Skip to content

What we learned as Real Madrid eliminated Manchester United

Mar 5, 2013, 7:37 PM EDT

Real Madrid's captain Sergio Ramos scores an own goal past their goalkeeper Diego Lopez during their Champions League soccer match against Manchester United at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Steven Gerrard questions Liverpool’s desire. Has he got a point?

    Oct 2, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT

    FC Basel 1893 v Liverpool FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Gerrard: “I thought we were too soft all over the pitch. I thought they wanted it more, which is very disappointing.”

  2. VIDEO: PST Extra – Will United miss Rooney? Previewing Chelsea vs. Arsenal

    Oct 2, 2014, 11:54 AM EDT

    Chelsea v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    The PST Extra crew sit down to discuss Rooney’s red card and break down Chelsea vs. Arsenal.

  3. Kevin Strootman’s move to Manchester United back on?

    Oct 2, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT

    Kevin Strootman AP

    Will “the Dutch Roy Keane” end up at Old Trafford after all?

  4. Next step: Las Vegas soccer stadium moves forward, but there’s a catch

    Oct 2, 2014, 10:22 AM EDT

    Professional Soccer Las Vegas AP

    Vegas stadium deal moves one step closer to fruition but a rather large stumbling block has emerged.

  5. Lionel Messi heading to PSG, Chelsea? Not so fast, say Barcelona

    Oct 2, 2014, 9:33 AM EDT

    FC Barcelona v Club Leon - Joan Gamper Trophy Getty Images

    Messi continues to be linked with Europe’s richest clubs. Barca have something to say about that…

  6. New York Red Bulls, MLS, dismiss reports that club is for sale

    Oct 2, 2014, 9:04 AM EDT

    Red Bull Arena 2 Getty Images

    Garber: “Both the owner and management team in Austria and New York are as committed as ever to MLS, the club and their fans.”

  7. England squad announced: Clyne, Shelvey called-up; Shaw demoted

    Oct 2, 2014, 8:41 AM EDT

    West Ham United v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Clyne gets first call up; Shelvey, Gibbs back in, while Shaw, Chambers help U-21’s out.

  8. $88 million Edinson Cavani linked to Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United

    Oct 2, 2014, 7:49 AM EDT

    France Soccer League One AP

    Uruguayan forward reportedly unhappy at PSG, but can a PL club afford him?

  9. Europa League Preview: Everton head to Russia, Spurs host Besiktas

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Everton - Premier League Getty Images

    To expect a walk-through against Krasnodar would be a mistake and one the Toffees could pay dearly for.

  10. Asamoah Gyan sees straight red card, accuses opponent of racial abuse

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:28 PM EDT

    FBL-ASIA-C1-AL AIN-AL HILAL Getty Images

    It’s been a rough go of it lately for Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan.

  11. Dani Alves says England is his next stop – Where will he end up?

    Oct 1, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    Will we be seeing Dani Alves in Paris next season? Getty Images

    Alves is ready to move to the Premier League. So what clubs might he fit in?

  12. New England Revolution ink partnership deal with Sporting Clube de Portugal

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:58 PM EDT

    Courtesy: Sporting Clube de Portugal Courtesy: Sporting Clube de Portugal

    A great deal for the Revs, who will be able to add Sporting players on loan much like NYCFC can add Manchester City players.

  13. Report: Diego Maradona nearing deal to manage Palestinian National Team

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT

    Diego Maradona Holds a Press Conference In Rome Getty Images

    Maradona pledged his support for the Palestinian cause back in 2012.

  14. Three things we learned after Liverpool’s latest defeat, this time vs. Basel

    Oct 1, 2014, 6:14 PM EDT

    FC Basel 1893 v Liverpool FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Liverpool’s struggles continue. Here’s three things we learned as they remain winless in four.

  15. Galatasaray fans light up Emirates Stadium with flares in Arsenal match

    Oct 1, 2014, 5:51 PM EDT

    Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez

    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.

  16. UEFA Champions League roundup: Arsenal cruise, Liverpool lose, Real Madrid win

    Oct 1, 2014, 5:11 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-LUDOGORETS-REAL AP

    After eight games on Wednesday, here’s what happened around Europe.

  17. Arsenal 4-1 Galatasaray: Welbeck’s hat-trick leads 10-man Arsenal to victory

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez AP

    The Gunners provided one of their most stunning performances of the season on Wednesday, dismantling Group D opponents Galatasaray 4-1.

  18. FC Basel 1-0 Liverpool: Streller sinks Reds in Switzerland

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:42 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-BASEL-LIVERPOOL AP

    Lackluster Liverpool now level on points with Basel, face Real Madrid in next two matches.

  19. Hat-Trick Hero: Danny Welbeck nails three in thumping of Galatasaray

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-ARSENAL-GALATASARAY Getty Images

    “He scores when he wants. He scores when he wants. Danny Welbeck, he scores when he wants.”

Featured video

PST Extra: Will Man United miss Rooney?