Cristiano Ronaldo, the magic of Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic running the midfield: Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus are understated brilliance
- Juventus go to Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday night
- The two teams played each other numerous times in Europe during the 1990s
- United went from losing to the Bianconeri to knocking them out in 1999
- The Massimiliano Allegri incarnation of Juve know how to navigate Europe
- With the added firepower of Cristiano Ronaldo, the Italians could go all the way
- Miralem Pjanic, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic are also all major threats
From the mid to late 1990s Manchester United and Juventus were the bee’s knees. The Italians started that spell as the continent’s best, reaching the Champions League final three years in a row between 1996 and 1998, winning the first one.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s United grew into European football during that time. The indication of their development were their clashes with the Turin giants. They went from losing to the Bianconeri to eventually knocking them out in the 1999 semi-final.
That watershed victory was against Carlo Ancelotti’s side, who were at the end of a cycle. But it was Marcello Lippi who bewitched and inspired Ferguson. The silver fox and old Scot relished those tussles, and became friends. Mutual respect was abundant.
Massimiliano Allegri will lead his Juventus team out against Manchester United on Tuesday
Juve know how to navigate the Champions League and have Cristiano Ronaldo with them now
JUVENTUS’ CHAMPIONS LEAGUE RECORD UNDER ALLEGRI
2014/15 – Lost 3-1 in the final to Barcelona
2015/16 – Lost 6-4 on aggregate to Bayern Munich in the Round of 16
2016/17 – Lost 4-1 in the final to Real Madrid
2017/18 – Lost 4-3 on aggregate to Real Madrid in the Quarter-finals
Tuesday night’s clash between the teams doesn’t quite have the allure of the 90s ties, but doesn’t lack charm, and features coaches who have reached a combined four Champions League finals.
The Massimiliano Allegri incarnation of Juve is different to Lippi’s 1990s dominators. But they know how to navigate the Champions League. Under Allegri’s understated guidance the Turin team have only been knocked out once in normal time. They have reached two finals, and lost to Bayern in extra time in Munich in the 2015/16 round of 16.
The only loss within 120 minutes was in last year’s quarter-final when Cristiano Ronaldo scored a last minute penalty at the Bernabeu. The Portuguese also put two past the Vecchia Signora in the 2017 final. Now he wears the famous black and white stripes. It’s a modern twist on the classic phrase. ‘If you can’t beat them, convince them to join you’, one might say.
Allegri’s side are patient and composed, Lippi’s team were aggressive and direct. The full-backs flew forward, Edgar Davids, Antonio Conte, Zinedine Zidane and Vladimir Jugovic drove towards goal from midfield. In attack Alex Del Piero, Fabrizio Ravanelli, Gianluca Vialli, then latterly Alen Boksic, Christian Vieri and Pippo Inzaghi, provided hugely contrasting yet lethal options.
From the mid to late 1990s Manchester United and Juventus were the bee’s knees in Europe
United went from losing to the Bianconeri to knocking them out in the 1999 semi-finals
The current group don’t force the issue. They allow their opponents the ball. At times in Serie A they resemble a boxer waiting for his rival to tire himself out, then they strike. Aside from the substantial CR7 threat, Mario Mandzukic is the warrior, Paulo Dybala is the magician.
Federico Bernardeschi is making himself indispensable for his workrate and shooting. Wonderful winger Douglas Costa moves like a Formula One car weaving between broken down bin lorries.
The midfield blends running power, strong men and the metronomic vision of Miralem Pjanic. The bearded Bosnian is the intelligence centre in front of the defence, although he isn’t the only passer. Sweeper Leonardo Bonucci is keen on a long ball forward to Ronaldo. They don’t give you the nickname ‘Bonibauer’ a mix of Bonucci and Beckenabauer – if you haven’t got decent feet.
‘Bonibauer’ isn’t the only member of the rearguard United will need to monitor. Jose Mourinho’s compatriot Joao Cancelo has settled instantly after joining from Valencia via a loan to Inter. The right-back was always a buzzing, athletic player, and now he is adding defensive solidity.
Juve allow their opponents the ball and sometimes resemble a boxer waiting for his rival to tire
The midfield blends running power, strong men and the metronomic vision of Miralem Pjanic
Their superiority has been clear after a blistering start to the campaign. Juve had won their opening ten games in the league and Europe, until Saturday, when a stubborn Genoa grabbed an unexpected 1-1 draw in Turin.
Far from livid, Allegri appeared almost relieved in his post match conference, saying ‘That’s football, you can’t win every game.’ The slim ex-AC Milan boss isn’t happy his team dropped points, but it will serve as a lesson. Genoa’s equaliser sprang from a hideous lapse of concentration in the home defence. Such lax work will not be permitted at Old Trafford.
The Group H clash also provides a reunion for Paul Pogba. The Frenchman was adored at Juve, and he enjoyed his life in black and white. The hearsay and rumours of his return to Juventus may well be nonsense. But if you ask most fans at the Allianz Stadium, and they would love to have the World Cup winner back on board.
Pogba and Allegri got on well during their time together in Turin, regularly challenging each other to cheeky sporting competitions. Their basketball and small-sized goal shootouts at the training ground have earned over ten million views on Youtube. On Saturday evening, when a journalist asked Allegri if he will be calling his former player before the match, the response was a wide grin and a ‘no’. A nice end to a good-humoured press conference.
Aside from Ronaldo’s threat, Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala (pictured) are both dangerous
The clash also provides a reunion for Paul Pogba and the Frenchman was adored at Juve
As for Mourinho, his relationship with Juventus during his two-season spell at Inter betwen 2008 and 2010 was very happy one- for him. His Nerazzurri were too strong for their historical rivals. Back then Juve were rebuilding their pride, reputation and squad after being sent to Serie B.
In the five meetings of the teams, Juventus only triumphed once. There were three Inter victories and a draw. But that was a dramatically different Juve.
The upcoming double date with the Italian champions gives the under pressure Portuguese a chance to re-ignite a traumatic season. But they don’t come much harder in Europe’s top club competition than Juventus.
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