- Ronaldo tried hard to make his return to Manchester United “The Cristiano Show.”
- But the Juventus FC forward was upstaged by his own teammate – the young midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur.
- That is not to say Ronaldo was woeful as he was anything but. He played a part in the only goal of the game, and tested United’s goalkeeper with stinging shots.
- But Bentancur pulled the strings from midfield by showing intuitive positioning, well-timed tackling, and expert passing.
- At 21 years old, there may be even more to come from the Uruguayan player.
- Read all of Business Insider’s soccer coverage for the 2018-2019 season right here.
Cristiano Ronaldo tried as hard as he could to make Tuesday’s match against Manchester United all about him.
He wanted it to be “The Cristiano Ronaldo show,” to create and score goals, and to be the main man responsible for winning the match on his return to the club that helped make him the global superstar that he is today.
But none of those things came true, really. Sure, Ronaldo helped Juventus return to Turin in Italy with a crucial UEFA Champions League group stage victory, but he was ultimately upstaged by an unheralded 21-year-old called Rodrigo Bentancur.
Yes Ronaldo embarked on lung-busting runs, ran the channels, and attempted wild, TV-friendly shots on goal. And yes, Ronaldo’s strike-partner Paulo Dybala scored the game’s only goal when he struck from inside the penalty box in the first half of the game, but it was Bentancur who ran this show.
“I’m watching Ronaldo, you’re watching Ronaldo, but Rodrigo Bentancur is running this game,” New York Times columnist Rory Smith tweeted in the middle of the match.
By half-time, Bentancur had 55 touches on the football and tallied 52 passes, of which 96.2% were accurate.
Bentancur played in the Juventus midfield alongside his more experienced teammates Miralem Pjanić and Blaise Matuidi, but the Uruguayan’s performance – intuitive positioning and well-timed tackling combined with expert passing – belied his own young age.
That is not to say Ronaldo was woeful, as he was anything but. “Have probably seen Ronaldo live a dozen times in the last 18 months or so, and this is by some distance the most involved he’s been in general play in any of them,” Smith said. “He’s chasing back, he’s dropping deep, he’s giving and going.”
Ronaldo was involved in the only goal of the game, when he fired in a cross from the right-hand side, only for the ball to eventually find its way, via a ricochet, to Dybala – who scored a straight-forward, one-touch, left-footed finish.
Watch the goal right here:
???? @PauDybala_JR opens the game up like ????
[????: U.S. Only] https://t.co/sG6D3oVSjD
— B/R Football (@brfootball) October 23, 2018
Ronaldo also had chances of his own. He thumped a powerful free-kick straight at David de Gea, before testing the Spanish shot-stopper with an awesome strike on the edge of the box later in the game.
Watch de Gea’s reflexive save right here:
Or here if you are in a different region:
Beautiful strike ????
Fantastic save ????
David de Gea at his very best against Cristiano Ronaldo ???? pic.twitter.com/9OtIZLM9HQ
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 23, 2018
Because Bentancur plays in an unfashionable position, performing an unfashionable role, he does not attract the highlight-reels that Ronaldo and Dybala can create – the goal-ridden ones that most fans truly love.
But his 91% accuracy rate from his 86 passes perhaps tells its own story, and it is his midfield play which allows Dybala and Ronaldo to flourish.
Yes, Ronaldo and Dybala may play the Hollywood-type roles, but A-list actors still need great producers – and on the pitch, that is what Bentancur is proving he can do. Whether it’s retrieving or retaining possession, Bentancur produces.
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