giving too much space to the opposition attackers, and in order to close in on Juve's narrow attacking style, paid no heed to their attacking wing backs, which eventually led to the game's only goal being scored in the 17th minute of the game.
Anthony Martial, caught completely off-guard while doing his defensive duties by Ronaldo, had to pay the price as the cross was met by Cuadrado, which although was impressively defended by Smalling, fell to the Argentine's feet, who thumped it in the back of the net.
The remainder of the first half was played out by Juventus with absolute authority, having dominated the possession and the number of chances created. United were fortunate to have not conceded a second goal.
To sum up the first half, 9 out of 10 players having the most touches were from Juventus, the 10th one being Paul Pogba.
United's main man last time out, Anthony Martial, had a poor game having given away possession multiple times, and not having created any significant changes. Same was the case with Marcus Rashford, who was outplayed by the sheer strength of the Brazilian left-back Alex Sandro.
The second half saw some reasonable improvement from the English outfit, with their wing backs Ashley Young and Luke Shaw making runs up the flank and threatening an attack every now and then, but again, lack of execution, along with a plethora of wasteful passes from key positions allowed the Juventus defenders to seize the chances and clear away any threat.
Another talented player, who was facing his former club for the first time, was French midfielder Paul Pogba, who despite having a slow start, made his presence felt in the game later when his left-footed strike came off against the upright.
David De Gea had his fair share of moments when he had to keep a half-volley from the edge of the box, and a thunderous strike from Ronaldo, out of the goal.
To say that United didn't have enough chances to build on would be unfair. Their inability to break free quickly on counters, and to convert those chances is the main reason for their defeat, even after having a fairly spirited second half.
All three players up front for United had an unsatisfactory game, with only the back four and Paul Pogba, having made any significant contributions to their side tonight. The last 6 times when these two powerhouses of European football have clashed in an European competition, either of them have ended up reaching the finale.
Is there yet another Champions League final in the cards for Cristiano Ronaldo? Only time can tell.