Manchester United, Real Madrid Set for World-Stopping Showdown (Poll)
It's Manchester United. It's Real Madrid. It's the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg, and it's the match we've all been waiting for.
No introductions needed, right?
Just in case, though, here's the skinny. Manchester United held Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw three weeks ago in the first leg at Real's Estadio Bernabeu. Danny Welbeck headed United in front in the first half, but Cristiano Ronaldo equalized with a towering header before halftime.
Ronaldo, of course, will be making his first competitive appearance at Old Trafford since leaving United for Real Madrid in a world-record £80 million transfer in 2009.
"It is going to be a special night,'' said United striker Wayne Rooney (via Al Jazeera English), who played with Ronaldo from 2004-09. "It is probably the two biggest clubs in the world and something we are all looking forward to.'’
In this case, Rooney might not be exaggerating. According to the Daily Express, a global audience of more than 200 million is expected to watch the match.
Real Madrid have won the European Cup/Champions League nine times—more than any other club. Their last title, however, came in 2002. Manchester United have won the competition three times, most recently in 2008.
Both teams enter the match on a run of good form. Real Madrid beat Barcelona twice last week, and United defeated Norwich 4-0 in the Premier League Saturday. The winner of the tie could become one of the favorites to lift the Champions League trophy in May.
"That is the one million dollar question: What will make the difference?" said Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho (via The Guardian). "Nobody knows and the world will stop to watch this tie. It doesn't look a tie. It looks a final. I doubt the expectation can be bigger than this one."
Mourinho and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson developed a keen rivalry during Mourinho's tenure at Chelsea. The two are now friends but remain competitive on the pitch.
Ferguson, who turned 71 in December, said Tuesday's match is one of the reasons he hasn't yet retired (via Daily Telegraph):
People ask me why I don't retire after so many years in the game. But how could anyone with an ounce of passion for football in their soul voluntarily walk away from the opportunity to be involved in this kind of occasion?
Which team will advance?
United defender Phil Jones will miss out, having suffered an ankle injury against Reading in the FA Cup. Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand are expected to return to the lineup after being rested over the weekend in the Premier League. Real keeper Iker Casillas, meanwhile, is still recovering from a hand injury (via talkSPORT).
Real Madrid trail La Liga leaders Barcelona by 13 points but remain alive in the Copa del Rey. Manchester United top the Premier League and remain alive in the FA Cup, meaning another treble to match 1999's achievement is still possible.
Said United defender Nemanja Vidic on the possibility of winning the two aforementioned contests along with the Champions League crown (via Daily Telegraph):
We of course want to do it, but I don’t think we should be pressured by that. It would be great to win it again, but it is a big ask, a difficult ask. We are still in three competitions, but the end of the season will show where we are and how good we are as a club. It is now important to show our class and our mentality.
Kickoff is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. ET.
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