Real Madrid vs. Manchester United: 5 Talking Points from Champions League Draw
According to Jose Mourinho, it was the match the world was waiting for. Fortunately for the world, it didn't disappoint.
Real Madrid and Manchester United played to a tense and exciting 1-1 draw on Wednesday in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie at Madrid's Estadio Bernabeu. The result favors United, who will host the return leg at Old Trafford in three weeks' time.
But Mourinho isn't ready to concede just yet (via @BBCSport). And here's guessing United manager Sir Alex Ferguson feels the same way.
Keep reading for five talking points from Wednesday's match.
The 1-1 draw will obviously please Manchester United more than Real Madrid.
Real sparkled in the opening 15 minutes, peppering David De Gea's goal and dominating possession as United fought to stay level.
But United didn't just stay level. The Red Devils took the early lead through Danny Welbeck and in the process scored a valuable away goal.
That away goal means United will head into the second leg in three weeks knowing a 0-0 draw would be enough to advance to the quarterfinals. Not that these two teams are likely to finish a match with that scoreline.
Even more encouraging for United fans is the history that favors their club:
Via @2010misterchip: Real Madrid has been eliminated in all 4 previous European series after drawing 1-1 at home.
— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) February 13, 2013
Man United has advanced in all 4 European series after drawing 1-1 away in the first leg (via @2010misterchip).— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) February 13, 2013
Did the Ref Miss a Call?
Controversy erupted in the 55th minute as Manchester United were left crying out for a foul—and possibly a game-changing red card.
United defender Patrice Evra streaked toward Real Madrid's goal through the middle of the field, only to be brought down by Real's Raphael Varane. German referee Felix Brych waved play on as United manager Sir Alex Ferguson screamed for a foul.
Had Brych called a foul, he likely would have been required to send off Varane, who was the last defender. Neither happened, however, and the match continued.
Was it the right (non-) call?
Foul, red card. Simple as that. Big mistake.— Will Tidey (@willtidey) February 13, 2013
David De Gea Was Brilliant
Playing pretty much in his own backyard, 22-year-old Spanish keeper David De Gea kept Manchester United in the game with a series of saves throughout the 90 minutes.
He started early, and brilliantly, reaching Fabio Coentrao's curled effort with the very edge of his finger in the sixth minute. With the slightest of touches, De Gea deflected the ball onto the post and kept the score level.
De Gea then stopped Mesut Ozil later in the first half before foiling Coentrao again in the 61st minute. This time, Sami Khedira fed Coentrao on the left side of the box, and De Gea scrambled to keep Coentrao's volley out with a sprawling, eye-catching save.
Finally, in the 79th minute, De Gea reacted quickly to stop Khedira's bouncing, deflected shot from the edge of the box.
All in all, it was a superb performance from the Spanish stopper. Might it buy him a break from the customary stream of criticism he receives?
The most optimistic of United fans would claim De Gea has world-class potential. Even the cautious, though, should admit that he has skill and deserves more time to develop fully.
Who Won the Tactical Battle?
Real Madrid dominated early, but Manchester United took the lead against the run of play in the 20th minute. The match remained open until halftime, when Sir Alex Ferguson made a change.
The United manager did not change personnel at halftime. Instead, he opted to tweak his formation to a flat 4-4-2. The result was a tighter match that was slightly less entertaining for neutrals but more manageable from United's perspective.
Jose Mourinho reacted by swapping Gonzalo Higuain for Karim Benzema up top. Later, he took off Angel Di Maria, perhaps Real Madrid's best player of the night, in favor of
Lady Edith Luka Modric. Finally, Pepe replaced Xabi Alonso late as Mourinho appeared ready to play for the second leg.
So did Mourinho make the right moves? Or is The Daily Telegraph's Paul Hayward right to suggest the Portuguese manager had other matters on his mind?
Mourinho has always been brilliant at changing games from the bench. His political problems here seem to have drained his confidence.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) February 13, 2013
Exactly How High Can Cristiano Ronaldo Leap?
Cristiano Ronaldo didn't just leap to score his headed goal in the 30th minute. He levitated.
Ronaldo, who turned 28 earlier this month, looked less like a footballer than an NBA star when he towered above Patrice Evra to power home Real Madrid's equalizer.
Now in his prime, Ronaldo continues to flash both skill and physical prowess that would make any footballer jealous. His latest goal only underscored his status as world-class, both as a footballer and an athlete.
What. A. Jump. On that header. Evra had time to count all of Ronaldo's toes. Backward. In Latin.
— Richard Whittall (@RWhittall) February 13, 2013