Sympathy for the Devils Mask Manchester United Failings

John Baines@@bainesyDiego10Correspondent IMarch 6, 2013

Cuneyt Cakir's call changed the game but not the result
Cuneyt Cakir's call changed the game but not the resultJasper Juinen/Getty Images

There's no denying the red card for Nani was harsh. It could have gone either way, and when it goes against you then you have the right to feel aggrieved.

But does anybody really feel that sorry for Manchester United?

It's not like they haven't had huge doses of good luck served their way across this season (and many more before). I think the term is "swings and roundabouts."

And how come everyone is forgetting that Real Madrid had a perfectly good goal disallowed on the stroke of halftime? If that effort had been ruled out for United, Sir Alex Ferguson would have been similarly apoplectic as he is now.

Outplaying––but eventually losing to––a brilliant Madrid side will pain all associated with Manchester United, especially as the Reds were in control until the controversial dismissal.

Yet to simply blame the referee for costing them a place in the Champions League quarterfinals would hide the fact that United folded like a deck of card across the space of a couple of minutes to cede the game.

If you analyse the goals closely, the two Madrid strikes had very little to do with their only being ten men on the pitch.

The red card may have altered the sway of the game and given the initiative to Jose Mourinho's side, but it was not a decisive factor in the ball ending up in the back of the net, twice.

If you look at the positioning of United's players for both goals, on each occasion they had all nine outfield players in and around the box in the manner they would have done had they still had the full compliment on the pitch.

Madrid were popping the ball around as they had been doing since going behind, and that scenario would likely have carried on until the final whistle.

Another body would have meant United could have defended and countered with one more, but even still, had Nani been on the pitch he would not have been able to prevent either strike.

For Luka Modric's equaliser, check out the positioning of the United outfield players on the video. Robin van Persie has been pulled back to defend, meaning the hosts would have had the same volume of defensive players in those areas had Nani still been involved.

And the crucial factor in Modric's goal was not that Nani wasn't present, but more to do with Michael Carrick's weak flail of a challenge. Credit to Modric for the quality of the strike after that, but don't blame the referee.

Likewise for the Cristiano Ronaldo's decisive finish, United had eight men on the edge of the area and would a ninth––not necessarily placed in the area the goal emanated from––have been able to stop the crisp interplay between Modric, Mesut Ozil and Gonzalo Higuain?

Not in my opinion.

The harsh truth is that we shouldn't feel any sympathy for Manchester United. They've had plenty of decisions go their way in the past and when one goes against you, you just have to ride it out––Cuneyt Cakir's call changed the game, but not the result.

Plenty of you will recall the 2010 Champions League semifinal second leg between Barcelona and Inter Milan at the Camp Nou. Thiago Motta's early and undeserved red card reduced Inter to ten, but they defended well enough over the remaining hour to see out the game and book themselves a place in the final––which they eventually won.

Although John Terry's dismissal last year on the same ground was utterly justified, Chelsea still had to rally from 2-0 down with ten men to earn themselves a place in the final––which they won.

United will feel enraged that the referee influenced proceedings, but being 1-0 up with ten men at home is a much better position than being down a man needing to score away to Barcelona.

Chelsea were deserved champions of Europe last season, United won't be this.

The fact is that sometimes control is whipped away from you from outside aspects but that should create an even stronger bond to knuckle down and get the job done. Neither of the goals were defended properly enough by United, and that is the real reason they've tumbled out of Europe.

The red card decision also highlights a massive discrepancy in FIFA's decision to introduce goal line technology from the 2014 World Cup onwards.

The number of games settled by a disputed "ball over the line" scenario pale into insignificance compared to contentious red cards, penalties and offside's, so at what point do the calls come for some sort of overlord officiating system come in?

Having cameras in the goal would have been all well and good last night, but in United's opinion, the game was lost on the referee's misjudgement. Goal line technology will do nothing to solve the vast amount of matches influenced by human error, so when do we replace the humans costing teams?

This defeat will hurt for Manchester United, but once the pain dissipates they will realise they were still in control of their own destiny.

Swings and roundabouts.

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