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Match Report - Manchester United vs Real Madrid

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Last night was the night of one of the most dramatic Champions League encounters this season. Two high profile teams, Manchester United and Real Madrid played each other in the second leg of the Round of 16 at Old Trafford, with Real making a spectacular comeback after the controversial red card dismissal of Luis Nani in the second half.

Starting Line-ups –

While Jose Mourinho named an expected starting XI, with Higuain up front in place of Benzema, Sir Alex had some surprises in store. As the Man United team sheet was announced, the social network erupted. Rooney was benched, and Nani, who didn’t have much first team experiences this season, was starting. Kagawa, who scored a brilliant hat-trick against Norwich last week, too was missing from the starting XI. Instead, he named Giggs on the right.

For a moment, that was an absolute shocker, but later on the change seemed justifiable. Rooney didn’t have a good game at the Bernabeu. He couldn’t provide much support to van Persie as compared to Kagawa and Welbeck in the first leg, neither was his defensive performance satisfactory. So that was a surprise, but certainly not unreasonable.

First Half –

Real Madrid had some good first touches. They were beautiful in creating chances, with Coentrao too coming up forward, forcing United to sit deep, as they were wary of the counter-attacking powers of their rivals. The first ten-minutes were dominated by the visitors, but there was a sudden shift in the tempo, with Welbeck suddenly coming into action, trying to dispossess Xabi Alonso all the time, and forcing him into simple and negative passes back to the defenders; and at the same time leading every counter-attack alongside Robin van Persie, Nani and Ryan Giggs. The first big chance of the match was created by Manchester United when Vidic headed the ball straight onto the post. A few more chances were created by both the sides, but both failed to put the ball past the goalkeeper as the first half ended 0-0.

Second Half –

Manchester United started the second half with the same speed and aggression. They enjoyed possession of the ball, and were soon rewarded for it. In the 48th minute, United moved forward with Rafael winning the ball just outside the box, playing it straight to Welbeck, who passed it back to Rafael. Rafael’s shot couldn’t find the target, but the ball came to Nani, who crossed the ball inside the box. Welbeck connected with it, but the decisive touch was off Sergio Ramos, and United led 1-0.

After that goal, Real Madrid, desperate to find the equalizer, started to attack, but the real turning point came in the 58th minute when the ball was cleared from the United box. Nani raced to connect it, and with his eyes on the ball, he accidentally collided with Arbeloa. Both fell, wincing in pain, but the referee brandished a straight red. United were reduced to 10 men. Nani couldn’t believe it, and neither could United players, staff, and fans. After that incident, Real started to dominate the game, and soon found success through a stunning shot from Luka Modric from outside the box. There was no stopping Real Madrid. They were attacking mercilessly, completely dominating the United midfield and defence. Within minutes, Real found the success they needed, and it was the ex-Man United star who did the honours this time. Higuain crossed the ball, Ronaldo slid in and was successful in giving the decisive touch which sent the ball into the back of the net. 2-1 to Real Madrid.

After  this goal, there were no major chances created by any of the team, although SAF tried his best to stay in the match. He brought in Valencia, Rooney, and Young for Rafael, Cleverley, and Welbeck, but neither of them was able to provide the success for United.

The match ended 1-2 (2-3 aggregate), which sent Real Madrid to the quarter-finals of the UCL.

Conclusion

In the 11 vs 11 contest, Ferguson certainly got the better of Mourinho. His tactics of starting with Nani and Giggs were a huge success, with Welbeck continuously threatening the opposition with his speed and counter-attacking ability.

In the 10 vs 11 contest (after Nani’s red card), credit goes to Mourinho. He acted swiftly and intelligently, bringing in Modric and pushing back Sami Khedira into defence to make the gameplay more attacking. That moment proved to be the decisive moment of the match.

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