It was in Turin, Manchester United, the first tie of the European Cup at Juventus, that Alex Ferguson really measured how dangerous it was to challenge the Grail of football. The devices of such a lethal cunning had to feel as impossible as Indiana Jones at the Stadio delle Alpi.
For 19 years, United's 1-0 reversal that night in Turin in 1996 was their only defeat in the Champions League grouping phase. Winner of Alen Boksic, the culmination of individual errors that resulted from a throw of Gary Neville, roughly in line with Juve goalkeeper's 18-meter box, Angelo Peruzzi, highlighted the gap between Ferguson's fugues and the lieutenants of Marcello Lippi. United were left too exposed on the counter, and Nicky Butt, aged 21, watching Boksic, continued to run, and Zinedine Zidane crossed the defense line. A savvy player would let Boksic fall into the offside trap.
"We lost 1-0 in Turin, but it could be 10-0," Neville said. "It was the biggest blow we had on a football field, they took us to school, men against boys, we did not have the right chance in the whole game." Manchester United played 90 minutes without a shot without a sniff a single chance. It's the only time that happened in my 602 games. "
Juventus vs Manchester United accumulated
"We could have lost more," said Ferguson that night. If you lose possession at this level, they will cut your throat. I was naive. This was the first of eight meetings with Bianconeri and Ferguson "have developed a huge respect for Juventus, a top-down act."
For at least an hour in the last month, there were shades of Juve's ride on '96. Sometimes it resembles a training ground match between the first team and the junior, and the narrow line was once again middle. Visitor superiority was so patented, Jose Mourinho said Juventus Group H half-way winners. This remark – and his allusion to Europe's elite of Manchester City – evoked memories of David Moyes citing "aspiring" in the same place and place in 2014.
Moyes inherited a defective and degrading team, although he won a title, and has imposed his Evertonian mentality on a club that has been a champion for five of the last seven seasons. You may be forgiven for associating United with Ferguson's United at the time, but as Paul Pogba said in May, time has passed and must be separated now. United did not challenge the championship in the last five seasons, and Mourinho's realism is rather forgiving.
The reaction to United's defeat was histrionic in some sections. Juve is a top team all over the bar, but what remained in the hook for supporters was that they did not correctly test Woijech Szczesny, which only expanded when Pogba shook the post.
United have played Jekyll and Hyde on their own since their return to Newcastle, but Juventus is relevant before the first Allianz stadium.
Fenerbahce was the one to provoke a first home defeat with United back in October 1996, and in the following month Juventus dominated the same score, however United's performance was a major improvement in the Torino match. Butte Butte's birth button on Alessandro del Piero separated the teams, while the Italian hit a penalty with Peter Schmeichel. Seven beginners aligned to battering in Italy two months earlier, and Peruzzi was much more active. Maturity was obvious.
There are parallel to this period this month. The manager recognizes United's inferiority, the return leg is played in November, and United is as water-proof as a sieve. Back in the 96th, they scored 13 goals in four leagues before the arrival of Juve in a most usual center-back season was David May.
Mourinho United has won more than admitted in the Premier League, which is not a completely accurate reflection on the "target for" column. United won one of six home games with a two-goal margin and the lack of a "killer instinct" – as Mourinho said – distorts the quality of the attack. In the second half in Bournemouth, Asmir Begovic prevented Luke Shaw, Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard, two efforts were blocked on the line and Ashley Young hit the crossbar.
This front leg approach has appeared in the first half of the United league, and irony has led to the toughest loss. Their dominance against Tottenham in August would have been rewarded, but Romelu Lukaku's shot was shot at an open goal and in the second half United collapsed.
Now Mourinho leads United against the best teams in Italy and England this week, and the question is whether the attack is the best form of defense. Mourinho boldly opposed both.
He retained the 4-2-3-1 training against Juventus two weeks ago and mistakenly used this setting twice in both defeats at the national league at City. Mourinho was impatient that four of Lukaku, Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial came out a few hours before the launch of the derby last December, but it would make little difference. A trident midfield is essential against Pep Guardiola's champions, and Mourinho's victories against the city came in 4-3-3.
The recent return to this band, with Fred, was a success – two wins in two and long control periods. United would benefit from the professional pests Ander Herrera, who bears Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi, giving too much respect to Old Trafford last month. Bascic is also indispensable to Etihad on Sunday.
If United wants to avoid a beating.