Manchester United vs. Real Madrid… just saying it aloud sends football fans into memories of two of the greatest and well known clubs battling it out for the top prize in club football.
The red card was a difficult decision. Nani’s foot was high but his eyes were on the ball the entire time and Arbeloa did the typical ‘Spanish play Acting’. It changed the game, a game which should have been focused on the unquestionable talent on the field. But that’s not why United went out.
After they went down to 10 men, United played well, the fans got right behind them and they attacked Madrid, they just lacked conviction. Van Persie seemed lost in front of goal, losing the ball at critical moments, he has now lived to regret that sitter he missed in the first leg. Rooney when he came on could not keep up with the game, unable to find that killer pass and rarely stepped into the Madrid box. Welbeck, who no one can question his pace, strength and most importantly, work rate had chances to kill the game – but he’s a scorer of great goals not a great goal scorer as his record this season suggests. United’s lack of composure in front of goal was what cost them the game in the end.
Both teams began the game strong, looking to push the other team further back into their own half but still being very weary of the pace and power on the counter attack that both teams possess. Sir Alex Ferguson had selected a lineup that many questioned, leaving Rooney, Valencia, Young and the weekend’s hat-trick hero Kagawa on the bench and instead opting to field Welbeck, Cleverly and the ever young Ryan Giggs. Real threw all their big guns in starting Ronaldo, Ozil, Di Maria and Higuain and they looked dangerous but everything that was thrown at them was kept out by the pairing of Ferdinand and Vidic at the heart of the United back four.
After an entertaining first half United looked the stronger team. Welbeck ran his socks off non stop whilst Giggs showed why he has been given yet another contract extension.
Early in the second half after great work from Rafael the ball ended at Nani’s feet who’s cross was met by Ramos’ foot and turned into his own net.
Then came the game changer, the red card. Soon after, quick fire goals from Modric and Ronaldo sent United crashing out of the Champions League 3-2 on aggregate.
Jose Mourinho humbly said after the game that the the better team lost and was seen exchanging some sympathetic words with Sir Alex after the card was shown. Perhaps he has a point. Giggs rolled back the years with his effort and passing, Welbeck put a shift in, creating chances and latching on to long balls. Both him and Nani outpaced the Madrid back four and looked dangerous on the counter but couldn’t convert any of their chances. And for me, Rafael was the star performer. taking on Ronaldo and (almost) matching him for pace and strength, then showing he has that Brazilian flair to charge forward and take on Madrid.
Despite all these great performances, no one showed any composure or conviction in front of goal. Players you’d expect to kill the game for you like Rooney and Van Persie were not up to standard and that is why United will have to wait another year for that fourth champions league star on their shirt.