Lastnight’s game was one I was looking forward to for a long time. Two historical heavyweights, if you like, both trying to recapture their territory at the top of their domestic competition and continental competition.
Real Madrid have always intrigued me. While they had the Galacticos team of the early to mid 2000’s, I would say they under-achieved. They always had such talented players yet always seemed to bottle it when it came to Europe. I could never understand it. Even now, their attack is phenomenal, mainly down to Ronaldo, but still, they’re very prolific. The one thing Real Madrid have lacked in the last 10 years is a real leader of a defender. Look at the winners of the Champions League since Real Madrid’s last triumph. Porto, Liverpool, Barca, AC Milan, Inter, United, Chelsea: they all have/had a leader in their defence. I thought they had found one in Ramos. I was wrong. Real were shaky at the back last night. Welbeck and Van Persie both could have scored more, Giggs had a chance. This was all while Real were dominating the game completely. If United can get a hold of the game and start dominating Real in Old Trafford, they will score. Real Madrid controlled the game completely and only scored once. United had barely any of the ball in the second half, and even then could have scored 4 goals. This is the reason Real Madrid will not win the Champions League. Their chances increase when Casillas returns, but by the time he does they’ll already be out. They need a leader at the heart of their defence. Give Raphael Varane some time and he might just become that, but for the moment they will remain with “just” the 9 titles.
Moving on to Manchester United, the team nobody gave a chance at 7:45 lastnight. Their performance showed bottle, determination, leadership, mental strength, team spirit and the side to Manchester United nobody thought was there, the defensive side. I’ll admit I thought the defence would be the problem that would hold us back, but the five at the back, helped by Carrick and especially Jones, were exceptional. I thought that was definitely David de Gea’s best performance with United. It was certainly the best I’ve ever seen. Likewise for Evans and Jones. The maturity shown by these young men was admirable. Rafael will be disappointed that he wasn’t as mature in his performance. He lacks composure, which sometimes can be good but was definitely a hindrance lastnight. We are lacking back up in that position when Jones is played in midfield. The attack was an interesting sub-plot in the game. Rooney might not like the position he played in lastnight, but he can rest assured he did the job and did it well. It was very important to the team. Van Persie showed he is human, he is actually susceptible to pressure and can buckle when given extra attention by a defence. It was refreshing to see Welbeck’s contribution to open play, too. He didn’t seem to succumb to the occasion at all. the midfield was a disappointment, but should be more solid if Scholes returns. If United perform like they did lastnight in the second leg, Real will go through. But personally, I think they will have more possession, more attacking possession, more chances and will go through. I usually get the score wrong but I’m going to go for 2-1 on the night to United. Clash of the Titans part two will be a night to savour no doubt!