Manchester United and Real Madrid played out a classicc encounter in the Berneabau last night to an entranced audience with both sides scoring headed goals.
Danny Wellbeck put United in front with a very well placed header, doing well when under considerable pressure from Sergio Ramos. The goal came from a corner, another set-piece goal for Man United, and was a little against the run of play.
Madrid had started the game really strongly, and United held off and gave them a little too much space. Madrid didn’t need the invitation really, and if it wasn’t for De Gea the English team would’ve been behind early on through a Fabio Coentrae effort which he superbly tipped onto the post, getting down to make a fingertip save.
De Gea, who started his career in Madrid with local rivals Atletico, was man of the match in this game, making several smart saves. He looked more assured, more confident, and more comfortable. He wasn’t forced to come for crosses and wasn’t put under much pressure by the Madrid players at corners and the like, not in the way he gets targetted in the Premier League. Arguably this is a league in which De Gea would excel most, one where crosses and physicality aren’t really as much a part of the game as they are in England.
United’s lead through Danny Wellbeck, who had a magnificent game, unfortunately didn’t last long and his header was blown out of the water by Cristiano Ronaldo’s towering leap and goal. The cross came in from the left and Ronaldo rose majestically, similar in the manner in which he scored for United against Chelsea in the Champions League Final, before nodding into the far corner of the goal to leave De Gea for once stranded.
Ronaldo was clearly no match for Evra in the aerial battle, but in truth absolutely no-one could have defended that header, the manner in which Cristiano rose into the air and hung until the ball arrived within heading distance. Ferguson admitted after the game that at first he had a word with Patrice at half-time, asking why he wasn’t competing for it, but having seen the video replay later he assured Patrice there was nothing anyone could’ve done about it.
Cristiano, showing his respect to his past masters, didn’t celebrate and clearly didn’t enjoy the goal as much as he would have normally. He had an uncharacteristically quiet match last night, perhaps the occassion got a bit much for him. Ferguson admitted himself that he felt it was a tricky game for Cristiano to be involved in.
The second half was a more calm affair, with United not allowing Madrid as much space in front of their defence. Both sides had chances, but the best fell to Van Persie late on. He was first put one-on-one with the keeper, from a very tight angle and on his weaker right foot. His powerful drive was tipped onto the frame of the goal, and when Madrid failed to clear their lines a header lead to Van Persie being put clean through on goal again, chesting then mis-hitting his volley, allowing the defense to get back and clear. If Van Persie had made any sort of decent contact with the ball then United would have been 2-1 up.
Before the chance had developed there was also the possibility of Varane getting a straight red card when, of all people, Patrice Evra was played through on goal. Although quite a distance out, and unlikely to run through to score, it still looked like Varane was the last man when his feet tangled with Evra’s and both players tumbled. The referee didn’t even blow up for a foul, and the game went on.
All in all 1-1 seemed a very fair result. United will be happy to have an away goal, but I don’t think Mourinho would be too upset at the result. He believes his side can go to Old Trafford and score a goal, or more, and this is where the danger lies for Man United. Having only 1 away goal, in what will be a very open return fixture I’m sure, Madrid will be very well set up to counter attack. United don’t really do defending in these kinds of situations, so I’m certain that the return encounter in 3 weeks time will be a brilliant, end-to-end game.