Juventus a 'different level' above

Above: Juventus' Paulo Dybala celebrates after scoring the only goal of the Champions League match, as Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea looks dejected in the background. Left: Former United star Cristiano Ronaldo, who signed for Juventus fro
Juventus' Paulo Dybala celebrates after scoring the only goal of the Champions League match, as Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea looks dejected in the background. PHOTO: REUTERS
Above: Juventus' Paulo Dybala celebrates after scoring the only goal of the Champions League match, as Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea looks dejected in the background. Left: Former United star Cristiano Ronaldo, who signed for Juventus fro
Former United star Cristiano Ronaldo, who signed for Juventus from Real Madrid in the summer, takes a wefie with a pitch invader after the match.PHOTO: REUTERS

Mourinho insists United need to buy players to be on a par with Italian champions, other giants

LONDON • Manchester United's arrival for their Champions League clash with Juventus was held up by congestion, forcing manager Jose Mourinho to walk to Old Trafford.

But he need not have hurried, with their football just like the traffic - at a standstill.

Only a series of excellent saves from David de Gea prevented the margin of defeat from being far greater for the hosts as the seven-time Italian champions eased to a 1-0 Champions League victory on Tuesday.

While Cristiano Ronaldo did not get on the scoresheet on his return to his old stomping ground, his deflected cross led to Paulo Dybala's winner as Juventus claimed a perfect nine points to open up a five-point lead at the top of Group H.

The Portuguese star was applauded off the Old Trafford field by the United faithful after taking a wefie with a pitch invader.

The scoreline belied the dominance shown by Massimiliano Allegri's men, who enjoyed 70 per cent of the possession and had 10 shots to United's one in the first half.

Despite Paul Pogba hitting the post late on, things got only marginally better after the break for the Red Devils.

A LESSON TO LEARN

Bonucci and Chiellini could go to Harvard University and give classes on how to be a central defender.

JOSE MOURINHO, Manchester United manager, on how his defence compares with that of Juventus'.

Mourinho could only bemoan the "different level of quality and stability", with United winless in their last three home games in European football's top competition.

"Juventus are champions for seven years in a row, two Champions League finals in the last four years and not happy with what they have, they want more," the United manager told reporters, in what could also be construed as thinly-veiled criticism of the club's ambitions.

"They had (Gonzalo) Higuain and Dybala, they want more. They go for Ronaldo. They go for the best players in the world. Big club with a big past, with a big desire to have a big future."

When asked if this was the kind of spending United needed to do, the Portuguese, who spent much of the pre-season complaining about the club's lack of investment in the transfer market, was blunt in his assessment.

"To go to Juve level? Barcelona level? Real Madrid level? Manchester City level? How can you reach this level? Yes (by buying the best players)," he said.

His biggest frustration in the summer was United's failure to bring in a major reinforcement in the centre of defence and it was perhaps no coincidence that he reserved particular praise for the Juventus pair of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

"Bonucci and Chiellini could go to Harvard University and give classes on how to be a central defender," he added.

And while Mourinho chose to highlight his defence as an area where United need strengthening, his continued faith in Romelu Lukaku as his first-choice striker also needs to be questioned, with the Belgian drawing a blank for the eighth game in a row.

The United boss admitted that Lukaku was "not linking the game well with the team" but stated his belief that "the goals will arrive and the confidence will be back".

Former United midfielder Paul Scholes was vociferous in his criticism of United's pedestrian play, calling it a "gulf in class".

"Juve have outclassed United in every area of the pitch," the pundit told BT Sport.

"I give Juve credit for an away performance against a big club, not a big team as they once were, but they have been so composed.

"When you're watching that, you are a little bit embarrassed."

Fellow pundit Rio Ferdinand concurred with his former teammate, saying it was "men against boys".

The match was summed up by the only resistance United put up all night, when Mourinho held up three fingers at the end to the Juventus fans to signal his 2010 treble with Inter Milan.

It, however, looked less like a show of defiance and more of an attempt to live on past glories from Mourinho, who is running low on excuses to justify his inability to improve United's fortunes after their fifth defeat of the season.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2018, with the headline 'Juventus a 'different level' above'. Print Edition | Subscribe