By 90Min
October 24, 2018

Well, that was over quickly. 

The small glimmer of hope that had spent time growing within the Manchester United fanbase following two positive results - against Newcastle and Chelsea either side of the international break - well, it's disappeared now.

That possibility of escaping the reality of disjointed football, passive tactics, underperforming players, Nemanja Matic, relying on Marouane Fellaini's fluffy head to provide a bail out - it's all gone. This is real life. This is Manchester United under Jose Mourinho, just in case you needed reminding.

Michael Regan/GettyImages

Juventus' 1-0 win at Old Trafford was not a true reflection of the gulf in quality between these two European giants - it should have been more - but it was a true reflection of how little belief this Man Utd squad, and the manager, have that they're anywhere near the level of the favourites to win the Champions League.

As Rio Ferdinand put it, it was men against boys. And while Juventus are rightly considered as a leading contender to win the entire thing, what bothers United fans the most was the fact that it didn't even look as though they tried to lay a finger on them. Miralem Pjanic had the freedom of Manchester to show everyone just how good a footballer he is, and he'll rarely have an easier night in a big European tie.

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That's United's fault. Whether it's come from the players and their subconscious decision to show too much respect, as Luke Shaw put it, or as a direct instruction from Mourinho to sit deep and allow them time on the ball (it's both, in reality) it was the wrong way to go about things. 

There was momentum to capitalise on. A wave of optimism. A fanbase who had regained a little bit of belief that the players and the manager were finally working for each other again, but the decision was made to box it all up and leave it in the dressing room. 

They've let an opportunity pass them by, and reality has set in again - 10th in the Premier League, out of the League Cup to Championship opposition, and struggling to advance through a Champions League group that they've worked so hard to reach.

It makes you wonder, and it's been the same for the last two years - what's the point in spending so much time and effort reaching these big games if you allow them to pass you by?

Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his desire for more investment. He wants an experienced defensive base to build on like the one Juventus have (he cast a loving eye at Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini post match) and hasn't got it. But he's in a position where he isn't deserving of it because so many of his signings have failed to live up to expectation.

Eric Bailly and Fred, again, found themselves on the bench last night - unused. The ones who were used were ineffective. He can't justify it, no matter how hard he tries.

As for Juventus, they are wonderful. A team in the truest sense, with star quality, experience and knowhow, plus that killer instinct. They're going all out for the Champions League and have - as they did more than twenty years before - made United aware of the benchmark they need to reach. It's going to take a lot of time, and a lot of work.

Suddenly, Everton looks a very uncomfortable game on Sunday - and damn is that a depressing thought.

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