As far as big games go, they don’t get much bigger than Real Madrid vs Manchester United. On Wednesday February 13th, the Santiago Bernabeu will be the venue for this classic for the first time since 2003.
This knockout round Champions League tie is the pick of the round and the main focus will revolve around former United star, Cristiano Ronaldo facing his former employers for the first time since his record breaking £80 million transfer to Los Blancos in 2009. The Portuguese superstar, who scored an outstanding 60 goals for Real last year, has set his sights on winning the Champions league with Madrid as he already did with United in 2008 but insists that he will not celebrate if he scores against his former team.
To counter the attacking ability of Madrid’s front line, United will have to rely on the Premier League’s top goal scorer Robin Van Persie. The £24 million summer signing has hit the ground running in his first season with the Red Devils and looks like he could be the answer to help Sir Alex Ferguson win the Champions League for a third time.
United go into the game undefeated in their last 14 games in all competitions. With the final returning to Wembley this year, they will be itching to put their 2011 humbling defeat to Barcelona past them and have started this tournament better than their last, winning their group with two games to go.
Madrid on the other hand have been under performing in the league, sitting in third place, 16 points behind leaders Barcelona. ‘The Special One’, Jose Mourinho, will be looking to add a third Champions League winner’s medal with a third team to his remarkable, and ever growing, CV.
Mourinho and Ferguson have evolved a personal battle since they first faced off when United played Porto in 2004 and their rivalry, as well as friendship, grew after the Portuguese tactician took charge at Chelsea and then at Internazionale.
The previous time these two football giants met was in the quarter finals in 2003 and the Galacticos took a 3-1 first leg win at the Bernabeu. The return leg at Old Trafford proved to be one of the greatest games in recent memory which saw Brazilian legend Ronaldo score a hat trick before David Beckham came off the bench to bag himself a brace in typical style. United won the game 4-3 but Madrid went through on aggregate.
Whatever happens on Wednesday night, it will be a must watch game that is sure to provide goals, controversy, ‘Fergie Time’ and an unquestionable amount of talent on one pitch. Friendships will be put aside and pride is at stake in this mouth watering encounter which sees two of the very best managers and teams in world football face off.
This is what the Champions League is all about!