Manchester United vs. Real Madrid: Red Devils Still Poised for Strong Finish

Ethan Grant@DowntownEGAnalyst IMarch 6, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 05:  Ryan Giggs (l) and Robin van Persie of Manchester United look dejected at the end of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second leg match between Manchester United and Real Madrid at Old Trafford on March 5, 2013 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

After its 1-2 home loss to Real Madrid at Old Trafford on Tuesday, the UEFA Champions League life was sucked out of Manchester United.

Old Red Devil Cristiano Ronaldo came back to his former stomping grounds for the first time since 2009, and proceeded to send in the game-winning goal for Los Blancos—knocking the Red Devils out of UCL play in the process.

It was a match marked by a controversial red card that sent Nani off the field and Ronaldo's heroics. It really took the wind out of the sails of United fans after the devastating reality that Madrid would be moving on and Man U would not.

However, all is not lost for the Red Devils.

With English Premier League play and FA Cup quarterfinals still in full swing, there are going to be plenty of chances for Sir Alex Ferguson's side to rebound from this loss and regain European dominance over the next two months of the season.

In the spirit of fairness, we'll get the bad news out of the way first.

Yes, the controversial red card really took United fans by surprise. On a pivotal swing during the second half, referee Cuneyt Cakir decided to red card United winger Nani—giving United just 10 men for the final stretch of a match against one of the hottest clubs on the planet. UEFA has stood behind its referee (via Fox Sports), but that won't stop United faithful from wondering what could have been at full strength.

In addition, it appears Wayne Rooney's time at Old Trafford could be coming to an end. As noted by Mark Ogden of The Telegraph Sport, Rooney's exclusion from the starting XI in Ferguson's biggest match of the season should seal the summer fate of one of United's most storied players in club history.

Despite those struggles, United is still in a favorable position.

The Red Devils are in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup, set to avenge the home loss against Madrid by taking on Chelsea at Old Trafford on Saturday. All the UCF sadness could go away with an appearance in the FA Cup final four, something Ferguson will stress to his team before Saturday's match.

Additionally, the Devils are still in first place in the EPL standings. They are a clear 12 points ahead of the next-closest side—rival and last year's champion Manchester City. If you don't think last year's EPL devastation is still close to the heart of guys like Rooney and Ferguson—think again.

Those are two prime opportunities to rebound from Tuesday.

Another sweetener to soften the collective blow from Madrid's advancement was the comments of manager Jose Mourinho, who noted on Wednesday that "the better side lost" in the second leg of the UCL match (told to Sky Sports via Fox Sports):

Mourinho told Sky Sports: "Manchester United were playing very well. They were very compact, they were very aggressive, very well organised technically and the match was very difficult for us...I doubt with 11 against 11 we could win the match.

That certainly doesn't take away the sting and embarrassment from Tuesday, but it's a nice sweetener for United fans in knowing that Nani's red card at least played a small part in the UCL loss—right call or not. EPL and FA Cup play are still in front of the Red Devils, and going two for three would likely get rid of the UCL loss altogether.

United has no time to dwell in the past.

The present is clear and approaching fast, and it's a present that includes two quality chances to assert Red Devil dominance in Europe yet again.