A fairly uninteresting game means a full match report isn’t really worthwhile, however Paulo Dybala’s goal in Juventus’ win over Manchester United neatly encapsulated the match as a whole.
Jose Mourinho usually sets up his team in a 4-3-3 formation, yet he changed to a 4-2-3-1 for the weekend’s draw against Chelsea to some success and chose to continue with it here.
Against Chelsea, Juan Mata had stuck very close to Jorginho to stop Chelsea’s build-up, with Romelu Lukaku also staying close. Chelsea got around this either by having Mateo Kovacic drop back or by having the centre-backs drive forward on the ball.
Here Mata stuck close to Miralem Pjanic and Juventus found it even easier to play around United. Blaise Matuidi and Rodrigo Bentancur dropped back on either side of Pjanic to pick up the ball off the defenders and were generally left free, with Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic rarely wanting to follow them all the way up the pitch.
Both Pogba and Matic would follow them part of the way though, opening up large gaps between and behind them for Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo to drop into. Chelsea had attempted the same by having Alvaro Morata drop off to receive the ball but he would need to take so many touches to control and get the ball out of his feet that United were able to recover before Chelsea could mount an attack. Dybala and Ronaldo were much quicker though, making it easier for Juventus to progress up the pitch despite having all their midfielders positioned deep.
Morata was particularly poor on Saturday. Not only had he been ineffective dropping off, he was also very slow to get into the box when Chelsea attacked. Again and again Eden Hazard would drop deep, pulling Ashley Young up the pitch with him, leaving a gap for Kovacic or Marcos Alonso to attack. Once they received the ball here though they would often find they were the only player in the box, with Morata still hovering outside rather than supporting, making it easy for United’s defenders to come across and cover.
Juve didn’t have this problem. When Ronaldo or Dybala dropped off, Juan Cuadrado, Joao Cancelo and Alex Sandro constantly looked to burst in behind, ensuring that United’s backline couldn’t follow Dybala or Ronaldo without leaving a gap behind to be exploited. Frequently Ronaldo and Dybala would drop off just to get a United defender following them then sprint into the space they had left. This meant that Juventus had players both coming short and going long at all times, leaving United’s backline between a rock and a hard place.
As a result, Juventus dominated the game and got the only goal.