Jose Mourinho bemoaned the chasm between his Manchester United side and Juventus as the Italian champions won 1-0 on Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Ronaldo did not get on the scoresheet, but played a supporting role by helping set up Paulo Dybala’s winner on 17 minutes as Juventus opened up a five-point lead over United at the top of Group H.
Only a series of excellent saves from David de Gea prevented the margin of defeat being far greater for the hosts as any momentum United gained from fightbacks against Newcastle and Chelsea in recent weeks in the Premier League faded away against one of the favourites to win the Champions League.
Jose Mourinho’s men were handed a break before kick-off as Valencia’s 1-1 draw away to Young Boys means United still hold a two-point lead over the Spaniards, but a fourth defeat of the season will see speculation over Mourinho’s future increase once more.
And in keeping with his complaints all season, Mourinho suggested United need to invest more in the transfer market to get to Juventus’ level.
Juventus spent 112 million euros ($129 million) for a 33-year-old Ronaldo in July and also brought Leonardo Bonucci back just a year after selling the Italian international to AC Milan.
“Mr. Bonucci, Mr. (Giorgio) Chiellini, they could go to Harvard to give some classes about how to be a central defender,” said Mourinho, whose attempts to add a centre-back in the summer were thwarted.
“Juventus is champions for seven years in a row, two Champions League finals in the last four or five years and they are not happy with what they have, they want more. They had (Gonzalo) Higuain, (Mario) Manduzkic and Dybala, but they want more, they want Ronaldo,” he added.
“They go for the best players in the world. A big club with a big past but also a big desire to have a big future.”
– Muted Ronaldo reception –
Ronaldo was given a hero’s welcome on his previous visit to Old Trafford with Real Madrid in 2013 after scoring 118 goals for United in six seasons between 2003 and 2009 to help the Red Devils win three Premier League titles and the first of his five Champions Leagues.
The Portuguese’s early days as Juventus player since making the move to Italy from Madrid this summer have been overshadowed by a rape allegation made against him in the United States, which he strongly denies.
And the reception he received from the United faithful this time was far more muted, although he was applauded off the field at the end of the game after taking a selfie with a pitch invader, who was hauled away by security staff.
Ronaldo scored the winner in a contentious Champions League last-16 tie for Madrid five years ago, but this time played the role of provider for Dybala to be the match-winner.
His cross intended for Juan Cuadrado ricocheted kindly off Chris Smalling into the path of Dybala to sweep the ball past De Gea for his fourth goal in two Champions League games.
“The forwards moved a lot and caused their defence a few problems, but we missed the final pass too many times, especially in the second half,” said Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri.
“However I’m satisfied mostly because we are continuing to grow, especially in terms of confidence, and that allowed us to impose our own game in this difficult stadium.”
De Gea made fine saves from Joao Cancelo and Blaise Matuidi before the break, but saved his best stop to prevent Ronaldo scoring his first Champions League goal for Juventus seven minutes into the second-half.
Going behind brought out the best in Mourinho’s side against Newcastle and Chelsea to help ease the pressure on the manager.
But the hosts failed to threaten until Paul Pogba’s curling shot from outside the box hit the post 15 minutes from time.