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Real Madrid vs. Manchester United: Breaking Down the Key Stats

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 13:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid prepares to take a free kick during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Real Madrid and Manchester United at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on February 13, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Peter BrownellContributor INovember 20, 2016

Wednesday evening's scintillating Champions League match offered ninety minutes of intriguing football:  Dramatic saves, athletic finishing, purposeful tactics and world class quality were on full display in Madrid.  

An examination of the statistics (all data courtesy of whoscored and Opta) gathered from two critical phases of play provide a unique insight into why the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

Shooting was in abundance for both sides but in particularly for the Spanish side.  Mourinho's group fired 28 total shots, more than doubling United's 13.  Of the 28, eight reached the target, 11 missed and nine were blocked.  

According to Opta, prior to the match, Real Madrid scored the most goals of any team in the Champions League from outside the 18-yard-box with six. 

Predictably, over half their attempts (54 percent) were from outside the 18-yard-box.  They did create some opportunities in more dangerous areas too.  Seven percent of Madrid attempts came from inside the six-yard-box with the rest (39 percent) located inside the 18-yard-box.

Perhaps Mourinho would have been satisfied prior to the match had he known his team would create this many chances.  Although, he may have also preferred his side look to try and probe the dangerous areas of the pitch more frequently. 

Madrid was able to beat the United fullbacks seemingly at will.  As such, they might have been better served channeling some of their many outside shots to wide players, inviting them to reach the byline and pull the ball back across the six. 

Much of the credit in allowing only one goal belongs to both the spirited and tactically sound Manchester United defense as well as the spectacular goalkeeping.   

With Madrid owning the bulk of the possession, 61 percent to 39 percent, United's organization in defending needed to be exquisite.  Especially in second half with Madrid pushing players forward in desperate search of a second goal.  The Red Devils effectively applied two banks of four, employing solid positioning, a high work rate and a willingness to sacrifice their bodies to ensure they would only give up one goal.

Rio Ferdinand was heroic as always, brushing away multiple dangerous crosses and through balls and finishing the match with a team high 12 clearances.  His fellow backs were up for the task as well, Johnny Evan blocked three shots and added nine clearances of his own.  Rafael was the team's most prolific tackler, winning four. 

Even United's expensive striker, Robin Van Persie, blocked a blazing first half free kick from Ronaldo.

Overall the Red Devils finished the match with 72 total combined clearances, blocks and interceptions: a necessary effort against the likes of a probing Ozil and a motivated Ronaldo. 

Tactics in the next match might follow a similar course with Madrid needing a least one goal to move onto the next stage of the tournament.  That all could quickly change, though, depending on who scores the first goal.

It is a shame that fans will only get two games between these clubs this season: the football is sublime. 

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