For anyone that was lucky enough to see the Champions League match between Manchester United and Real Madrid, there may never be another occasion where the ball is launched at the goal as much as it was during this particular span of 90 minutes. Madrid spent the entirety of the game seemingly intent on testing Davi De Gea and the United defense while United managed to create shots out of very little actual attacking impetus. All of this resulted in an amazing match that saw a set-up being created for a titanic match when the two teams go to Old Trafford.
The only player wearing a Manchester United kit that will believe his performance was worthy of such an important game should be De Gea. The young shot-stopper was called upon constantly throughout the game and he is the main reason United still have a chance of getting through to the next round. Fabio Coentrao could have easily made the game 1-0 in favor of Madrid extremely early in the game if De Gea had not pulled off a finger-tip save and pushed the ball onto the post. Although his proficiency at crosses is still in question, the way that he caught extremely hard shots instead of having to punch or parry them away proves that his pure shot-stopping ability may be top-5 in the world (and he’s only 19).
United will need to place more emphasis on their defense and in the center of midfield once the tie at Old Trafford takes place. Although many were pleased that Sir Alex had chosen such an attacking line-up for the trip to Spain, United seemed constantly outnumbered in the midfield and they were only allowed a few actual sequences where they were able to build into the attack. In fact, most of United’s actual chances were from an occasional defensive lapse or a quick counter attack.
Although United will hope to finish off the tie at home, they should realize that if Angel Di Maria stays on the post during corner kicks, they would not have scored. Considering how many attack-minded players they had on the field, this is somewhat discouraging. Although the score ended in a draw, Madrid will certainly feel that they have the upper hand going forward. Considering that a large contingent of the team has either played at Old Trafford or in other English football stadiums before, home-field advantage may not be enough for Rooney and co. to progress this season.
Written by: Andrew McCole, soccerprose.com
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