Jose Mourinho praised the quality of Juventus on Tuesday night as his Manchester United side were beaten in the Champions League – but the boss also opted to aim a thinly-veiled dig at the United hierachy over their dismal transfer policy.
Mourinho made no secret in the summer that he was unhappy with his current selection of centre backs as he targeted Harry Maguire, Toby Alderweireld, Diego Godin and Juventus’ Leonardo Bonucci, to choose a handful.
With his United side outclassed on the night by the Italians, Mourinho suggested Bonucci and defensive partner Giorgio Chiellini are the key to Massimiliano Allegri’s hugely successful team.
At his post-match press conference he said:
‘Things were not coming [off], but everybody tried, everybody was strong, everybody was strong mentally to try until the end.
‘Juventus felt it and, instead of the control they had in the first half, in the second half they defended and they ended the game with an extra central defender to add to the amazing Chiellini, the amazing Bonucci.
‘Mr Bonucci and Mr Chiellini could give some Harvard University classes about how to be a central defender. A team with everything – they have talent everywhere, all over the pitch. So it was a really difficult match for us.’
‘When we speak about quality sometimes people look for Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Miralem Pjanic,’ the United boss told BT Sport post-match.
‘But in the top team, you have to look to Chiellini and Bonucci and I think they are this kind of team. When they are in front it is very difficult to concede a goal.
‘In the second half Juventus defended and they held the game with an extra centre-back so it was a really difficult match for us. I thought before the game and during the game that we could take something out of this game but we couldn’t score.’
While defender Luke Shaw suggested in his interview that United’s players showed the visitors ‘too much respect’, for his manager it was much more simple. Allegri’s side are merely operating on a ‘different level’ to United.
‘I have to say Juventus are a different level and if people don’t want to accept that that is their problem,’ Mourinho insisted.
‘They are a different level of quality, experience and know-how. The base of the team they have is Bonucci and Chiellini and that allows them to play with freedom in the attack. Lose the ball? No problem we are here.’
Juventus were aggressive with their press and while they peppered David de Gea in the United goal, they left Old Trafford with one goal, but crucially, three points.
Dybala escaped his marker inside the area to tap home unchallenged after Ronaldo’s cross wide on the right was not cleared by a sliding Chris Smalling and the diminuitive Argentine converted before wheeling away with his trademark celebration.
United remain favourites to go through as runners-up in Group H but face a tricky trip to Turin next before welcoming Young Boys to Old Trafford and rounding the group stages off at the Mestalla against Valencia.