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Manchester United Vs. Real Madrid, UEFA Champions League 2013: Press Review

The press, players, and our manager had plenty to say about the match.

Jasper Juinen

The Spanish & English Press

As and Marca preferred to focus on Madrid’s comeback and there is some considerable praise for Luka Modric this morning in all newspapers – a player recently voted by Marca readers as the most disappointing of La Liga’s signings this year. True to Spanish-journalism-form however, he is now miraculously elevated to the level of team saviour!

The club website also has an interesting review of the world press reaction which is centred around the positive elements of Madrid's game - Mourinho's inspired substitutions after finding himself with a man-advantage on the pitch, Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford, and the come-back after conceding an unlucky own-goal.

In England, the press reaction is far more interesting and far more varied. One suspects that the fans of teams that are regularly thrashed by Manchester United in their domestic league have been writing up the match reports, though former United player Roy Keane also made headlines by claiming the red card was "harsh" but not unreasonable in post-match coverage.

The Daily Mail for example, writing up Nani's sending off, notes a little tartly that

At the moment of his exit, United's priority was to hold on to a 1-0 lead. With Nani or without, the objective was to regroup and resist. That is not to say Nani's dismissal was unimportant, or that it did not have significant impact on the game. Just that it did not make Real Madrid's victory inevitable...

For all the sense of injustice, the sad fact is that no United player succeeded in putting the ball in the net last night. United's lead, erased so efficiently, had come through a defensive error when the otherwise outstanding Ramos deflected Nani's cross into his own net after a disconcerting touch by Danny Welbeck.

Sid Lowe, the Englishman in Spain writing for The Guardian, writes up the match as the reinvention of Real Madrid’s season. He sees the team garnering some considerable momentum from this series of three wins in three games against Barcelona and Manchester United. As a result, Madrid are in the League cup final and have made the quarter-final of the Champions League with everything to play for in both cup competitions.

And finally, on a humorous note, it transpires that the match gave one police chief the opportunity to render a public lesson on correct use of the emergency services after a distraught teenager, watching Nani being sent off, dialed up 999 to report a "crime" taking place on the pitch. The young man has since apologized. The police-chief has asked the public to please take greater care to only dial the emergency lines when an actual emergency is taking place. "I would ask people to think."

This is fine advice, of course, and well taken!

The Players

Man of the match, Diego Lopez, was thrilled with the result and looking to the future.

This is a week to remember and never forget. We picked up three important wins against two massive teams at a crucual moment in the season. We've taken a really big step but there's still more to give.

Xabi Alonso (who had just registered his first win at Old Trafford):

We knew it was a crucial match for us, where everything was on the line, and it was great.

Jose Mourinho & Cristiano Ronaldo

As he stalked down the tunnel, having left the pitch before the game ended as he always does, Mourinho was accosted by a television reporter. He looked frazzled. He was asked about his opinion on the game and what he thought about the red card.

Mourinho replied he hadn’t seen the replay, so had no idea if it was a correct decision:

But regardless of the decision. The better team did not win. But that’s football.

This theme continued well into his press conference a few minutes later (a press conference missing from the Real Madrid website, as it happens). A lot of coverage of the post-match has focused on Mourinho’s words. He hoped his players would play better. United were better. He repeated again, the line Madrid fans have heard many times: "But that’s football."

He also, rather coldly, commented on a journalist’s question about the exclusion of Wayne Rooney from the United line-up by Sir Alex Ferguson.

You are nobody, I am nobody, to question Sir Alex. If he makes a decision, it is the correct one. He is the boss. He is a legend. And he makes a decision you respect it.

He also took time to comment on one of his players’ return to Old Trafford.

Cristiano Ronaldo, winner of the treble, winner of the Golden Boot, holder of the league record for goals scored in a season and the first United player since George Best to receive the balon d’or makes no secret of his affection for the club or the fans of United.

And judging from the signs held up by fans around the stadium reading "Welcome back Ronnie" and pleas to "Come Home Ronnie" that affection is more than reciprocated. After being introduced, last of all the players, by the Old Trafford announcer as "The Magnificent Number Seven, Cristiano Ronaldo!" the player was greeted with kind applause and acknowledged the crowd by touching his heart. And when the player scored, he not only refused to celebrate, he looked genuinely unhappy.

Mourinho noted in his post-match press conference that returns to old stadiums are difficult.

I return to Porto, it is not easy. I return to Stamford Bridge, it is not easy. One day I will return to San Siro, and it will be hard. One day I will return to Bernabeu, and it will be hard. For Ronaldo to come back to this stadium is hard.

On that note, Cristiano Ronaldo, in his post-match interview, admitted to "shyness" on his return and said that for the first time in his career, the atmosphere affected him and made it harder for him to play. He also seemed to be apologizing to both sets of fans: to Madrid fans for not playing as well as he might have over two legs and to Manchester United fans for doing the thing that all great players can manage to do whether they play "well" or not – make their mark on a game. In Ronaldo’s case: he scored twice, once in each leg.

Today he posted a message on his Twitter directed again at both sets of fan but asking for forgiveness and understanding from those at United: "Thank you for a massive and unbelievable reception. I'm happy to win but also sad for Manchester United."

Tactical Reviews & Further Reading

On Managing Madrid: Kousha Azimi's Tactical Review is highly recommended.

Michael Cox, of Zonal Marking, also reviewed the match for the tactically inclined.

Barnay Ronay of The Guardian has been especially irrepressible. He has written one piece on Mourinho's "audition" at Old Trafford (the title of the piece, likely not written by him, seems almost mischievous), and written up Cristiano Ronaldo's home-coming in another column and contrasted it with the exclusion of Wayne Rooney (once considered the more talented player) from the starting line-up in the same game. Fans of either player or either team will find this comparison piece to be interesting.

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