There’s no doubt that Real Madrid bring an array of attacking talent to Old Trafford. Already fans of our noisy neighbours are relishing a game in which they can get some kind of schaden-freude from witnessing United’s demise in Europe and they’ll be trooping around tomorrow down their locals in Stockport and Ashton in their Real Madrid shirts. So why does it niggle in the back of my mind that we’ve been threatening to annihilate some team this year.
Why do we think about past failures at home in Europe and not of those teams who came to Old Trafford with frightening reputations in the past like Inter Milan in 99 and Barcelona in 2008 ( and in that 1-0 victory there was no Rooney or Vidic) . I remember in 2007 that game in Rome when we lost 2-1 and we were worried about how the second leg would pan out – only to watch United take Roma apart that night with the type of hiding they’ll never forget.
I’m not suggesting that United will win 7-1 against Real Madrid, but I’m suggesting that United played well in Madrid and can play better , as for Madrid they will not only have to contend with United’s battling team spirit and improved organisation but also a dodgy Old Trafford pitch which might slow Angel Di Maria, Ronaldo and Ozil down enough to say nothing of a referee who is a lot less biased than the one at the Bernebeu. They have to come chasing the game, and yes they like to hit on the break – but if United score first and early I can see a route in the offing, yes Madrid will still feel in it at 1-0 down , but the doubts will start to creep in and at 2-0 the panic will eat them up – a disastrous season beckons for them.
Since Christmas I’ve looked at United and thought – someone is going to get an almighty thumping off them soon. The spirit in United’s squad is high – with or without Phil Jones I think United will contain Ronaldo – we’ve seen him have off games. I think Rooney will have a blinder , Van Persie’s been saving his goals up for this one and I have visions of Hernandez coming on to snatch the 3rd or 4th.
And what if we concede the first goal , at a packed Old Trafford with a crowd in full voice and echoes of Turin in 99 when we blitzed a truly world class Juventus side after going 2 goals down . Real Madrid have absorbed pressure against Barcelona but have they ever had to keep up that relentless premier league pace for 90 minutes and if United up the tempo, will they be able to live with it.
We can examine this one all we like , but at this stage in big games it’s all about heart as well as skill and ability and this United squad is not lacking in either- can we say the same of a Real Madrid side who finished behind Dortmund in the qualifiers in the so-called group of death and are a mile behind Barcelona in the league- are they really all that. I’m sticking my neck out on this one – and I’m going for 4-1 to United. We are just too good