Do games get any bigger than this? In many ways, it is a crying shame that a mere quarter-final place is the prize on offer here… this game is worthy of a place in the final, at least.
But, here we are… two of the most in-form, biggest and best teams on the planet go head-to-head with the scores all level for a place in the Champions League Quarter-Finals. There will be several other clubs in the competition at this stage who envy neither ourselves nor Real Madrid tonight.
I must say that I thought we contained Real Madrid very well in the first game. Being the home team, the onus was on them to come out and beat us – they didn’t succeed.
And whilst Ronaldo did what all world class players do – provide one moment of magic to alter the course of the game – I didn’t think he troubled us half as much as I thought he might. Indeed, there were several other players who provided a greater attacking threat than Ronaldo and our defenders were given a busy night at the Bernabeu.
All this was expected though and it was obvious towards the end of the second half which Manager was more concerned about the scoreline as Jose threw everything but the kitchen sink at us – to no avail.
After that match, Jose made this tie 50/50. I think it is 55/45 in our favour. Ties such as these always favour the team playing at home in the second leg, in my eyes.
We will know exactly what we have to do at all times this evening and the Old Trafford crowd will be roaring us on for the duration.
However, 1-1, despite being better than a defeat, is probably the worst score-draw to come away with. Unless we can somehow go 2-0 or even 3-0 (highly unlikely) ahead then we are going to be feeling the pressure throughout the game so this will act in Real’s favour.
Personally, I love this stuff. This is what football is all about. Tonight is going to be like watching the most intense thriller/action movie ever made unfold before your eyes. The difference is that there is no director and no one, not even those in the lead roles, know how it ends and whilst there will be many guesses as to the outcome (I’ll give mine later) no one really has the faintest clue.
I think Fergie has played a blinder with the Ryan Giggs situation for this one.
He has already stated that Giggsy will play a part in tonight’s game and, if/when he does, it will be his 1,000th senior appearance for club and country – an absolutely incredible landmark.
I watched MotD on Saturday night and laughed at how disappointed they were that Ryan didn’t make his appearance against Norwich.
With all due respect, such an event needs to be marked by more than a cameo in a game which we won 4-0 anyway and this game against Real Madrid is a fitting occasion.
Fergie will surely bring Ryan on when he feels that the team needs a boost. The fans will go wild for Ryan when he comes on and the whole team will benefit from that.
There’s also the little issue of Kagawa which reared its head against Norwich. His first goal was noteworthy only because the cross that led to it was played by Valencia – with his LEFT FOOT (very good cross, too – he should try it more often) but his second and third were sublime finishes and his confidence will no doubt be sky high right now.
I think he has struggled in the Premier League this season because he didn’t realise how physical it was (he isn’t the first and he won’t be the last – Evra, for example, was stunned by it when he first came to us) but this isn’t a Premier League game and he could well make an appearance here.
The other significant team news is that Phil Jones won’t appear because he hasn’t recovered from injury – I don’t know what to make of that – part of me thinks it might just be a Fergie ploy and if Jones makes a miraculous recovery this afternoon, I would not be greatly surprised. Jones is developing something of a reputation for being a “destoyer” (in the nicest sense) and I think he’ll be greatly missed this evening, if not available.
As for Real Madrid, well… earlier in the season, they looked all at sea. Results on the pitch weren’t great and events off the pitch were threatening to undermine their whole campaign but back to back wins over Barcelona has really galvanised them and we probably couldn’t be facing them at a worse time. Confidence is at a season high for them at the moment so a visit to Old Trafford is not likely to bother them half as much as would have done six months ago.
All in all, I can see a tremendous game here this evening. I thought the first game would be littered with goals but we dug in and prevented Real from creating any clear cut chances.
Tonight, the onus is probably on us to be a bit more adventurous so with two great counter-attacking teams on display, it could end up more like a basketball game.
I really can’t see this one being another low-scoring affair but the bookies have battered the prices on a high scoring game.
I’m just a little surprised at how much they are leaning towards a Real Madrid victory here and seemingly giving us little chance. Whilst their performances against Barca were very good, I wasn’t overly impressed with Real Madrid in the first game. I thought we played within ourselves, dealt with much of what they threw at us with ease and were a bit unlucky not to have come away with a win (the RVP miss will haunt us all year should we go out tonight).
I’m going to stick my neck out and go for the United win here. The price is too good to refuse.