Man United’s Defence Could Be Majorly Boosted If They Stop Juve & Ronaldo

Manchester United know just how deadly Cristiano Ronaldo can be in front of goal.

United have been very poor defensively this term; the club lie in tenth spot in the Premier League and only four top flight teams have conceded more than the Red Devils so far this season.

They’ve performed better in the Champions League and have yet to concede in Europe’s most elite of club competitions.

United manager Jose Mourinho seems set to name a unchanged line-up from the side that got a point in their last outing against high flying Chelsea and that means we’ll once again see a back four that includes Ashley Young, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof.

Continuity at the back is just what Man Utd need.

In Chris Smalling, they’ve got their most consistent centre-back. The Englishman was brought to the club by Sir Alex Ferguson and he learned his trade playing alongside Namanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. No United player has performed better in the air than Chris, on average he’s winning around 4.1 headers per game. He’s also good with his passing distribution, makes the most amount of clearances in a game and will put his body on the line for his team.

I’m still not overly convinced by Lindelof but the Swede gave a decent account of himself in the draw with Chelsea. He too makes plenty of clearances and his tackling stats are better than Smalling’s. His passing his also pretty good and he has a bit of pace about him too. That being said he still looks very nervous at times.

No defensive player has made more tackles than winger turned full-back Ashley Young. He’s actually very astute in the challenge and seems to understand where a winger wants to go, probably due to the years he played in the role himself. That footballing brain can allow him to get out quickly and snuff out challenges. He’s also dangerous when it comes to crossing from deep.

The transformation in Luke Shaw has been tremendous. Even when others have declined badly in games, Shaw seems to keep working hard and doing his upmost for his teammates. He offers a great outlet on the lefthand side, although that can lead to him being caught out during counter attacks. He’s contributed to his team’s cause with a goal and an assist to his name this year.

The backline will have to have their wits about them tonight.

Juventus come into this game full of confidence, leading Serie A by four points and having scored nineteen goals in nine league games.

Summer signing Ronaldo has hit the ground running in Turin, he’s already banged in five goals and created four assists. The Portuguese superstar has been sensational either on the left wing or through the middle. He can make these wonderfully intelligent runs that allows him to create space in the final third. He’s just as prolific in the air as he is on the ground.

The former Red Devil probably won’t be eager to sink his former side but I bet he’ll be happy to get one over former gaffer Mourinho.

But Juve’s attack has more about it than just stopping Cristiano.

Veteran frontman Mario Mandzukic offers a physical presence. The Croatian can hold the ball up and he will battle in the air. His return this season is four goals and two assists.

Paulo Dybala is a gifted attacker that has the ability to create openings, whether it be for himself or others. A threat with his set-pieces, the Argentine also has the vision to conjure up things from nothing. Not had his best start domestically but the twenty-four year old did score a hat-trick in Juve’s last Champions League tie against Swiss champs Young Boys.

Some players go missing when asked to play alongside Ronaldo, while others shine. Young Italian wide-man Federico Bernardeschi seems to thrive when he gets the opportunity to play on Juve’s righthand side. Another one who knows where the goal is and he boasts a 90%+ passing success rate this term.

You then have a fine playmaker in Miralem Pjanic playing behind the forwards. The Bosnian can pull the string, passing with deadly accuracy and he too is a threat in front of goal.

So as Man Utd continue in trying to rebuild their confidence, this explosive match against Juventus could be vital.

They’ll need their defence to stand up to a tough task. Juve have so many threats and attacking players that offer different ways to get at the United backline.

The Manchester United back four will need to be vigilant in the air, they will have to stick with their runners and be disciplined in their tackles.

If they can come through this encounter with another positive result to their name, then Man United might be able to get themselves out of the rut that’s so far engulfed their season and hope to challenge in Europe and push on in the Premier League.

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