Apparently, and whisper this quietly as it’s just a rumour, but people other than Paul Pogba and Cristiano Ronaldo are taking part in this Wednesday’s clash in Turin.
So much attention has been focused on ‘the prodigal son returning’ and ‘CR7 facing the club where he went from boy to legend’ that you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a game of one v one between the two megastars.
Despite the obvious media attention and ready-made narrative of Ronaldo and Pogba squaring up against their former employers, there is actually a host of other supremely gifted footballers taking part in the Champions League game and unfortunately for the Reds, most of them play for Juventus.
Last month’s 1-0 loss to the Old Lady at Old Trafford was a score line that actually flattered United, such was the relative ease with which the Italian Giants, put the Sleeping Giants back to bed.
Losing to Juventus is nothing to be embarrassed about, even Sir Alex tasted defeat against them three times, but what was worrying from a United point of view was just how far behind our former equals we seem to have slipped.
Yes, Juventus spend money, they pay Cristiano Ronaldo’s wages so they must spend a fortune, but this wasn’t some billionaire bankrolled side putting United to the sword thanks to being able to outspend them. This was a team who sold United their best player, whose goal scorer Paulo Dybala cost less than £30 million, who’s talented youngster Rodrigo Bentancur cost 9 million Euros, it’s a sign of how one club has been managed well and one club has gone through too many changes in recent years without a clear transfer policy.
United can take solace from the fact that Juventus are one of Europe’s top teams, a side that perennially lifts the Scudetto and that’s appeared in two Champions League finals in the past three years, but that doesn’t make the pill much easier to swallow.
If the Reds are to emerge from the Allianz Stadium with any points – or even pride intact – then we need to see the Jose Mourinho team that came out for the second half against, Newcastle, Chelsea and Bournemouth, not the one we’ve seen in the first halves of those matches. United suffer from taking at least 45 minutes to ‘get going’ and that’s an eternity against a side that will be up for it from the kick off, cheered on by some of the most passionate supporters on the planet, who relish entertaining Europe’s biggest clubs.
There’s no place for sluggishness, complacency or fear on Wednesday and the Reds need to remember that although Juventus are a gifted team full of bags of experience, United have some of the best players on the planet amongst our ranks. We can beat anyone on our day and that day is long overdue.
Where the game will be won?
For the home clash, much was made of United’s lack of potency upfront with all eyes on Romelu Lukaku who never quite got going against a side that’s renowned for its defensive excellence. Six shots in the first leg by the Reds was pathetic as was the fact Mourinho’s team drew a blank for the second successive Champions League home game, much more is needed if we’re to leave Turin with anything other than an assault by the local plod.
Mourinho opted to leave the same team on for the full 90 minutes at Old Trafford, a somewhat bizarre decision but one that stemmed from a lack of options on the bench – something Summer signing Fred will no doubt be chuffed to bits about.
The United boss may need to have a plan B ready for this week’s game and that may actually involve the aforementioned Lukaku who was injured for the recent win over Bournemouth and dropped for the previous clash against Everton.
If Lukaku is fit then he could find himself on the bench, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford both getting on the scoresheet last time out, plus Alexis Sanchez reminding the world that he’s not quite given up on his Old Trafford career just yet.
It’s highly unlikely the Reds will keep a clean sheet, even if we emerge victorious so there could be some value in both teams to score United to win, a result that would give us all a massive boost heading into the weekend’s Manchester derby.
Jose Mourinho cemented his reputation as one of Europe’s top coaches, not by just winning domestic titles but by triumphing in Europe too, and these are the sort of games the manager formerly known as the Special One, revels in.
It’s going to be a tough night for United, but as always with the Reds, count us out at your peril.