Why Manchester United versus Real Madrid has the ability to go down in history
Manchester United host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 draw. In the first leg, Sir Alex’s men were able to hold Madrid to a draw, a result which made the manager and the United supporters proud. Though Mourinho would have been slightly disappointed with a draw given his side’s dominance throughout the match, in his post-match interview he stated that everything is still very open. In my opinion, the clash has everything required to go down as one of the greatest matches in history for several reasons.
The first and most obvious reason that would strike the mind would be the teams that are contesting the match. It’s Real Madrid and Manchester United. Two of the biggest clubs in the world with some of the greatest players to ever play the game. The last time these teams met in a competition was in the 2002/03 season, where United were knocked out in a thriller. Madrid won the first leg at the Bernabeu with a 3-1 scoreline. In the return leg, United edged out on top in an emphatic match which ended at 4-3. Given these statistics, we know that these two teams have the ability to produce a real thriller, one which can go down in the dying moments of the game. The final score on aggregate was 6-5 in Madrid’s favour suggesting that we can expect several goals in this one too.
Both Real Madrid and Manchester United step into this match with tremendous form. Despite having lost the title race to Barcelona, Real have risen to their potential in recent weeks. They have managed to book a place in the final of the Copa Del Ray after schooling Barcelona in a 3-1 victory at the Camp Nou. Less than a week later, Real came out on top again in a 2-1 victory against Barcelona in the La Liga match at the Bernabeu. Its important to note that Mourinho more or less played a second string side with Ronaldo on the bench as well. Now looking at the recent run of form of Real with victories against Barcelona at home and away, the least we can say is that Mourinho’s men have everything it takes to disappoint the millions supporting United this Tuesday. On the other hand, United have played increasingly well in their past few matches. They haven’t lost a match since the first week of December, and have managed several clean sheets in the progress. With one hand already on the silverware, they stand 15 points ahead of rivals Manchester City, who have a game in hand. With the form these teams have going into this match, there aren’t any serious fitness concerns barring that of Phil Jones who was nothing short of brilliant in the first leg.
The match is a battle of two of the greatest managers in modern football – José Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson. These two masterminds have had a fair share of success in Europe. It will be interesting to see the tactics both managers use in the hope to clinch favourable results. Surely Sir Alex can’t play the tactics he did in the previous leg in which United were forced back by an impressive Real. They certainly need to focus on keeping the ball and press forward while curbing the strong counter attacking threat Real pose. On the other hand, Real would want to grab an early goal in order to put great pressure on United. It looks like the match will be played end to end, with lots of scoring opportunities for both sides.
Lastly, this match can be remembered as Cristiano Ronaldo‘s first visit to Old Trafford since his transfer to Real Madrid. Old Trafford has been special for him, the same way the 70,000 United supporters in the ground have been. This will be an emotional night for him where he will have to be mentally strong and not let his past get into his head. In a recent interview with United left back Patice Evra, the Frenchman quoted how he hoped Ronaldo’s performance was affected by his mentality given the conditions. It will be interesting to see whether or not he is able to keep his cool and lead his team to the next stage on the competition.