Madrid’s most partisan paper, Marca, was fairly downbeat in response to Real’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United at The Bernabeu on Wednesday evening. It reported that:
‘Real Madrid’s season could be over as early as 5th March.’
The thrust of the criticism relates to the team’s poor defending from set pieces (they have now conceded seven from dead balls this season) and the average form of their two main strikers Karin Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain.
Neither have been scoring freely of late and the newspaper is concerned that too much of the goal scoring responsibility is being heaped upon the broad shoulders of Cristiano Ronaldo. Or in Mourinho’s words (used to describe them in the past):
“the dog (Higuaín) is not not barking” and “the cat (Benzema) is not meowing”
Furthermore, Real Madrid don’t have a good record in The Champions League, after similar 1st leg results.
‘On all four occasions when Real Madrid drew the first leg of a European tie 1-1, it went on to be knocked out.’
After the game Jose bemoaned the the manner in which Danny Welbeck got in to score for Manchester United
‘….when you lose individual battles… no amount of organisation can stop it. We started the match well and then they go and score from their first attack’
Sir Alex Ferguson has been lauded for the tactics employed on the night. Although Cristiano Ronaldo scored the equaliser, Phil Jones kept him quiet for large chunks of the game. Rafael also stood up to the challenge well when The Portuguese attacked down Manchester United’s right flank. But the greatest plaudits must surely be reserved for Fergie’s surprise selection of Danny Welbeck. He not only added substance to a narrower formation but ghosted in for the potentially crucial opening goal. Jose Mourinho is renowned for his meticulous approach to management but he surely wouldn’t have expected Welbeck to start the game and perhaps he didn’t drill his squad fully on the qualities of the England international.
Manchester United caught Los Blancos off guard with the decision to play the Mancunian and, for this reason, you would have to say that Sir Alex Ferguson won the tactical battle with his great friend Jose Mourinho.
But Mourinho is confident that his team can still out. And with the players at his disposal noone would discount Real Madrid from beating or achieving a high scoring draw against Manchester United in the decisive second leg. It seems as if the football world is waiting as one to see what will happen in this fantastic tie.
‘I like playing the first leg at home.’ said Mourinho
‘You know what you need in the return leg. We’ll go into the game trailing at Old Trafford, but if we score first we’ll be ahead. We know what we have to do.’
Follow us on Twitter @soccersweep10