Juventus wrap up easy win thanks to Paulo Dybala as Man United fail to spark
MANCHESTER -- Three thoughts from Old Trafford as Man United lost 1-0 to Juventus in Champions League Matchday 3:
1. Ronaldo upstaged by Dybala on Old Trafford return
Cristiano Ronaldo played second billing to Paulo Dybala on his return to Manchester United as the Argentine forward netting a first-half winner to seal a comfortable victory for Juventus.
Former United forward Ronaldo was making only his second appearance at his old home since leaving United for Real Madrid in an £80 million transfer in 2009. But he had a quiet night, forcing just one save from United goalkeeper David de Gea as Massimiliano Allegri's team consolidated top spot in Group H with their third successive win.
Dybala's 18th-minute strike, after Chris Smalling had blocked Ronaldo's near-post cross into the path of Juan Cuadrado, was enough to confirm victory for Juve, who were dominant throughout and could have won by a greater margin. United, by contrast, were poor once again, with only de Gea and Swedish centre-half Victor Lindelof emerging with any credit.
Valencia's draw away to Young Boys earlier in the day ensured that this defeat was not as damaging as it could have been for United. But they have now played 180 minutes of Champions League football at Old Trafford without scoring this season, and this defeat was their fifth in 13 games in all competitions since the start of the campaign.
2. Man United's front three a sign of their decline
Manchester United are not a team likely to challenge for this season's Champions League and that is made evident by their forward line. While Jose Mourinho's defensive concerns are well documented -- his team once again failed to keep a clean sheet on Tuesday night -- the problems up front are now becoming a real issue.
Speaking to ESPN FC ahead of this game, former United captain Gary Neville recalled the club's last Champions League-winning campaign, in 2007-08, when Sir Alex Ferguson had Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez as his front three. Neville spoke of the trio's tenacity, goals and even their nastiness, but they were a formidable force and no defence in Europe could keep them quiet that season, with the trio hitting 79 goals between them.
It is a different story with Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. All three have their qualities but none are seemingly the finished article by any means and they looked totally out of their depth against Juventus. Lukaku has not scored since mid-September and never looked like hitting the net against the Italian champions, while Martial's two-goal flurry at Chelsea at the weekend appeared a distant memory here.
As for Rashford, he at least tried to make a difference but was up against seasoned defenders who knew every trick in the book.
On this evidence, United need Alexis Sanchez, of all people, to be fit and firing as quickly as possible.
3. Don't back Juventus to win the Champions League
Juventus are desperate to win the Champions League again and for a club of their stature, no title since 1996 is way too long. But while they have invested heavily on Ronaldo being the man to make all the difference, they still look short of the finished article.
There was rarely a moment in this game where they looked concerned by United, but great teams go for the kill and Juventus failed to do that.
It's true that they controlled the game and showed how far United are from becoming a European force again. But Juve know from painful experience, having lost finals against Barcelona and Real Madrid in recent years, that it takes something extra special to win Europe's signature tournament.
Will this season be any different? Perhaps it is too early to say, and United were not strong enough to truly test them, but Allegri's team still look short of being in the same class as Barcelona, Manchester City and Atletico Madrid.
This was a convincing win, but not the kind of performance that suggested they're on course to truly contend this season.