What we learned as Real Madrid eliminated Manchester United

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What was a captivating game between two of the worlds biggest clubs became controversial the minute Nani’s boot met Álvaro Arbeloa’s chest. But before the foul, we had one of the more interesting matches of the Champions League season, one where Sir Alex Ferguson’s tactics had put Manchester United on the cusp of the quarterfinals.

And the decisions that enabled those tactics started with Manchester United’s starting XI:

  • Wayne Rooney misses out on the starting  XI – What was Alex Ferguson thinking, sitting one of his two cornerstone players? Thankfully, a few scribes caught up to him prematch and got his thoughts. He wanted Ryan Giggs on the right to help against Cristiano Ronaldo (where Rooney had failed in leg one), and he liked Danny Welbeck as his best defender against Xabi Alonso in the middle. Why Rooney didn’t get the start on the left of United’s 4-4-2, I’m not sure, but there was at least some method to the madness.
  • And the madness worked – Welbeck silenced Alonso, forcing Sergio Ramos and Sami Khedira to spend more time with the ball at their feet. Giggs was much better along the right than Rooney had been at the Bernabeu, perhaps forcing José Mourinho to flip Ronaldo to the right flank in the eighth minute. Before Nani’s sending off, Real Madrid scarcely threatened David de Gea.
  • Sergio Ramos held Real Madrid together – The 48th minute own goal was ironic, a ball sent through the six by Nani that went off Ramos’s right leg and in. Until that point of the match, Ramos had clearly been the match’s best player, not only performing admirably defensively against a United side that used Welbeck’s speed to threaten on the counter but also stepping into midfield to play the ball while Alonso was marked out of the game. Replace Ramos with a normal defender and Real Madrid may not have been within one when Nani’s seen off.
  • Did I mention Nani was sent off? – Of course I did. Here’s one view, Steve’s counter point, and some analysis from Graham Poll that highlights the fissures in the controversy.
  • United had a bad 10 minutes – Given how Ferguson set up his team, United could have held on for the last 32 minutes. But the red card was a controversial, contentious event. It’s not surprising United may have lost focus. Luka Modric scored about five minutes after play resumed. Cristiano Ronaldo scored two minutes later, after which United reasserted control. But by then, it was too late.
  • Diego López’s contributions will be forgotten – Even down a man, United had a number of chances to pull even. Yes, they would have needed another goal, but if it weren’t for Diego López, United may have been able to build that momentum. The January buy of the former Villarreal No. 1 paid off today.

What now for both of these teams?

It’s tough for Manchester United to move on, but they have nothing to be ashamed of. They got a tough Round of 16 draw, had to face one of the tournament’s best teams, yet were arguably the better side. José Mourinho admitted as much after the game.

For the second time in four years, United’s dealt a bitter knockout round exit, but coming off a disappointing 2011-12 tournament, the Red Devils affirmed their place as one of the world’s elites. The team can be proud.

And credit Real Madrid for getting through them, particularly having to win a second leg at Old Trafford. For Mourinho, it’s the second time in his career he’s done so, though this time he needed some help from one of his countrymen.

Unable to consistently generate chances against United, it’s difficult to see Real Madrid as being on Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund’s level. But between their talent and their coach, they have a chance at that decima. That’s all that matters.

VIDEO: Christian Pulisic scores Dortmund’s first goal of the season

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The kid just can’t help himself, can he?

Christian Pulisc, still just 18 years old, scored Borussia Dortmund’s opening goal of their Bundesliga campaign at Wolfsburg.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news ]

The U.S. national team star picked up the ball on the edge of the box and smashed home across goal, hitting the far post before the ball hit the back of the net.

Take a look at the video below to see the Pennsylvanian playmaker strutting his stuff for Dortmund.

Who needs Ousmane Dembele anyway?

Jose Mourinho: Man United “let the horses run freely”

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This season we will get used to seeing Jose Mourinho nodding his head in approval as it looks like he has a nasty smell under his nose.

[ VIDEO: United destroy Swansea

The Portuguese coach is feeling his Manchester United team, and rightly so, and images before the game show him pretending to smoke a cigar as he laughed and joked with Swansea boss Paul Clement.

Mourinho watched on as his side won 4-0 for the second-straight game to open the 2017-18 Premier League season, with a flurry of late goals in a three minute and 41 second spell doing the damage.

Speaking after the game Mourinho to BBC, the Red Devils boss is happy to let his side roam free after they dominated the game.

“During almost 90 minutes, I don’t say 90 because there was a moment when they had a chance and we lost a little bit the confidence,” Mourinho said. “They were waiting with class, calm and consistency for the moment to kill the game. Swansea played with five in the back and they had a moment when they felt they had to change and when they did we had more space and killed the game.

“I felt in control, if you had a chance to look at me and my body language I think you could see that. Football is football and when you make a mistake you can concede so I never felt totally relaxed. I had players on the bench who could help me. Happiness in our play. It happened to me so much with my teams, you winning 1-0 and you can can concede. There was no need to close the door, just let the horses run freely.”

One of those horses who galloped gallantly was Paul Pogba who dinked home a wonderful goal late on to make it 3-0 and he put in a dominant display with Romelu Lukaku (four goals in three official games for United) and Anthony Martial also scoring and Marcus Rashford once again impressing.

“We had a very good result. 4-0 again. We carry on this road. We want this and we have to carry on like this,” Pogba told Sky Sports. “We are more confident and we know each other more. First year you have the first year for the manager, you have to train the team, it is not easy but we still won trophies. This season we are more confident and we know the team very well. Everyone knows each other and we work for each other and that is easier for us.”

Henrik Mkhitaryan, who was named the man of the match with two assists late on, believes United are now getting some more luck after they drew plenty of games they should have won last season.

“The team spirit, that’s what we need. Of course we had it last year but now we have a little bit of luck where we are scoring the chances we are creating. We started very well and most important we keep doing the same,” Mkhitaryan added.

VIDEO: Man United score three in less than four minutes

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It took 3 minutes and 41 seconds for Manchester United to totally destroy Swansea City.

Leading 1-0 at Swansea as they entered the final 10 minutes, Jose Mourinho’s side were always in control.

Then they exploded into life.

[ RECAP – United batter Swansea 4-0

Henrikh Mkhitaryan set up Romelu Lukaku (he has three goals in his first two Premier League games for United) and Paul Pogba in a few moments, watch their goals in the video above, then Anthony Martial finished things off with a fine goal.

Click play on the video below to see Martial score for the second-straight game off the bench.

Watch Live: Five Premier League games at 10am ET

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Five Premier League games are coming your way at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and you can watch them all live online.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Liverpool welcome Crystal Palace to Anfield, Southampton and West Ham clash at St Mary’s, new boys Brighton travel to Leicester, while Bournemouth host Watford and West Brom head to Burnley.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

You can also access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ]

The schedule for all five games at 10 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


10 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. West Brom – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Bounemouth vs. Watford – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Brighton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Southampton vs. West Ham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]