Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus Beat Paul Pogba, Manchester United in CL Match

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 23, 2018

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23:  Paulo Dybala of Juventus celebrates scoring a goal to make the score 0-1 with Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus during the Group H match of the UEFA Champions League between Manchester United and Juventus at Old Trafford on October 23, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Juventus beat Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday as Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba faced their former clubs.

Ronaldo will be the happier of the two as he helped the Bianconeri come out on top and he supplied the cross for Paulo Dybala's 17th-minute strike.

Dybala converted from close range after Ronaldo's cross came off Chris Smalling, as he intervened to prevent it reaching Juan Cuadrado.

Juventus dominated much of the possession, and if not for a strong performance from David De Gea it could have been a much more one-sided scoreline.

The Spaniard tipped over Blaise Matuidi's follow-up after beating away a swerving Ronaldo free-kick, and he had to pull a save out of the top drawer to deny a venomous effort from Ronaldo in the second half.

United improved slightly after the break, but rarely troubled the visitors' goal outside of Pogba curling an effort onto the woodwork.


United Are out of Their Depth in the Champions League

It may come as little surprise given their domestic struggles, which has left them nine points behind their rivals in the Premier League already, but United's limitations in all areas of the pitch mean they're well out of their depth in the Champions League against a side of Juve's calibre.

The Red Devils will have aspirations of rivalling teams like Juventus on the biggest stage but, despite the close scoreline, they were nowhere near their Italian visitors on Tuesday.

As Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News noted, there was a gulf in class in the first half:

Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst

This half has been like a senior side against an U21 team. #mufc constantly caught in two minds and their decision-making has been amateurish.

Not for the first time this season, United were disjointed in midfield and porous in defence.

The hosts' midfield trio of Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Pogba struggled to get close to their Juventus counterparts, with Matic looking particularly out of sorts as he failed to keep up. Exposed by their lack of protection in midfield, United's defence was repeatedly vulnerable and De Gea played a big role in keeping the scoreline down.

Sports writers Daniel Harris and Liam Canning noted their struggles:

Daniel Harris @DanielHarris

Weird to think that Juve’s three-man midfield is dominating United’s one-man midfield.

Liam Canning @LiamPaulCanning

The state of Manchester United's defensive organisation is beyond shambolic. So many holes. Ridiculous.

Things were little better up front, with Romelu Lukaku far too static and receiving little service as United's midfield struggled to link up with their forward line.

The Red Devils can still make it out of their group—they're two points clear of Valencia with four matches remaining—but without significant improvement they won't make it far in the knockout phase.


Ronaldo Has Found The Way to Win with Juve

Ronaldo may not have gotten on the scoresheet on Tuesday as he'd have been hoping, but he put in a fine performance at Old Trafford and Juventus will benefit if he can replicate it each week.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus waves at the end of the Group H match of the UEFA Champions League between Manchester United and Juventus at Old Trafford on October 23, 2018 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Robbie
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

The forward has been brought in to score goals and he has five for his new side, but at times since his arrival in the summer, his insistence on being the main man and Juve's desire to show off their new asset has disrupted the team's flow.

On Tuesday, Ronaldo came to his former side with a point to prove, but rather than doing so by making it all about himself, he played as part of the team and Juventus looked all the stronger for it.

As the Press Association's Simon Peach noted early on, Ronaldo's movement was creating opportunities for his team-mates:

Simon Peach @SimonPeach

Cristiano Ronaldo keeping the #MUFC defence on their toes. Smalling was so preoccupied with him just then that a gap opened up for Dybala to get a header away

Rather than waiting for his team to lay on chances for him to score, the 33-year-old was much more active than usual and showed what else he can bring to the party, per the New York Times' Rory Smith:

Rory Smith @RorySmith

Have probably seen Ronaldo live a dozen times in the last 18 months or so, and this is by some distance the most involved he's been in general play in any of them. He's chasing back, he's dropping deep, he's giving and going.

The approach paid off when he made a darting run down the right—escaping Anthony Martial in the process—and supplied the cross that led to Dybala's decisive strike.

If Ronaldo plays like this every week, it will make Juventus an even stronger contender for the Champions League title.


United Will Keep Struggling Until They Take the Initiative Early in Games

All too often under manager Jose Mourinho, United have been guilty of starting matches slowly and allowing their opponents to gain an early foothold in the contest.

Tuesday was no different, and the Red Devils quickly found themselves on the back foot as Juventus controlled the possession and the tempo of the game.

As ESPN's Rob Dawson noted, it has become a common sight to see them go behind this season:

Rob Dawson @RobDawsonESPN

United's 13th game of the season and the sixth time they've conceded the first goal.

United looked stronger in the second half as they tried to push for a goal, but unlike their recent comeback against Newcastle United at Old Trafford, on this occasion, they faced a team that excel in seeing out matches from winning positions.

The Independent's Miguel Delaney believes a change is needed:

Miguel Delaney @MiguelDelaney

United requiring the pressure of going behind to look like a proper team may not be a sustainable strategy.

Until United set out to take the initiative in their matches from the outset, they'll continue to struggle to pick up wins.


What's Next

Juventus travel to Empoli on Saturday in Serie A, while United host Everton in the Premier League a day later.

The pair will face one another for the second time in the Champions League on November 7 when the competition returns, this time at the Juventus Stadium.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.