Mouthwatering. Spine tingling. Almost too exciting to wait for. The Champions League 1st knockout phase will generate much needed heat at the end of a long winter. Many of the match ups in the second phase would make great finals, such is the quality in the draw.
Manchester United vs Real Madrid
soccersweep yesterday mused, minutes before the draw
10:29 – Without wishing to tempt fate for United fans, The Red Devils have somehow managed to avoid Real Madrid in Europe for nearly 10 years. Both are regularly in the latter stages but haven’t met since a belter at Old Trafford when Brazilian Ronaldo scored a sublime hat-trick. I still don’t think that Madrid are a jot on Barcelona but Fergie will definitely want to avoid them at this stage….
Real are 13 points adrift in La Liga and Jose Mourinho has been heavily tipped to depart in the summer after various tiffs with his playing staff and the top brass. Wouldn’t it just be so typical of Mourinho then, with his back to the wall, to mastermind another famous victory?
Certainly Manchester United won’t be complacent going into this one. With Cristiano Ronaldo in the ranks Real Madrid can beat anyone.
But I don’t think that they will beat this Manchester United side. They have good players in Modric, Ozil, Marcelo and Benzema but, overall (and unusually for a Mourinho side), they lack identity and balance as a team. They also look porous at the back with Pepe and Ramos at the heart of the defence.
Conversely, while Manchester United have also been generous defensively this year, they have the quality players to iron out the problems. The midfield looks re-energised with Cleverley and Carrick in great form. And, in attack, United once again have the sharpest of teeth with RVP and Rooney in tandem. The excellent thing about this United side is that Fergie can change formation without changing his team. Rooney can play alongside RVP to devastating effect, or drop back in to the midfield to become the sublime focus of the engine room.
Despite criticism of the defence, United’s real problem lies on the left wing. Nani infuriates while Young underwhelms. So perhaps the outcome of this tie depends on whether United can get the classy Shinji Kagawa fit and firing in a left sided role. If he can do a job out there then it’s hard to see a weakness in this Manchester United incarnation.
United will go to Madrid without fear and knowing that they can expose the weaknesses in an unsettled defence. They will score 2 at The Bernabeu and then finish the job at Old Trafford.
Prediction – United to prevail
De Gea, Rafael, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra
Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Kagawa
The Odds at William Hill
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