Manchester United appear to be flying under the radar a little with this game. Despite having a brilliant season domestically, many of the pundits that we have all listened to over the last few days, seem to think that Real Madrid are overwhelming favourites for this game. The bookmakers also concur, with Manchester United at 5/1 to win the game with William Hill. You can get as much as 10/1 on Robin van Persie to score and Manchester United to win.
soccersweep believes that it’s far less clear cut than this, for the following reasons:
Form – Real Madrid’s form has been patchy all season. They are absolutely miles off the pace in La Liga and, only a couple of weeks ago, lost to lowly Granada. Manchester United, by contrast, are 12 points clear and in the 5th round of the FA Cup.
United’s away record – It’s easy to argue that Manchester United’s results have been better than their performances this season. They haven’t got too many cricket scores to their names – even against smaller teams they seem to be winning by the single goal. But this is a team that always seems to do whatever is asked of it. They work as hard and score as many as they need to. Can you remember the last time that Manchester United beat City, Chelsea and Liverpool away from home in one season? They certainly haven’t done it in the Premier League era. This suggests to us that Manchester United are underrated by many.
Rafael – If there is one full-back in Europe that I could pick to defend against Ronaldo it would be Rafael Da Silva. A crazy claim to some but show me a better right back – Rafa has the lot and will be widely regarded as the best in the business in a couple of years. He has matured physically and tactically from the impetuous player who was sent off against Bayern Munich at Old Trafford in 2009. He is lightening quick, has superb feet and also has the temperament of an elite player. He won’t be fearful of opposing Ronaldo. On the contrary, he will be absolutely relishing it.
Real in Europe – They looked excellent against a woeful Manchester City at The Etihad. But they very nearly lost the reverse fixture and only survived defeat to Dortmund by virtue of a last gasp goal from Ozil at The Bernabeu in the group stages.
It’s no exaggeration to say that, in last season’s semi-final, they had their pants pulled down by Bayern München. That night, Real looked totally disjointed and they haven’t really invested in the squad since (save for the out of favour Luka Modric – remember him).
The Defences – Again most seem to think that Real have a better defence than Manchester United. But United have stopped the rot of late and have their two best central defenders (Ferdinand and Vidic) back and fully fit for the first time in well over a year. Going forward, Real can be bewitching with Ronaldo, Di Maria and Ozil. But United have the pedigree to cope and will ask plenty of questions of their own in attack, with the pace and guile of Rooney, RvP and Valencia. On the flip side, Ramos has improved but he and Pepe aren’t exactly invulnerable at the back. Manchester must also make it a priority to attack the flanks, as Real are unsettled in those areas, due to fitness and form problems in the squad. Marcelo, their best full back, won’t play as he’s just returning to fitness. Arbeloa has been sporadically dodgy this season. Micheal Essien might even get the nod in defence. Real Madrid don’t have a settled back four and Sir Alex will most definitely try to exploit the Spanish in the wide areas.
There is no doubt that this is one of the bigger games in Manchester United’s history. But, they are more than capable of upsetting the odds and soccersweep believes that they will go into the game full of confidence and intent on imposing their own style on the game rather than just parking the bus. Manchester United will show too much respect to Madrid at their peril.
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