With the UEFA Champions League returning to action this week, football fans all across the world swarmed to the nearest television sets to catch a glimpse of the top European clubs returning on their paths to win the holy grail of European football. And with Real Madrid CF v/s Manchester United one of the fixtures of the year, forget the week, fans of all clubs have been taking sides and rightly so.
A game re-uniting the fiery yet sumptuous rivalry of Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson, not to forget the legend of Cristiano Ronaldo playing against his old team for the first time since his £80 million transfer to the giants of Madrid, will surely have just about enough takers in the world (Expected count: 200 million !!!).
Welbeck heads past Lopez to score United’s goal against Madrid
.....And Ronaldo equalizes in astonishing fashion
The game which ended in a 1-1 draw, which means that Manchester United return home with a precious away goal, never seemed to slow down over the 90 minutes. Real Madrid put in an excellent attacking performance and will certainly feel that they should have scored more past the in-form David De Gea. Manchester United, on the other hand played some good football, with Phil Jones the stand out. His energy packed performance, making sure that he tracked back enough to nullify Cristiano Ronaldo’s influence down Madrid’s left, was enough to show that he had finally come of age at the big stage.
Playing in a familiar role which he played in United’s last game (against Everton), at the central midfield position, Jones had been give a set of defensive duties to fulfil so that Ronaldo and Di Maria (on either wings), didn’t have an easy night out. And Jones did exactly that. His runs along the centre line (towards right or left), as and when their wingers were freed up put some pressure on them which led to United eventually winning the ball back.
While Jones’ job was winning the ball back, Carrick’s was to receive it from Jones and free up Kagawa or Welbeck with his ability to pass the ball well.
The area where United were surely lacking was the right back as expectedly, Ronaldo tormented their otherwise reliable youngster Rafael, only foe the centre backs to help him out on numerous occasions.
Rafael had a game to forget against Ronaldo
A special mention to David de Gea, who has single-handedly kept his team in the game with marvellous saves from Coentrao, Ronaldo and Di Maria.
As far as Real Madrid were concerned, Ronaldo and Di Maria shared much of their attacking threat between themselves as both of them were successful in getting the better of their respective full backs. They had a good game but as far as their finishing is concerned, it wasn’t just their day.
Xabi Alonso, yet again put in a good performance with exquisite passing all across the park switching their play beautifully across the wings. His midfield partner Khedira, on the other hand played a more defensive role, breaking up United’s play and recycling the possession.
Di Maria performed excellently as he tormented Evra on the right hand side for Madrid
One area where Madrid do seem to lack was their striking options with both Benzema and Higuain failing to impress. Both of them have been out of sorts this season, there by burdening the midfielders to get the goals. In comparison to Van Persie who plays a similar role to either of them who with Rooney just behind him, Benzema/ Higuain actually become a huge drawback for Madrid.
The tie as of now is poised equally as both sides can get the victory in the second leg. A scoring (more than 1-1) draw will be go enough for Real Madrid to go through, and no doubt they will go in for the kill right from the word go at Old Trafford. As far as Manchester United are concerned, they do have the confidence with an away goal in the bag and might defend even deeper than at Bernabeu to contain that lead. Antonio Valencia, who did not start the first leg, could prove to be vital as his pace will be an huge advantage for United going forward, possibly on the counter. As far as Madrid are concerned, Ronaldo again will be a target man, not to forget that Mourinho will hope that either of his strikers will start firing on all cylinders as soon as possible.
A 2-2 draw, with the game opening up in the second leg, will be my best bet!