Manchester United vs. Real Madrid: Red Devils Can't Blame Referee for Loss

Alex Gruber@agruber6Featured ColumnistMarch 5, 2013

Manchester United's Nani is dismissed by Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir.
Manchester United's Nani is dismissed by Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

A sensational Champions League last-16 tie has ended with Real Madrid pulling out a 2-1 victory over Manchester United Tuesday, giving them a 3-2 aggregate win. Goals from Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo in a three minute span cancelled out Sergio Ramos' own goal early in the second half.

Real's two goals came after United went down to 10 men, as Nani, who delivered the cross that Ramos put into his own net, was sent off in controversial circumstances. He leapt and stuck out a boot to take down a pass, but caught Alvaro Arbeloa in the chest in the process.

Considering Nani was focused only on the ball, this tackle might not have deserved the red. You can judge it either way for yourself by watching this GIFΒ (via Bleacher Report). But regardless of whether match official Cuneyt Cakir's decision was correct, United can't pin the blame on him.

After a sluggish first 10 minutes, United really grew into the game. They had the best chance of the first half when Nemanja Vidic headed off the base of the post from a corner kick. Danny Welbeck nearly diverted the rebound in, but was offside anyway.

United finally did get their reward after just three minutes in the second half. Nani delivered a low cross from the left side of the penalty area, and it took a slight deflection off Welbeck before Ramos diverted it home.

Once they had their goal, though, United seemed content to sit back somewhat, allowing Madrid to get back into their flow. Jose Mourinho responded to Nani's red by sending on Luka Modric in place of Arbeloa, and United managed to let the Croatian beat them.

A dash across the outside of the area left Modric roaming free, and he unleashed a massive, curling strike that caught the inside of the post and found the net. Not three minutes later, Ronaldo got on the end of a cross from Gonzalo Higuain and deflected it home.

United had just let up defensively and were simply overrun by Mourinho's attacking tactics. Sir Alex Ferguson seemingly spent more time yelling at the officials than he did reacting to the gap in his team. He needed to bring someone on to change things up.

Sure, Nani wasn't contributing defensively, but defensive reinforcements are always needed when you go down a man, if just to cover the space that's been left behind. Had they done so, it might've helped them control Madrid's pace and ball distribution.

United's failure to respond to adversity is the reason they lost, not Cuneyt Cakir.