Those fans that were expecting a blockbuster first-leg match between these two football behemoths, anyone banking on an all-out brawl, or predicting a big score-line, was left a tad disappointed.
The game ended in a 1-1 stalemate, with a towering Cristiano Ronaldo header cancelling out Danny Welbeck’s headed effort.
Although David De Gea had to work over-time to keep the game level, this really was a bit of a tight affair.
And rightfully so too, as a more open game would have left either team terribly exposed to the other’s potent attacking threat and one would be left with nothing to play for in the return leg.
Such is the beauty of a two-legged tie, a 1-1 stalemate is the perfect set-up for a potentially explosive return leg at the Old Trafford Stadium.
Why do I say this? Simple. Both teams have all the reasons to believe that they can progress at the other’s expense, and as such I expect both to have a REAL go at it.
Of course, United boast a slight advantage of being the home side, though it might not count for much.
So arguably two of the best counter-attacking teams on the planet, with some of the best wingers in Europe, two talismanic figures in Robin van Persie and Cristiano Ronaldo, throw in the Jose Mourinho v Sir Alex Ferguson factor, and what do you get? Exactly. Pure football bliss. Proper edge-of-your-seat stuff.
This will necessitate a change of tact, especially in the United camp, and Sir Alex is expected to start with two wingers this time – probably Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young (although the latter is suffering from a loss of form).
Nani’s return to action with a goal against Reading in the FA Cup will pose a bit of a selection headache for Sir Alex, but one I’m sure he will like.
The other change could be Tom Cleverly or Anderson in the place of Phil Jones, who I believe played his role during the first leg in ensuring that there was limited space for Mesut Ozil in particular to operate with in the middle of the park.
Personally, I would go for Anderson because, while he might lack the technique and finesse to score a goal, he is a more complete box-to-box midfielder and he would compliment Michael Carrick well in midfield.
If this is the case then expect Wayne Rooney to start just ahead of the two, and Robin van Persie rounding off a more than formidable attack for the home side.
Should a favourable result be secured early enough for United, expect to see the experience of Ryan Giggs on the wings and the more solid Jones acting as reinforcement in the middle.
It might be a simple case of 'as-you-were' for Real Madrid, although Pepe’s comeback could mean a right-back berth for the more defensively astute Sergio Ramos in place of Arbeloa to handle the potential threat of Ashley Young.
There may also be shouts for Kaka to start in place of Angel Di Maria out on the right; they would not be misplaced as he probably is more aware of his defensive duties and thus is more capable of tracking back and generally keeping tabs on the marauding Patrice Evra.
Should things go pear-shaped for Mourinho’s men, expect to see Di Maria to come on and Luka Modric on for either Sami Khedira or Xabi Alonso.
A more positive result however would probably see Michael Essien and teenage sensation Raphael Varane come on instead.
The only factor potentially standing in the way of a truly great tie is Real Madrid’s indiscipline, with a suspicious eye cast towards Ramos and Pepe in particular.
All in all, this is the tie of the round for football purists worldwide. The stage is set, the lines have been drawn, and it will soon be time to do battle. May the best team win!
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