Manchester United vs. Real Madrid: Takeaways for Los Blancos in Thrilling Win
Real Madrid's Champions League victory over Manchester United certainly wasn't one without controversy, but in the end, it was the Spanish champions who emerged with a 2-1 victory and a spot in the final eight of Europe's most prestigious tournament.
An own goal early in the second half by defender Sergio Ramos had given the Red Devils a 1-0 lead on the night and a 2-1 lead on aggregate. That moment would be quickly forgotten, however, when United winger Nani would receive a straight red after 58 minutes and reduce United to 10 men.
Jose Mourinho's men would then snare quick goals from midfielder Luka Modric and superstar winger Cristiano Ronaldo to take full advantage of the moment, and they would hold off a desperate United side to record a thrilling victory in front of an emotional Old Trafford crowd.
Yet despite the controversy, several key lessons were learned for Madrid, and Los Blancos can definitely take plenty away from the dramatic result. Read on to see what some of those top takeaways were for the Spanish champions from their Champions League victory.
The "Real" Madrid Is Back in Business
With a slow start to the season, it's becoming more and more clear that Real Madrid are once again players in Spanish football and on the world stage.
They stunned Barcelona 3-1 at the Nou Camp in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey—something that nobody saw coming, or at least not to that extent. They then repeated the feat in La Liga that weekend, despite the fact that Ronaldo was rested for 58 minutes of play.
And now, this week in the UEFA Champions League, they came to Manchester and defeated one of the more potent teams in world football. They held the Red Devils scoreless (other than an own goal by Sergio Ramos) and did everything required of them on the night.
They got some luck, sure, but every team gets luck when they win football games, and as we'll discuss shortly, Madrid did more than just "get lucky" here. They played good, attacking football that left United with no answers during the second half, and emerged from Old Trafford looking like the Spanish champions that they have claimed to be all season.
It seems that the "real" Madrid is coming to the fore once more.
Madrid Earned Their Victory on the Night
It's difficult in a way for Madrid fans to truly celebrate this victory because they will know that they did receive a fortunate call from the referee. Whether you can convulsively say that it was a red card on Nani or not—the reality is that the vast majority of opinion flowing out of this match will be that the referee cheated United out of the win and Madrid into the win.
Yet the reality was that despite the controversial red card, Mourinho's men still had plenty of work to do on the night and deserved their victory here.
Even after they had a man advantage, they still had to find two goals, away from home, in 35 minutes against a team that had conceded just three goals in their past nine matches.
Despite having the man advantage, the pressure was still squarely on them to perform and Mourinho's side deserves to be praised for the way that they capitalized on the opportunity afforded to them.
Madrid manager Mourinho was wise to bring on Modric and not Karim Benzema, and he was incredibly wise to attack down the left flank of United as a result. Both goals came after work down that side, and it's little surprise that it was an unmarked Cristiano Ronaldo who netted the game-winning goal from the side that Nani would have likely been on previously.
As much as they received good fortune from the referee, Madrid still had to earn the win and had to score two goals in a difficult environment under pressure. They did do just that and should receive the proper recognition because of it.
Cristiano Ronaldo Is in Rare Form
After single-handedly changing the balance of power in the first El Clasico, firing Madrid back on level terms with United in the first leg and then chiming in for the game-winning goal, it is clear that superstar winger Cristiano Ronaldo truly is in rare form at the moment.
His ability to read the game and understand what is needed is a rare skill around the world, and he deserves every bit of success that comes his way.
The Portuguese international was effective on the night at finding space across the left and middle channels of the pitch even when there appeared to be no space available. And whilst he might not have had the dozen-odd shots that we have become accustomed to over the years, Ronaldo still showed a lethal attacking nature to pop up for the game-winning goal.
It was a difficult chance that could very well have been missed, but Ronaldo took it beautifully and sent Madrid through to the quarterfinals in the process.
Where he'll no doubt look to continue his special touch.
What did you take away from this thrilling Real Madrid victory?
Comment below or hit me up on Twitter: Follow @dantalintyre
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