Mar 5, 2013, 7:37 PM EST
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.
Feb 26, 2015, 5:05 PM EST
The Premier League’s nightmare week in European competition continued on Thursday.
Feb 26, 2015, 3:44 PM EST
It took kicks to settle the UEFA Europa League tie between Besiktas and Liverpool after both clubs won 1-0 home legs.
Feb 26, 2015, 2:59 PM EST
The shots may’ve been even, but Spurs had 2/3 possession for much of the night.
Feb 26, 2015, 2:36 PM EST
Cummings’ manager is backing him up, too, and the Scotland U-19 forward has 11 goals in 23 matches for Hibs this season.
Feb 26, 2015, 1:46 PM EST
If you believe the words from Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen on local radio last night, you probably want to prepare for a work stoppage in MLS.
Feb 26, 2015, 12:42 PM EST
It had to be a terrifying incident for the team, let alone the player.
Feb 26, 2015, 11:50 AM EST
Kickoff is at 8pm ET, with the return leg in DC on Wednesday.
Feb 26, 2015, 11:05 AM EST
Koeman, like many of us, thinks it’s a little wild to keep talking about 2022 in 2015.
Feb 26, 2015, 10:16 AM EST
Gone for now is the trademark ponytail due to the cancer battle, but Jonas’ spirit has been and will be a big boost for the Magpies.
Feb 26, 2015, 9:25 AM EST
Dunkin’ Donuts has issued an apology after their doctoring of the Liverpool logo offended some fans.
Feb 26, 2015, 8:39 AM EST
Scholes, 40, would be a high-profile move for the Latics, and Oldham says it won’t rush to hire a replacement.
Feb 26, 2015, 7:48 AM EST
He was without a team for a while, exploring other European clubs before deciding to return to New England.
Feb 25, 2015, 11:00 PM EST
The midfielder takes a quick dribble and lashes a left-footed shot that pings off the inside of the net and rockets around the back.
Feb 25, 2015, 10:11 PM EST
The lanky 24-year-old goalkeeper has a contract that runs through the 2016 season and has been a massive part of United’s rise up the table.
Feb 25, 2015, 9:20 PM EST
Rodgers asks a seemingly reasonable question: Why two days turnaround to face a City team that played on Tuesday?
Feb 25, 2015, 8:31 PM EST
Premier League teams’ Europa League fortunes range from comfortable to troubled with Everton, Spurs and Liverpool mixing it up on Thursday.
Feb 25, 2015, 7:26 PM EST
While Monaco went into the Emirates Stadium and punished hosts Arsenal, Bayer Leverkusen eeked out a victory against stingy Atletico Madrid.
WATCH: This Calhanoglu beauty is what it took Bayer Leverkusen to break Atletico Madrid’s shutout streak
Feb 25, 2015, 6:43 PM EST
A gorgeous strike from Turkey’s 21-year-old attacker lifted Bayer Leverkusen to a 1-0 lead in its UEFA Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid.
Feb 25, 2015, 5:54 PM EST
Monaco has Arsenal on the UEFA Champions League ropes, and the Gunners could easily bow out in its fifth-straight Round of 16.
Feb 25, 2015, 5:07 PM EST
You know the former Spurs man knows what he’s doing, having a dig at the North London rivals after a 3-1 win in the UEFA Champions League.
- Europa League roundup: Tottenham, Liverpool out; Everton, La Liga sides advance 0
- Besiktas 1-0 (1-1) Liverpool: Arslan makes, Lovren misses final PK as Reds go out of Europe 0
- Fiorentina ousts Tottenham from the Europa League with 2-0 win at the Stadio Artemio Franchi 1
- Strike season? Real Salt Lake owner calls free agency “go nowhere conversation” 2
- Liverpool’s Rodgers disturbed at Premier League scheduling around Europa League 5
- Europa League preview: Second legs prompt excitement (and extra security) 0