United gear up for 'special' Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo will return to Manchester United in the colours of Juventus, after he was suspended in their last group game. He has yet to score in the Champions League for the Italian champions.
Cristiano Ronaldo will return to Manchester United in the colours of Juventus, after he was suspended in their last group game. He has yet to score in the Champions League for the Italian champions.PHOTO: REUTERS

Mourinho confident of matching Juventus, dismisses rumours of a return to Real Madrid

LONDON • Cristiano Ronaldo will always be fondly remembered as a Manchester United player, scoring 118 goals, winning three English Premier League titles and the first of his five Champions League crowns before a then world-record move to Real Madrid in 2009.

Today, he returns in Juventus' colours - following his last scoring return to Old Trafford with Real in 2013 - and is expected to receive a warm reception from the United fans again.

Jose Mourinho said that the Italian champions now have a "special player" after the forward, whom he once coached at Real, joined them in the summer.

"Cristiano is at a level where he doesn't need questions and answers. He's one of the best players of all time and nobody can say differently," said the United manager yesterday ahead of the Champions League clash.

"Juventus now have a special player who makes a difference. They are more than contenders to win the Champions League."

The 55-year-old also said that he is confident his team can get a good result against Juventus today, after improved performances following a difficult start to the season.

"Our form was shown in the past two matches (3-2 comeback win over Newcastle and a 2-2 draw at Chelsea), the way we want to play and the way we can play," he said.

  • Premier League talking points

  • 1. CITY JUGGERNAUT MOVING UP IN GEAR

    Manchester City have now kept five league clean sheets in a row. Admittedly the last was a 5-0 win against an outclassed Burnley but the one before that was at Anfield and Pep Guardiola is pleased at the way his defence has tightened up and how their five goals came from five different scorers.

    To top it off, Kevin de Bruyne made his comeback from injury and Riyad Mahrez also impressed after a wonderful goal capped his most convincing performance since leaving Leicester.

    2. TOOTHLESS MORATA'S POSITION AT RISK

    Alvaro Morata was again ineffective for Chelsea at the weekend in the 2-2 draw against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

    The Spaniard has three goals in 12 games for the Blues this season with Saturday's league fixture the eighth in which he has been substituted.

    That is simply not good enough for a £58 million (S$104 million) striker and manager Maurizio Sarri may now be wondering if January is the best time for the club to cut their losses.

    3. SPURS HAVE NO NEED FOR REINFORCEMENTS

    Assailed by criticism after failing to sign a single player in the previous transfer window, Tottenham Hotspur have mounted the perfect response.

    A 1-0 win at West Ham made it the best start to a season for Spurs in the Premier League era. Erik Lamela's goal and a composed defensive display sealed their fourth successive league victory.

    Asked if it had been Spurs' plan all along not to splash out like their title rivals, manager Mauricio Pochettino said that he did in fact try to sign players. 

    THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

"Against Chelsea, everybody was happy with the collective performance, but nobody was happy with the result. The players have to get the best out of those feelings."

Mourinho also dismissed rumours linking him with a return to Real, after reports emerged that the European champions' manager Julen Lopetegui was facing the sack after a poor run of form.

"No, I'm happy here, I'm happy to see out my contract and I'd like to stay after my contract runs out. All I'm thinking about is Manchester United," the Portuguese said.

First, he must find a way to stop Ronaldo and Juventus, who top Group H with two wins out of two and are two points ahead of United.

Ronaldo is aiming to win the Champions League with a third different club and help Juventus to their first crown in 22 years.

The Champions League's top scorer for the past six years, Ronaldo has yet to break his European duck for Juventus after being sent off against Valencia and missing the visit of Young Boys through suspension.

But Juventus displayed their quality in depth by winning both games and are well-placed for the last 16.

United's situation is more perilous as a 0-0 draw at home to Valencia leaves them with work to do despite easing past Young Boys 3-0. A run of just four wins from their first nine Premier League games also suggests they are unlikely to inflict Juve's first defeat of the season.

And, with the "homecoming" of Ronaldo, United know from experience that the Portuguese rarely shows any mercy, even against old friends.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MANCHESTER UNITED V JUVENTUS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2018, with the headline 'United gear up for 'special' Ronaldo'. Print Edition | Subscribe