Manchester United vs Real Madrid
First result: 1-1
Seriously, I don't know what to say as I've got so much on my head right now
Well, Manchester United v/s Real Madrid - an epic encounter to begin in some hours now, a match hyped way more than last year's CL Final & let's be honest, a match that has all the potential to be classified as a final before time. Mou & Sir Alex rightly said that the world shall stop to watch this match which can't get bigger than this. To be fair, apart either of these teams facing either Barca/Bayern, no clash is gonna provide as much tension and blockbuster material as this showdown between United & Madrid.
What I personally love about this match is that it's so 50/50 and with 2 very similar styles; that is teams that try to impose their own rhythm to a match, are explosive on counters in moments and alternate with continuous chances in other times. No disrespect to Barcelona but since either teams don't play possession football, there'll be very few moments to breathe for players and as well, as spectators across Old Trafford & TV screens. Expect an initially tactical match that's gonna turn electrifying and fast-paced after some minutes of play.
Jose Mourinho: "I think United will be very defensive when we have the ball & it'll be the same for us when they have the ball."
That's exactly the case -except that the possession spells of either teams won't be wasted in continuous waste-ups passes as they try to find a weakness in the defense. Expect a gladiator approach from both teams to try lots of dribbles, shots & crosses to go all out and try to pierce the defense by force. The away goal doesn’t really count for much. It wouldn’t be decisive unless the score in the second leg is 0-0, and that seems unlikely with 2 strikeforces like that.
Some facts around the match:
- Alex Ferguson has only won twice in his 15 competitive encounters with Jose Mourinho but Mourinho has never won a Champions League game at Old Trafford. Porto's progress was built on a 1-1 draw while Inter lost 2-0 at United in 2008-09.
- United have managed only two clean sheets in their last 10 home Champions League games while Madrid have failed to keep a clean sheet in the Champions League this season and have conceded 10 goals.
- Madrid doesn't have a good record in CL knockout matches when they fail to win at Bernabeu (last seen in the match against Bayern) but Real Madrid sole and only advance in the Champions League after recording a home draw in the first leg, was against Manchester United in 1999-2000 while United's record can be seen in the spoiler tag.
- Madrid have only won once in their last five away games in England in the Champions League (two draws, two defeats), against Tottenham at White Hart Lane in April 2011 but on the two occasions the Real Madrid boss has won the Champions League, his teams have have knocked out English opposition in the last 16.
- United have been sensational at home this season, boasting the best home record in the league and having the most points than any other team in other European leagues. Real Madrid's away record in the league certainly leaves something to be desired, with a poor record of 6-2-5 but they are coming from 2 crucial Classicos wins' momentum.
- Madrid obviously got La Decima as objective while United dreams of another treble after one of their best season-form (stat-wise).
- The two teams have played four ties in the competition, with the winner going on to lift the trophy on three of the four occasions.
Past Champions League's encounter:
2012/2013 Round of 16 Real Madrid - Manchester United 1:1
2002/2003 Quarter-finals Manchester United - Real Madrid 4:3
2002/2003 Quarter-finals Real Madrid - Manchester United 3:1
1999/2000 Quarter-finals Manchester United - Real Madrid 2:3
1999/2000 Quarter-finals Real Madrid - Manchester United 0:0
1967/1968 Semi-finals Real Madrid - Manchester United 3:3
1967/1968 Semi-finals Manchester United - Real Madrid 1:0
1956/1957 Semi-finals Manchester United - Real Madrid 2:2
1956/1957 Semi-finals Real Madrid - Manchester United 3:1
The 2002/03 clash remains one of my biggest heartbreak with Manchester but still, there are positives for Manchester United to look upon today than back in 2003. Reasons:
1. In 03, they were destroyed at the Bernabeu while this time, they have secured a wonderful draw thanks to De Gea mostly.
2. In the return leg, they missed Paul Scholes & Neville brothers immensely in 2003 (while Becks only entered after HT) but this time, they've got a much better squad and no key injuries apart Phil Jones.
3. Their defense then was highly in-experimental and it fell apart against counters and Ronaldo's genius, as they kept trying desperately to fill their 3-1 deficit. This time, United won't try to attack like crazy to be exposed with counters from Madrid since they are still leveled at 1-1.
To be honest, Madrid's squad were far far superior in 2003 to United's. Still, credits to United to atleast, win their Old Trafford leg back then, even if they didn't qualify then. Atleast, that showed their thirst to win against Madrid's Galacticos and a similar thirst could yield sweeter results this time. Tonight, they have an improved side over 2003, much better result from first leg and an Old Trafford that's gonna be fully behind them.
Back to some tactics: no matter the explosiveness and strikeforce of both teams, this remains a chess game between Mourinho & Sir Alex (atleast, in the initial moments of the match like I said above). How to use the wings for United, how to dominate midfield for Madrid, when to sit back and when to attack as the fear of counterattacks is high on both teams' head... So many questions that depends on Fergie & Mou. Same with starting teams of today.
For Madrid, it's pretty straight-forward: Arbeloa will most likely return. Ramos shall move back as CB with Varane. Marcelo & Cassilas just returned from injuries, so expect Contrao & D.Lopez to stay. Alonso, Ozil, Khedira, Di Maria & Ronaldo are sure to start being the usual starters and having been rested on Saturday. Speaking of rest, since Benzema played against Barcelona, expect Mou to start Higuain this time, compared to in Bernabeu.
For United, De Gea, Rafael & Evra are certain lock-down to start. Vidic played on Saturday, so the pairing of Evans-Ferdinand might be used again but still, Vidic may still play... Jones is injured, and Cleverley remains the best player to replace Jones in his specific man-marking role. So, I expect Cleverley to pair Carrick in midfield - except if Sir Alex decides to play Rooney in midfield... RVP & Rooney (whichever his position shall play) but the true puzzle for United remains the choice of wingers. Will he trust Welbeck yet again after his crucial goal at Bernabeu? Will he choose Giggs whose on the verge of a historic 1000th match? Kagawa scored a hattrick against Norwich and back in November, SAF said that when a player scores a hattrick, he autmatically starts the next match. So, will the Japanese start on a flank as he'll permute with Rooney? Will he play Valencia who links the best with Rafael on the right flank; something crucial on CR7's flank? Or will he play Nani who's been much better in his last 2 appearances and give Nani his opportunity to shine on the same flank of the man he's so often shadowed of? Lots of options but only Sir Alex knows the answer.
And obviously, the last 2 cherries on top of this match remain 2 highly emotional & decisive match on 2 players: Cristiano Ronaldo & Ryan Giggs!
Well, I think everyone here knows all about CR7's return to Old Trafford and what it means for him and everyone to see him at the Theatre of Dream yet again, so I won't repeat everything. Personally, I'm sure he'll get a wonderful ovation - now let's see if The Red Devils can resist and counter the monster they created themselves. Here's a link that talks a lot on the Portuguese & the Welshman
. I also made a thread on Giggs
as tribute, feel free to check and leave comments.
So, all set for this Clash of Titans with history in the making.
Sir Alex Ferguson: "I like to think that the pioneers like Sir Matt Busby and Santiago Bernabeu, the president of Real Madrid who gave his name to their stadium, will be up there smiling and excited as the rest of us at the prospect of another dramatic night featuring the best that the game can provide."