X

Manchester United: Why Reds Will Want Real Madrid in the Champions League Final

Yoosof Farah@@YoosofFarahSenior Writer IIIApril 27, 2011

Manchester United: Would The Reds Have a Better Chance Against Real Madrid?
Manchester United: Would The Reds Have a Better Chance Against Real Madrid?Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Without tempting fate, it seems a sure fire bet Manchester United have finally booked their place for a final at Wembley, following their 2-0 annihilation of Schalke 04

Bitter rivals Manchester City denied them a place on the hallowed turf for the FA Cup final, but now United will most likely be going back to North London for a greater prize, the UEFA Champions League final. 

Goals from Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney virtually made that a certainty, despite Manuel Neuer—the inevitable heir to Edwin Van Der Sar despite rumours of a switch to Bayern Munich—being a life support machine and doing his best to keep Schalke's Wembley dreams alive.

And who will Manchester United play in the final? Thanks to the Copa del Rey final, that's anyone's guess, with Real Madrid proving in the second of the four-part El Clasico series that FC Barcelona, very surprisingly, are not actually infallible.

The more important question is, who do United want in the final? Whoever wins the blockbuster El Clasico ties in club football's most prestigious competition, Reds manager Sir Alex Ferguson will no doubt be wanting a Wembley date with Los Blancos, Real Madrid. 

There are many reasons why Sir Alex would like Real over Barca, even if United won't exactly be able to pick them apart like tapas. 


Real Madrid Are Not FC Barcelona

What some fans may not realise is that names count for a lot in football. At the moment, the most daunting name in the sport is FC Barcelona. 

When the players get those teamsheets, there's nothing more daunting than realising you're going to be marking Lionel Messi or David Villa, or keeping tight on Andres Iniesta, or that you'll be up against Carles Puyol.

And thanks to tiki-taka, you'd be doing that, chasing them and the ball, focusing on their game, much more than your own one.

Therefore, Manchester United would prefer Real Madrid, who in theory aren't as daunting.

Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria will strike fear into a lot of La Liga defenders, but not the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic who've been there, done that and got their opponents' blood-stained shirts.

And as for Cristiano Ronaldo, it'll be like marking an old mate. A very popular man at Old Trafford, everyone loved Ronny. They loved him so much, they knew exactly how he played, everything from where he likes to shoot and where he goes for the pass or cross, to how he plays off the defender and moves inside the penalty area.

Cristiano Ronaldo, as extraordinarily talented and as much of a goal-threat as he is, won't strike fear into any United player.

Also, Barca have World Cup-winning defenders, Real don't, which will give slightly more confidence to Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov (if he gets any minutes playing).


Los Galacticos Play a Narrower Game

Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho is a master tactician, and has got the better of Sir Alex Ferguson and his Manchester United team on many an occasion during his Chelsea days.

However, it'll be slightly tougher this time if they get to Wembley, as his Madrid players, partly down to the Special One and partly down to their own games, play much more narrow and centrally focused than United do.

And so without needing to specifically alter his team's style or focus tactics, Sir Alex will already have the answer to solve the Real Madrid problem, with the importance of wing play schooled into every Manchester United player, from the first-team to the U9s.

It'll allow the Reds to play the Manchester United way, being comfortable in the way they play and not having to change drastically for the challenge of Real Madrid, which, as any footballer will tell you, is a huge bonus.

Against Schalke it was clear to see how the Germans were completely stretched by United, who used the full length of the pitch, with Antonio Valencia and Park Ji-Sung hugging the touchlines.

Manchester United, against Real Madrid, can exploit the space always left by Madrid on the wings, who naturally play a more central game.

It means, if everything goes to plan, they can stretch Madrid and pull the holding midfielders out wide as they seek to provide defensive cover, which in turn could give the likes of Wayne Rooney or Paul Scholes terrific space in the middle to have a shot on goal, or play through Javier Hernandez or the wingers.

And because Real Madrid aren't Barca, and don't play tiki-taka, United would have a lot more opportunities to stretch and break down Los Galacticos.


Wembley 

A huge factor in Manchester United's favour is Wembley Stadium, having played there twice already this season.

On the Champions League final day, it will feel like a second home to them, as they'll know everything from the how big the pitch is to how much noise the fans can generate to how to play the ball along the grass (the ball moves differently along different pitches).

FC Barcelona, despite not playing at Wembley as much as United, know the Wembley experience, as the Camp Nou is bigger than Wembley for a start and also because Barca have played at Wembley quite a few times before.

The Santiago Bernabeu, however, is smaller than Wembley, and Real Madrid have the least experience playing on the hallowed turf at the home of English football.

Unlike Manchester United, Real don't have much spatial awareness in regards to the Wembley pitch, and won't have the knowledge United have in knowing how far you can play the ball across the turf, or how fast it'll skim off the surface.

They also won't know how to manage themselves on the grass and ensure they don't pick up unnecessary injuries. After the 2010 Carling Cup final win over Aston Villa, United learnt a lot from the hamstring injury picked up by Michael Owen, who claimed it was thanks to the Wembley grass.

Jose Mourinho can do all he wants training on the pitch to rectify these problems, but there's no better way of doing that than actually playing in a competitive match itself. Shame for Jose, that competitive match will be the most important one of all.  

And so, if Manchester United meet Real Madrid in the final at Wembley, they'll be playing a team ever so slightly more daunted, a team who could well misplace quite a few passes and could see their key players hobble off with unexpected injuries.

Tonight is the first of the Champions League El Clasico two-part series. We may not know who will win, but if one thing's for sure, we certainly know who Manchester United will be rooting for.    

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.