Sir Alex Ferguson vs Jose Mourinho. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Robin Van Persie. Wayne Rooney vs Mesut Ozil. Xabi Alonso vs Michael Carrick. Real Madrid vs Manchester United. The match the world is waiting for.
It is strange that two of the greatest European giants have met just 4 times so far in the Champions League. And the fact that out thrice the winner of this tie has gone on to win the Cup with big ears makes it even more mouth-watering. Both teams have so far kept their plans and starting line-up under wraps as expected. But let’s look at the key tactical points, which will determine how this epic battle is going to play out.
Manchester United’s expected starting line-up
Surprisingly the former Blackburn player might play the most key role in determining which way this match goes. Performed his role to perfection when asked to man mark Gareth Bale and Maroune Fellaini, he’s most likely will be asked to repeat that. But this time the man facing him will be Cristiano Ronaldo, and certainly Jones will have to play out of his skin to keep him quiet.
Ronaldo might be Real’s main attacking weapon, but he might turn out to be their downfall also. Rafael and Antonio Valencia’s pace might hurt Real on the counter. Although Rafael may not venture forward a lot, Phil Jones’s inclusion may allow him a little more freedom on the counter.
The German number 10 may play second fiddle to Ronaldo, but if the Portuguese hitman can destroy and decimate defences, then the German can surgically dissect them. His movement will be important to Real and to track his movement will be even more important for United. He has great vision, technique and can take on players at will but his movement off the ball is underrated. Read here to see how his movement alone created goals for Germany against Netherlands in Euro 2012. Michael Carrick will be asked to track the German but it may leave the United defence exposed.
Manchester United are expected to sit back and try get the away goal on the counter. This method is all the more advantageous to United since Real this season have struggled to break down tight and packed defences. They themselves like to play on the counter and in Ronaldo (as Rooney will tell you) they certainly have the most devastating player in the world on the counter. It has to be seen whether Ferguson opts for a ultra-defensive approach or allows a little bit of freedom to his players.
Xabi Alonso’s fitness
The bearded Basque is a doubt for this game with a groin injury. He certainly is the engine for this Real team. Without him Real’s transitions from defence to attack won’t be the same. His long balls are key to bring Ronaldo and Di Maria into the game. If he is fit, another question will be who from United’s side will mark him. If Rooney plays behind Van Persie, he’ll be the one expected to pick up Alonso. But Rooney’s man marking has let United down in big games. He was the one who was expected to mark Sergio Busquets against Barcelona in the Champions League final but he failed to do so. It’ll be on Ferguson’s mind when picks his team.
Whatever happens, it will be surely be a spectacle. Hang on to your hats, fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride!