Champions League winners and losers
7 days ago, 15:51
Manchester United, doing it again
If not the best performance of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United tenure, certainly the best result. Comeback victories over Bournemouth and Newcastle United proved that United still had some fighting spirit, but repeating the same trick against Juventus is a great deal more impressive.
“I think Juventus, we started the game a bit in awe, we were off the pace and they were on the front foot but the second half we showed we could give them a game,” said Chris Smalling when asked about where United had gone wrong in the 1-0 defeat in Manchester.
Smalling was merely giving an honest answer to a fairly predictable question, but it was perhaps more revealing than the defender may have realised. During Alex Ferguson’s dynastical reign, Juventus were the European club with whom United had the most intense rivalry.
Between 1996 and 2003, these two giants of their domestic leagues played each other eight times. Juventus won three of the first four, United three of the next four. In many ways, their improved performance against The Old Lady represented United’s improvement from European Cup also-ran to contender.
Now, in Smalling’s mind, Juventus operate on such a different plane to United that one of their longest-serving players felt that the team were in awe of their opposition. There may be nothing that more accurately highlights United’s slide into comparative mediocrity, the wheels greased by the incompetence of the club’s hierarchy.
But a fortnight later, United were no longer in awe. They matched Juventus’ away win. Of course they rode their luck, and could easily have been three or four goals down before Juan Mata’s equaliser. Juventus hit the post in the first half and the bar in the second, while Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado and Miralem Pjanic were all guilty of missing presentable chances to extend a 1-0 lead.
But you see if Jose Mourinho cares, cupping his ear to the Turin crowd at full-time like a wrestling old-timer who uses hate as his fuel. There is no manager who changes quite as much in victory and defeat as Mourinho. In his post-match interview, joking about the Football Association’s farcical appeal over his lack of charge, United’s manager suddenly looked ten years younger.
The mood has not entirely shifted, and could easily lurch again after Sunday’s derby, but Champions League qualification has been virtually secured. Slowly but surely, Mourinho is clawing back his goodwill. Winning in Turin, the site of so many Manchester United memories, can only be good for the soul.
Oh Harry, you little bloody gem.
It has been a difficult start to the season for Kane. He is taking shots in the Premier League at a rate of one every 27 minutes compared to every 17 minutes last campaign, so shots on target are also well down (one per 52 mins vs 41 mins). The suspicion is that he is fatigued, and how could he not be given the workload. But this is Kane – he doesn’t particularly benefit ...
Category: sports football