Cristiano Ronaldo Will Prove Unstoppable in Return to Old Trafford
And much like when he was playing there in a red shirt, the star winger will again prove unstoppable—carrying his team through to the next round of competition.
Only that this time, it will be at the expense of United.
Ronaldo has been in simply blistering form of late for Real Madrid—firing them past Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semifinals last week—and currently trails just Lionel Messi in terms of goals-scored throughout the 2013 season, both domestic and abroad.
Yet more than that, Ronaldo has been the go-to player for Los Blancos when they've needed it most this year. In the first leg against Manchester United, he netted the only goal in a match that Madrid really needed to win to progress. He created chances for several other players throughout and took the chance afforded to him. It's more than likely that we'll see similar dominance when Ronaldo takes the field at Old Trafford once more this week.
It's almost just a given for the winger this year.
However, in this match, there's two key reasons in particular to suggest that Ronaldo will be even more deadly than he has usually been throughout the year.
The first is his fitness, with the superstar winger rested from the first hour against Barcelona on the weekend. It was a gutsy move by manager Jose Mourinho that ultimately paid off for the reigning Spanish champions, who not only rested their star player but also managed to win the El Classico.
And whilst it's not like Ronaldo exactly needs the rest to recover from any injuries, as I noted earlier in the week, the time off will still be a huge plus for him.
It's not that he needs the rest for physical reasons per se, but the psychological side of it in allowing him to not start will no doubt do wonders for the winger. Especially coming up against his old club and teammates at United—where the psychological aspect will matter even more. Expect him to be fresh, but more importantly to feel fresh and ready as he seeks to carry Madrid through to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Tactically speaking as well, Ronaldo appears primed for big night in Manchester against his former club given the need for the Red Devils to attack.
In the opening leg, United could play just one attacking midfielder and try and score on the counter-attack whilst dropping everyone back in defense. They could play Phil Jones in a type of man-coverage against Ronaldo and still keep their back four across the box.
Being away from home, picking up a 1-1 draw was a great result for the Red Devils, and they had the luxury of not being forced to attack to win the match.
However, they don't have such a luxury this time around.
Madrid will continue to attack the Red Devils right throughout the match, and unless United counters, Mourinho's men will emerge with a victory.
They are simply too strong and in such good form that there is no alternative, meaning that the Red Devils must attack Los Blancos at the back. They could use two central midfielders (perhaps in a more regulation type role) to do this, and leave Rafael and Rio Ferdinand to handle Ronaldo.
This would, in turn, open up more space for the winger, whose ability to cut in centrally and help the attack would be harnessed without the presence of Jones.
United may still end up playing the defender on Ronaldo in addition to their back four, but then they'd be back in the same position that they were in the first leg—forced into defending and trying to score on the counterattack. Which Ronaldo thrived in anyway.
Either way, from a tactical point of view, it seems that the superstar winger is primed for a big game against his former club at his former home ground.
He'll hold no fears traveling to Old Trafford, having made his name in world football there, and he looks set to do just that again this week by sending Madrid through to the Champions League quarterfinals at the expense of his former club and teammates.
Who's going through? Manchester United or Real Madrid?
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