Real Madrid will advance in the Champions League
Well, here’s another game that was marked by the officiating.
That’s not to say that Real Madrid did nothing to win. Despite Jose Mourinho’s allegation, Real Madrid did make correct decisions to beat the Red Devils. Look out, the 2013 champions might have just presented themselves.
Here are some quick reactions from the Real Madrid-Manchester United game.
Let’s get the white—or would it be red?—elephant out of the room. Nani should not have been sent off, period.
Some will argue that the studs-up high kick is a dangerous play and should not be tolerated. But, look at the play again. Nani was clearly going for the ball, not to actually hit Alvaro Arbeloa. In fact, Nani doesn’t even realize Arbeloa is there until he actually makes contact with the player. With the word, The Guardian’s Barry Glendenning:
That's a strange decision from a referee who has form as a card-happy official. The Manchester United winger contested a high ball with Alvaro Arbeloa and caught the Real Madrid full-back in the midriff with a high boot, but it didn't look a sending off to me.
I applaud Cakır for realizing this is a dangerous play and punishing Nani, but the red card was far too much. Nani should have received the yellow card at most.
The fact of the matter is, Cakır shifted the game Real’s way, as ESPN’s Ian Darke pointed out.
Lucky Real.Ref won tie for them with very poor decision to send off Nani.Mourinho"best team lost" sounds like Utd job application— Ian Darke (@IanDarkeESPN) March 5, 2013
Fergie did right when choosing to bench Rooney
When it was announced that Wayne Rooney would start out the game on Manchester United’s bench, it raised many eyebrows. However, the game proved Sir Alex Ferguson to be correct yet again.
Manchester United had more opportunities to score and halted Real Madrid throughout the entire first half. The addition of Ryan Giggs and Nani in the wings gave them two quick, reliable options for the counter attack and the triangle in the midfield of Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck worked like a charm.
Besides, did you even see Xabi Alonso in that first half? Fergie predicted in an interview to ITV's Gabriel Clarke that his midfield would overpower the Spanish player: "Xabi Alonso controls the game for Real Madrid...[tracking back] Danny Welbeck is the best at that in our team, plus he can work from there to support Robin van Persie."
Despite the loss, Fergie can rest assured that his formula worked. Manchester United’s midfield denied Real Madrid the opportunity to play, at least until Nani's expulsion.
Hard to argue against a beauty like this one, isn’t it?
Still, Luca Modric did a lot more than just score the game-tying goal. His mere presence on the field completely shifted the momentum—and eventually the game—Madrid’s way.
Mourinho is no fool. As soon as he saw Nani sent off, he called up the Croatian. The reasoning is simple: without Nani, Manchester United had one less channel to make their offense flow.
Without the channel, los Blancos would hold on to the ball in the attacking third more often.
If they are going to hold the ball more often, they need someone who can make it move. Modric was the obvious choice.
He contributed with the great shot for the goal, yes, but who whips the ball into the area for Gonzalo Higuain, who would eventually set up Ronaldo for the game-winning goal?
You guessed it: Luka Modric.
Ronaldo was quiet during his goal celebration and the game
Cristiano Ronaldo wasn't just quiet during his goal celebration. Despite the goal, the star didn't do much the entire game.
No machine guns or machetes were needed in this one, as Ronaldo was much too quiet for a player of his caliber for the second straight time against Manchester United. That is, despite scoring the winning goal.
A lot of it had to do with Manchester United’s strategy. They surrounded Ronaldo with two players at all times and made his life extremely difficult. Besides, he was playing against people who knew his style of play. There’s no doubt Fergie had an entire strategy in place to stop the Portuguese.
And it worked. True, he did take 11 shots and score a goal, but he didn’t completely rip Manchester United’s defense apart. And that’s all you can hope for when playing against Cristiano Ronaldo.
Will Mourinho win his third Champions League trophy?
Those are the other teams still standing at this year’s Champions League. By March 13, only seven of those teams will remain.
It might be too soon to tell, but by simply watching the last few games, one could say that Real Madrid are the favorites to win the title in the Wembley Stadium on May 15.
German teams Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich might want to say something about that bold claim, but it is very hard to see Real Madrid failing to reach at least the finals this year. Yeah, you can say they just won a huge game.