Manchester United players and fans alike would be left wondering what went wrong on a night, when they had one foot firmly planted in the quarterfinal stage of the Champions League.
Here is a quick recap of the night's events from a United perspective.
One of the biggest arenas in the footballing world, one man's record breaking night and another's home coming, two rivals on the field and good friends off it, two of the world's best counter attacking teams one mission.
The Theatre of Dreams was simply buzzing with anticipation and excitement for the big game. The loudest cheers of the day were reserved for Ryan Giggs, who has been tearing teams apart since 1991 and making his 1000th professional appearance. Ronnie making a return to Old Trafford was also given a rousing reception and he acknowledged the adoration of the fans by thumping his chest.
The tried and tested partnership of Vidic and Ferdinand started, along with Rafael and Evra who have been in excellent form all this season, in defense as well as in front of goal.
The mid field line up consisted of players from three different eras the ageless Ryan Giggs, the pass master Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverly, billed the new Paul Scholes.
The front line was held up with Van Persie in the middle aided by Nani on the left, and the scorer from the first leg Danny Welbeck.
Sir Alex again threw a curve ball leaving out Wayne Rooney, United's 4th top goal scorer of all time on the bench. A surprise exclusion considering the understanding and on field chemistry he shares with Van Persie.
Sir Alex understood that United held the upper hand with the all important away goal. Rafael was handed the task of keeping Ronaldo in check, and with Giggs and Carrick in tow. They managed to accomplish this for the former Red had a quiet first half except for a free kick from near the edge of the penalty area that was blocked by Nani.
Danny Welbeck was giving the job of harassing Xabi Alonso and he stuck to his task admirably not offering the midfield maestro any room to maneuver. He was also electric in the attacking plays working brilliantly with Giggs and Cleverly in the buildup play.
The theme of the evening was clear for United, rock solid defense and lightning quick offence. It was evident that United were hoping for a quick break, since every time De Gea collected the ball Nani would race up field using his pace hoping to catch the Madrid defenders off guard.
United started the second half positively and all their hard work paid off, ironically with the ball deflecting of Welbeck onto Sergio Ramos who put the ball into his own net.
The game changer:
United were in cruise control going one goal up. The equation hadn't changed much for Madrid, who needed to win this tie. A lobbed pass, and Nani had his eye on the ball raised his boot to collect it, unfortunately he caught Arbeloa near the chest. As both players writhed on the ground, the referee egged Nani to get up waiting patiently before he flashed Nani his marching orders.
The crowd was outraged, the players flabbergasted and Sir Alex hopped from his seat to protest, however the damage had been done already with 40 minutes left to play.
Mourinho probably understood Sir Alex's condition whispered sympathetic words in his ears. The decision will be dissected from all possible angles by all experts, however it signaled the end of United's European run.
The crowd was egged on by Sir Alex and Giggs who asked them to be their 11th man, and they responded magnificently. Real Madrid continued to press the defense and a blistering strike from Modric leveled up the contest. However their fate was sealed after the second goal by Ronaldo, for United required two more goals to progress and this task was insurmountable for the 10-men United.
United never a team to roll over and give up, tried their hardest dominating possession in the last few minutes and were denied by a few excellent saves from the stand in keeper Diego Lopez.
Real Madrid progress 3-2 on aggregate, however this belies the true nature of the game at Old Trafford.
The manager's verdict:
Jose Mourinho has never been one to mince words, was his straight forward self again echoed the sentiments of the night when he said: "Independent of the decision, the best team lost. We didn't play well. We didn't deserve to win. But football is like this. I am not speaking about the decision because I am not sure of it."
He further praised United tactics on the night saying: "My feeling is that Manchester United were playing very well, were very compact and aggressive in a good way. They were very tactically well organised and the match was very difficult for us."
Sir Alex was too distraught to even attend the press conference as the questions were fielded by his assistant, Mike Phelan also felt that the decision was too harsh and cost United dearly. He said: "Referees are there to make decisions but there is also an element of doing the right thing. All the media and a television audience watching all over the world will have an opinion on the decision but it was a disappointing one and it spoiled the game."
The game all in all lived up to its billing as the game the world wanted to see with tactical brilliance, some extra ordinary resilience and determination shown by United players. As for the fans this would have been a game to remember had it not been for Nani's sending off.
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