Preview: Turin or bust for Manchester United? Jose Mourinho needs to find the winning formula…


Juventus -v- Manchester United

UEFA Champions League

Allianz Arena, Turin, Italy

Wednesday 7 November 2018; KO 20:00 GMT

Referee: Ovidiu Haţegan

Manchester United will be handed their biggest challenges this week, ahead of the final international break of 2018 with a visit to Turin in the UEFA Champions League where they will face Juventus, before travelling to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City on Sunday. Juventus won at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, despite only scoring one goal at the Theatre of Dreams. Cristiano Ronaldo made his return to Old Trafford again, for the second time, failing to get on the scoresheet.

This time, it will be the return to Paul Pogba to Turin, his former home. The Frenchman has suggested that Manchester United is his home but also stated that Turin was home too. Which one is home? You cannot have both. It has been a turbulent season for United, not just results wise. The defence does not seem to be able to keep a clean sheet this season, despite having the same players as last season, which led United to become the second-best defence in the Premier League.

This season the defensive awareness has been abysmal. Jose Mourinho wanted to sign some better players in the summer, which was seemingly rejected by the board with Ed Woodward briefing the media with the suggestion that the players Mourinho wanted were no better than the players the club had currently. Looking at the players Mourinho wanted and comparing them to the players Mourinho has, shows that Woodward’s footballing knowledge is just as abysmal as the defence United has.

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Pre-Match Thoughts: The winning mentality could help United in Turin but the players need to work towards victory, not hope they will win…

After losing to Juventus at Old Trafford, this is a match United will need to get a result from. They currently stand second in the group after Young Boys and Valencia drew and with them playing in the earlier fixture, United will find out what they need to do in order to retain the second spot in the group, which is going to be nothing short of a victory in Turin. That though is going to be a challenge in itself as this United side has nothing the previous sides had.

Right now, the form of Anthony Martial is the main driving force in the team. Martial has scored five goals in his last five matches and seems to be arriving in some sort of form, which is only going to be good for United. However, there are other players in the team who need to start performing – Romelu Lukaku is one of them. He suffered an injury in training ahead of the Bournemouth match this weekend and did not travel. He has not scored for United in nine matches now.

Marcus Rashford needs a run in the team. He scored the winner against Bournemouth on Saturday, which will have added to his confidence ahead of a tricky trip to Italy this week, not to mention the Manchester derby on Sunday. Some suggest that the 20-year-old need a prolonged run in the team, as the striker, to bring out the best in him. However, other supporters have said Rashford does not score enough goals so needs to be dropped. Let’s bring in another striker who does not score for him then!?!?

Team News: Injuries coming to an end, more options in the team and a rejig in the squad in a bid to find more goals…

Jose Mourinho could have four players on the sidelines this week with Romelu Lukaku, Antonio Valencia, Diogo Dalot, and Marouane Fellaini all absent from the Bournemouth match. Phil Jones was back on the bench, which could create more defensive options with Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly also absent but not injured. Alexis Sanchez made his return from an injury sustained during the last international break, leading the line for United against Bournemouth.

United defender Chris Smalling spoke after the late victory over Bournemouth on Saturday, suggesting that the club could take the winning spirit to Turn in the hope of coming back with three points, which will also create more belief in the run-up to the Manchester derby on Sunday. Smalling, speaking to the official Manchester United website, said:

“Against Juventus we started a little in awe, we were off the pace and we weren’t really on the front foot. I think in the second half we showed that we could give them a game, that we could create chances. I think we can take that second-half performance to Turin, we’ll be more on the front foot and you’ll see a better performance than you did in the first half.”

Predicted Starting XI: Alexis Sanchez to lead the line in Turin? Anthony Martial to continue his goalscoring run?

Jose Mourinho really does need to find the best from his team, especially in a week where his side will face Juventus and Manchester City, both away from home. Romelu Lukaku scored plenty of goals last season, although his first touch and finishing were both poor at times, which could have been the main contributing factor for him not scoring more than he did. This season, his goalscoring has been poor as have been some of his individual performances.

Having Alexis Sanchez to lead the line will take pressure off Lukaku but also having Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, who are both able to play in this role will add other options to this team. However, if one of these players leads the line, there will be a void where they normally play, which would only rotate the three players (Sanchez, Martial, and Rashford) with them playing in different roles.

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United are a team that have predominantly played attacking football but post-Sir Alex Ferguson, that attacking prowess has not really been prevalent. Manchester City scored six goals against Southampton on Sunday and United can only dream about the times they scored as many goals in a single match. In the league, the last time United scored five goals was in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game, a 5-5 draw away to West Bromwich Albion.

In David Moyes’ season, United beat Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 in the Champions League. Last season, United scored four goals a few times, this season, that seems like a dream. United have scored three goals once in the league, also once in the Champions League. However, in terms of clean sheets, United have kept two in the Champions League and one in the Premier League. In nearly six years, United seem to have gone from free-scoring to free-conceding, losing that attacking frame of mind, which needs to return.

Match Prediction: Manchester United to win in Turin? That is the dream but what is the reality?

Manchester United need a result against Juventus to have an easier run in their last two Champions League group matches. Currently, after three matches, United sit second in the group with four points. Juventus are top with nine points, Valencia third with two points and Young Boys at the bottom with one point. Valencia host Young Boys in the early match on Wednesday, meaning United will know what they need to do ahead of kick off.

A win against Juventus will add a cushion between United and the third-placed team, which is currently two points, which will see United as having an advantage ahead of the fifth match in the group on the 27 November 2018 when United host Young Boys, before ending in December in sunny Spain as Valencia host United. If United lose on Wednesday, they will need to wins to escape the group and avoid the UEFA Europa League, beating Juventus will curtail the pressure for now.

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Juventus 1-2 Manchester United

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