There was a time when the added time board was raised at Old Trafford and the crowd would roar with excitement at the prospect of a few extra minutes to try and bounce back from a rare home draw or even rarer home defeat. Last night as the fourth official indicated three minutes of added time, the collective groans were arguably not due to the lack of minutes United had to turn things around, but possibly the prolonging of such a rancid display by the Reds. There’s a good chance that if last night’s Champions League game was still being played right now the Juventus defence would remain the proud protectors of a clean sheet, such was their magnificence and United’s ineptitude.
So what did we learn from a 1-0 home loss to the Old Lady? Here’s five things.
1. David De Gea is still the most important signing United need to make. There’s been a few silly murmurings that perhaps United and arguably the world’s best keeper wasn’t quite at the same level he has been for the past few years. It’s easy to look at the number of goals he’s conceded and use that as evidence he’s not been at the races this campaign, but then more accurate reason Dave’s picking more balls out of his net is that he’s behind a shambolic defence. Last night saw David De Gea make several saves that would’ve been vital if it weren’t for the fact his team never looked remotely like scoring and are almost destined to leave the Champions League at the group stages. Whatever happens over the coming months, tying De Gea down to a long-term deal needs to be priority.
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2. There’s genuine hope for Victor Lindelof. If there was one positive to take from last night it was the performance of United’s Swedish defender who seemed to finally come of age as the game wore on. Lindelof has been one of Mourinho’s most frustrating signings as it’s obvious he’s a talented defender- his performances at the World Cup helped to underline that- but at times he’s seemed a liability. Against Juventus we saw a player growing in confidence who was able to mop things up at the back, making important blocks, challenges and passes – it’s just a shame more of his team mates weren’t up to his standard.
3. Romelu Lukaku has gone from worrying to embarrassing. Despite almost the entire United team putting in disappointing performances, Lukaku still managed to stand out for being particularly egregious. Whether it was taking five touches to bring a ball under control with little or no pressure, spraying a forty pass perfectly to a Juventus player, or failing to make the simplest of runs when one of his team mates had the ball. It was one of the worst performances by a United striker in recent memory, probably since the last performance by Lukaku.
4. Mourinho needs to stop with the silly comments. Unlike many fans I’ve always been a fan of Jose Mourinho and while I still believe he’s the right man for the job, yet again his post-match comments leave a lot to be desired.
Commenting on the defeat, Mourinho noted: “They [Juventus] had Gonzalo Higuaín, Mario Mandzukic, Dybala and want more. They want Cristiano Ronaldo. They had Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele Rugani – they are not happy, they want more, they want Leonardo Bonucci and they go for the best players in the world. So: big club with a big past but with also a big desire to have a big future.”
Asked if this was the kind of investment needed at United?
“To go to the Juventus level? Barcelona level? Real Madrid level? Manchester City level? How can you reach this level? Yes.
While it’s obvious United need more investment to reach the levels the fans want, it’s not great hearing your manager name checking Manchester City as a barometer of success – it’s almost David Moyes- esque and a rocky path to keep walking down.
5. No subs for a Champions League game is shocking. Imagine if in ’99 Sir Alex had looked at his bench and thought “sack it, I’ve not got anyone who can change things.” While United had injuries, with Marouane Fellaini, Jesse Lingard and Alexis Sanchez all unavailable. There should never be a situation where the Reds don’t have a single option off the bench capable of helping the team.
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