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.
Antonio Conte feels he has a bit of an embarrassment of riches in his midfield, not that it’s a problem outside of deciding who hits the pitch.
The Chelsea boss does not plan on selling Nemanja Matic despite the acquisition of N'Golo Kante — in fact Conte thinks Matic can be one of the best in the world.
[ MORE: New club for Pato ]
That’s not surprising, given that Matic was one of the keys to Chelsea’s 2014-15 PL title run.
Conte says he has some tricky selections to make in the coming days, as Chelsea prepares to open its Premier League season Aug. 15 at West Ham United.
“Kante is a good player and he was a target of our market. I am pleased the club took this player, it’s fantastic,” said the 46-year-old. “The players in a great team like Chelsea must know there are many players that can play. It’s important for me to have a good choice to try the best solution game by game. It’s important for me to see always the right attitude and behaviour from the players.
“When I have players like N’Golo, Nemanja, Cesc, Oscar and Chalobah, and Mikel who is in the Olympics, it is not easy to choose. I want to have this problem.”
For a manager who loves to keep it tight in the midfield, it would be far from shocking to see Matic and Kante behind two attacking mids (Willian and Hazard?) or even three.
Regardless, Chelsea’s match day tactics will be one of the more fascinating subplots of 2016, especially when Conte matches up against the Blues’ former boss Jose Mourinho (Oct. 22 at Stamford Bridge and April 15 at Old Trafford).
MADRID (AP) Brazilian club Corinthians says it has agreed to transfer striker Alexandre Pato to Villarreal in Spain.
Corinthians says on its club website that it has “agreed to the final administrative details of the negotiation” for Pato’s move to Villarreal.
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It adds that both clubs have agreed to not release the financial details of the transfer.
The 26-year-old Pato played for AC Milan from 2007 to 2013, before returning to his native Brazil with Corinthians. He played the second half of last season on loan at Chelsea in the English Premier League.
When news of Sigi Schmid’s departure from Seattle broke, there were plenty of folks wondering who could be the second coach in the Sounders’ MLS history.
One of those doing so publicly was ESPN writer Marc Connolly, who asked whether former Wigan and Everton boss Roberto Martinez could be interested in the gig.
[ MORE: Sounders, Schmid part ways ]
Fellow media member Taylor Twellman is obviously well-connected, and his reply raised some eyebrows, especially given the news that technical director Carlos Bocanegra is closing in on selecting the first manager in Atlanta United history.
Ryan is the quarterback of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, for those unaware. Martinez and Twellman worked together for ESPN this summer.
Is Martinez to MLS really a thing? He’s also been linked to the vacant Hull City job, and would be one of the highest profile coaches to make the switch in the history of the league.
Four Premier League teams were in action on Tuesday, with two picking up wins and not a clean sheet in the joint.
[ MORE: Sounders, Schmid part ways ]
MK Dons 1-3 Everton
Ronald Koeman‘s men got goals from Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley and Muhamed Besic, but wasn’t entirely pleased with every facet of their game.
“The team, the players, we need to press better. The pitch in some stages of the game was too long. If you press up front, it means the midfielders they need to push up as well and it’s the same for the defenders.”
Bolton 1-2 Burnley
Andre Gray will likely be a well-known Premier League entity when his career is done, and the way he’s playing it could be by the time this season is complete. The Burnley man scored for the fifth time in four preseason games, and Josh Ginnelly also scored for the Clarets.
Barnsley 2-2 Hull City
Adama Diomande and Jarrod Bowen scored as the Tigers stayed unbeaten in preseason play.
Spurs 1-2 Juventus — RECAP