After the progress of the last two games came this reality check for Manchester United.
They may have turned a corner domestically with inspired second-half displays against Newcastle and Chelsea, but Juventus exposed the gulf in class between the Reds and Europe’s best.
Old Trafford welcomed back Cristiano Ronaldo, their former No.7 showing his old club the kind of stardust they are missing as they plot their slow route back to the top.
This was far from vintage Ronaldo, although he did play a key role in the goal, providing the cross from which Paulo Dybala scored.
But the finesse he provided, allied to the technical ability and ruthless experience of this Juve side, proved too much for their hosts.
Following a chastening first-half in which they were outplayed and rarely saw the ball, United redeemed themselves after the break.
But they were unable to find a way past their resolute opponents.
This was Ronaldo’s second time back at his old club. The first time, in 2013 following his £80million move to Real Madrid, saw him score the goal which knocked United out at the last-16 stage in what proved to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s final Champions League game.
For United, last night began in farcical fashion, with the team stuck in traffic for the second Champions League game running at home. Jose Mourinho abandoned the team bus to walk half a mile to the stadium.
The players stayed onboard and took 45 minutes to cover that distance, arriving just 51 minutes before kick-off.
Fined €15,000 by UEFA for being late for the Valencia game, to be delayed again, having changed their pre-match venue to a hotel a 10-minute walk from the stadium, was a major embarrassment for the
Mourinho started with same line-up that played with such verve in the 2-2 draw at Chelsea.
After a cagey opening, the visitors soon assumed control and went ahead in the 17th minute. Ronaldo was the catalyst with a surging run down the right, leaving Anthony Martial in his wake.
He crossed to the near post and after the ball broke free from a bundle between Juan Cuadrado and Chris Smalling, Dybala was on hand to steer it into the net.
David De Gea had to be at his best five minutes later, diving at full-stretch after Juve defender Joao Cancelo unleashed a fierce effort following a swift exchange of passes with Ronaldo.
United’s possession midway through the first-half was a chastening 28 per cent, a humiliating figure for a home side, but it emphasised the Italian club’s dominance and superiority.
De Gea was alert again just before the break to block a goal-bound Ronaldo free-kick and the rebound from Blaise Matuidi, as the Serie A leaders upped the tempo in search of the second goal to effectively kill the game.
De Gea rescued his team once more after the interval, going high to his left to palm away a sweeping effort from Ronaldo was bound for the top corner, after another majestic, flowing move.
United raised their level and enjoyed sustained periods of possession, but were let down by a lack of a clinical edge when it mattered. Paul Pogba went closest, firing a fine effort against a post.
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