MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo made another winning return to Old Trafford as Juventus beat his former club Manchester United 1-0 on Tuesday for a third straight victory in the Champions League.
Unlike the last time he was at the stadium — for Real Madrid in 2013 — Ronaldo didn’t score but he was involved in the only goal, sending in a cross from the right wing that was eventually swept home by Paulo Dybala in the 17th minute.
Dangerous going forward and typically obdurate at the back, Juventus delivered a powerful performance that kept the team unbeaten this season and strengthened its status as one of the serious contenders for the Champions League — a competition it hasn’t won since 1996.
With Ronaldo leading its attack, this might be its best chance in years to end the drought. Juventus has a maximum nine points in Group H after previous wins against Valencia and Young Boys, and is already five points ahead of second-place United.
Ronaldo was introduced as the “magnificent seven” when he came to Old Trafford with Madrid for a last-16 match in 2013. He was given a standing ovation by United fans that night and ended up scoring the winning goal to eliminate his former club from the Champions League.
Five years later, Ronaldo, who has been accused of rape in the United States, wasn’t given the big build-up by the stadium announcer as the team lineup was read out but his name was cheered loudly by home supporters. And a few minutes into the game, a fan came onto the playing surface from the Stretford End stand and got to within a few meters of Ronaldo at the other end of the field before being stopped by slow-reacting security.
As he lay on the ground, he stretched his arms toward Ronaldo, almost pleadingly.
Then, soon after the final whistle was blown, two fans also got onto the field in an attempt to reach Ronaldo as he walked toward the tunnel. They were also stopped by security but Ronaldo ended up taking a selfie with them.
Ronaldo was always going to be the focal point of this game but the attention grew even more after Kathryn Mayorga filed a civil lawsuit last month in Nevada claiming the Portuguese star raped her in his Las Vegas hotel room in 2009. Police also reopened an investigation into the allegation at her request. Ronaldo’s attorney, Peter S. Christiansen, issued a statement on Oct. 10 denying wrongdoing by his client.
On the field, the five-time world player of the year’s flicks, tricks and power were all on display as he switched from the left flank to a central position.
However, Dybala was arguably the most impressive of Juventus’ attackers and the Argentina international grabbed the winner.
Ronaldo delivered a cross from the right wing, United defender Chris Smalling got in front of Juan Cuadrado at the near post to block the ball but it fell to Dybala, who converted from the edge of six-yard box.
Juventus toyed at times with United, which took a while to get going — having already arrived at the stadium later than planned because the team bus carrying the players got stuck in traffic around Old Trafford. The same thing happened before United’s last home group game, against Valencia, but this time kickoff didn’t need to be delayed.
Ronaldo had a free kick late in the first half batted away by United goalkeeper David De Gea, who then tipped over a fiercely struck shot from the Portugal forward soon after halftime.
United rallied in the final half hour, and Paul Pogba saw a curling shot hit the post before bouncing off goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to safety.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.