Mar 5, 2013, 7:37 PM EDT
What was a captivating game between two of the worlds biggest clubs became controversial the minute Nani’s boot met Álvaro Arbeloa’s chest. But before the foul, we had one of the more interesting matches of the Champions League season, one where Sir Alex Ferguson’s tactics had put Manchester United on the cusp of the quarterfinals.
And the decisions that enabled those tactics started with Manchester United’s starting XI:
- Wayne Rooney misses out on the starting XI – What was Alex Ferguson thinking, sitting one of his two cornerstone players? Thankfully, a few scribes caught up to him prematch and got his thoughts. He wanted Ryan Giggs on the right to help against Cristiano Ronaldo (where Rooney had failed in leg one), and he liked Danny Welbeck as his best defender against Xabi Alonso in the middle. Why Rooney didn’t get the start on the left of United’s 4-4-2, I’m not sure, but there was at least some method to the madness.
- And the madness worked – Welbeck silenced Alonso, forcing Sergio Ramos and Sami Khedira to spend more time with the ball at their feet. Giggs was much better along the right than Rooney had been at the Bernabeu, perhaps forcing José Mourinho to flip Ronaldo to the right flank in the eighth minute. Before Nani’s sending off, Real Madrid scarcely threatened David de Gea.
- Sergio Ramos held Real Madrid together – The 48th minute own goal was ironic, a ball sent through the six by Nani that went off Ramos’s right leg and in. Until that point of the match, Ramos had clearly been the match’s best player, not only performing admirably defensively against a United side that used Welbeck’s speed to threaten on the counter but also stepping into midfield to play the ball while Alonso was marked out of the game. Replace Ramos with a normal defender and Real Madrid may not have been within one when Nani’s seen off.
- Did I mention Nani was sent off? – Of course I did. Here’s one view, Steve’s counter point, and some analysis from Graham Poll that highlights the fissures in the controversy.
- United had a bad 10 minutes – Given how Ferguson set up his team, United could have held on for the last 32 minutes. But the red card was a controversial, contentious event. It’s not surprising United may have lost focus. Luka Modric scored about five minutes after play resumed. Cristiano Ronaldo scored two minutes later, after which United reasserted control. But by then, it was too late.
- Diego López’s contributions will be forgotten – Even down a man, United had a number of chances to pull even. Yes, they would have needed another goal, but if it weren’t for Diego López, United may have been able to build that momentum. The January buy of the former Villarreal No. 1 paid off today.
What now for both of these teams?
It’s tough for Manchester United to move on, but they have nothing to be ashamed of. They got a tough Round of 16 draw, had to face one of the tournament’s best teams, yet were arguably the better side. José Mourinho admitted as much after the game.
For the second time in four years, United’s dealt a bitter knockout round exit, but coming off a disappointing 2011-12 tournament, the Red Devils affirmed their place as one of the world’s elites. The team can be proud.
And credit Real Madrid for getting through them, particularly having to win a second leg at Old Trafford. For Mourinho, it’s the second time in his career he’s done so, though this time he needed some help from one of his countrymen.
Unable to consistently generate chances against United, it’s difficult to see Real Madrid as being on Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund’s level. But between their talent and their coach, they have a chance at that decima. That’s all that matters.
Oct 2, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT
Gerrard: “I thought we were too soft all over the pitch. I thought they wanted it more, which is very disappointing.”
Oct 2, 2014, 11:54 AM EDT
The PST Extra crew sit down to discuss Rooney’s red card and break down Chelsea vs. Arsenal.
Oct 2, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT
Will “the Dutch Roy Keane” end up at Old Trafford after all?
Oct 2, 2014, 10:22 AM EDT
Vegas stadium deal moves one step closer to fruition but a rather large stumbling block has emerged.
Oct 2, 2014, 9:33 AM EDT
Messi continues to be linked with Europe’s richest clubs. Barca have something to say about that…
Oct 2, 2014, 9:04 AM EDT
Garber: “Both the owner and management team in Austria and New York are as committed as ever to MLS, the club and their fans.”
Oct 2, 2014, 8:41 AM EDT
Clyne gets first call up; Shelvey, Gibbs back in, while Shaw, Chambers help U-21’s out.
Oct 2, 2014, 7:49 AM EDT
Uruguayan forward reportedly unhappy at PSG, but can a PL club afford him?
Oct 1, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT
To expect a walk-through against Krasnodar would be a mistake and one the Toffees could pay dearly for.
Oct 1, 2014, 10:28 PM EDT
It’s been a rough go of it lately for Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan.
Oct 1, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
Who’s more interesting than Jurgen Klopp?
Oct 1, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
Alves is ready to move to the Premier League. So what clubs might he fit in?
Oct 1, 2014, 7:58 PM EDT
A great deal for the Revs, who will be able to add Sporting players on loan much like NYCFC can add Manchester City players.
Oct 1, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT
Maradona pledged his support for the Palestinian cause back in 2012.
Oct 1, 2014, 6:14 PM EDT
Liverpool’s struggles continue. Here’s three things we learned as they remain winless in four.
Oct 1, 2014, 5:51 PM EDT
Take in a top-flight football match anywhere in Turkey and you’ll be hard-pressed not to see at least a few flares among the fans.
Oct 1, 2014, 5:11 PM EDT
After eight games on Wednesday, here’s what happened around Europe.
Oct 1, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT
The Gunners provided one of their most stunning performances of the season on Wednesday, dismantling Group D opponents Galatasaray 4-1.
Oct 1, 2014, 4:42 PM EDT
Lackluster Liverpool now level on points with Basel, face Real Madrid in next two matches.
Oct 1, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
“He scores when he wants. He scores when he wants. Danny Welbeck, he scores when he wants.”
- Next step: Las Vegas soccer stadium moves forward, but there’s a catch 1
- Lionel Messi heading to PSG, Chelsea? Not so fast, say Barcelona 1
- $88 million Edinson Cavani linked to Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United 3
- Europa League Preview: Everton head to Russia, Spurs host Besiktas 0
- Report: Diego Maradona nearing deal to manage Palestinian National Team 1
- Three things we learned after Liverpool’s latest defeat, this time vs. Basel 6