Danny Welbeck Goal Exposes Real Madrid's Weakness and United's Route to Victory

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2013

Manchester United might have come away from their UEFA Champions League match with Real Madrid with somewhat mixed feelings, having avoided defeat but given up a winning position after a 1-1 draw in the Round of 16 first leg.

While Madrid dominated possession for large spells and penned United back in their own half for the majority of the second period of the game, the away side defended resolutely, in numbers and with great organisation.

The same could not be said of Real Madrid.

More worryingly for Jose Mourinho and his team, this is a trend which has continued for quite some time, with Real looking rather shoddy at times for a side which is supposed to be challenging for the biggest honours in the game.

Nobody should doubt the immense quality that Real Madrid possess when in possession of the ball. On the expansive green of the Old Trafford pitch, you can bet that quality comes to the fore, as the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Angel di Maria and Mesut Ozil will have more space in which to operate than they did tonight, with Phil Jones and Michael Carrick sitting deep, almost on top of their own defenders.

But at the other end of the pitch, Real continue to look sluggish at times and downright disorganised at others, with a lack of communication and leadership.

Stand-in goalkeeper Diego Lopez, signed as cover after the injury to Iker Casillas, is understandably not yet in total command of his defence, but he has portrayed a worrying fallibility from set pieces in particular.

With Pepe still working his way back to fitness and Varane still inexperienced, it falls to Sergio Ramos to provide stability at the back—and though he is talented, aggressive and a real winner, he also remains impetuous, reactive and nonvocal at times.

Danny Welbeck's header off a routine corner exposed the limitations that the uncharacteristically un-Mourinho-like team has at present.

Though they will play a more progressive game from open play in the second leg, United could well find that their best route to goal at Old Trafford remains in set pieces with good movement inside the Real Madrid penalty box.