Advantage Madrid as confident Reds head to Spain



“It’s ridiculous to think,” said Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson ahead of United’s 2-0 victory over the Toffees on Sunday. “That we play on the Sunday and Real Madrid play on the Saturday with that extra day’s rest.”

Thus grew a thousand headlines – and whether Ferguson’s “anger” at the Premier League’s Faustian pact with Sky television is genuine or merely another tabloid circus, there is little doubt United’s manager has a point. While Real rolled over mid-table Sevilla far shy of breaking sweat on Saturday, Ferguson’s side faced a relentlessly physical encounter with with David Moyes ever-rugged Everton at Old Trafford 24 hours later.

It is not the first occasion on which Ferguson’s has openly criticised match scheduling ahead of a key European tie – and unlikely the last. After all, matches have long been scheduled not when they are most appropriate for supporters, nor indeed managers, but peak viewing times.

In the age of multi-billion pound contracts this devil has strong pull.

“We are not giving our teams a chance to be successful in Europe, but there’s nothing you can do about it,” continued Sir Alex.

“It’s nothing to do with the FA, it’s the Premier League. They agreed a contract with TV and they’re in control. You can’t reject it. What can you do? Not turn up? I’d love to do that!

“I’ve complained about and it and you’ve heard my complaints. Do you think they listen? Other countries do make sacrifices for their top teams in Europe.”

In lieu of the extra rest United fly out to Madrid on Tuesday with Ferguson having taken the bold move to deploy a strong side against Everton on Sunday. While many expected the Scot to risk a weaker side against Moyes’ outfit, Sir Alex takes significant credit in changing his mind after Manchester City’s collapse at Southampton on Saturday evening.

Ferguson’s infallible logic, shared by many supporters, was that victory over Everton would be a significant step towards English title number 20.

His players responded in kind, with right-back Rafael da Silva superb in shackling Steven Pienaar, and Phil Jones inseparable from United’s erstwhile tormentor Marouane Fellaini. Up front Wayne Rooney roamed with delicious menace, and Robin van Persie pulled Everton’s defence apart with his now customary movement.

There was none of the nervousness of last April, when United lost two goals against Everton in the final seven minutes to blow victory, and with it the league title.

Instead, the reward for Ferguson’s audacity is a healthy lead in the Premier League and an opportunity to rest players later in the season should United remain in contention on three fronts.

“I was going to make about seven changes but when I got the result, I felt this was a more important game for us because it could give us a comfortable lead,” Ferguson told Sky Sports.

“We can make changes later on in the season. It is realistic; we knew that if we got a good result today then we’d be in a positive position. We have got to win our games anyway, so it didn’t matter what happened to City on Saturday. That’s the way we should look at it and I’ve been saying that for week. If we concentrate on our own game then we’ll be okay.”

Meanwhile, Madrid hammered Sevilla 4-1 at the Bernabéu on Saturday, with former Red Cristiano Ronaldo claiming yet another Real hat-trick – his 36th, 37th, and 38th goals of storming campaign.

Ronaldo’s second, a long-range left-footed drive after a dribble that took out three Sevilla defenders, will remind United’s supporters, if any is required, of just how much damage the Portuguese forward can inflict. Ferguson may well deploy Jones to nullify Ronaldo’s threat; in this mood there is little anybody can do.

In keeping with Ferguson, Real manager José Mourinho picked a strong side to face Unai Emery’s struggling outfit. Ronaldo started the fixture alongside Gonzalo Higuian, Karim Benzema and Káká in a multi-talented attacking unit.

Not that Mourinho has a league title to concern him, with Real now 16 points behind Barcelona in La Liga. Defeat to Granada last weekend, in which Ronaldo scored the first own goal of his career, sealed Madrid’s fate if any doubt remained in an increasingly one-sided Spanish title race.

Indeed, it is Europe that offers the Portuguese coach his best chance of salvation this season, with Real facing Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey semi-final second leg later this month having drawn the opening game 1-1 at Bernabéu.

Little wonder Mournho is relishing the United tie, with the 50-year-old seeking to eclipse his old friend Ferguson in claiming a third Champions League crown.

“It is the match the world is waiting for,” Mourinho told MUTV with the coach’s customary flamboyance.

“People think we are under pressure because a big team will be out. But it is the kind of match we want and the people are not waiting for any other game. I hope we give them what they want.”

The two managers met at Old Trafford after the Reds completed victory over Everton, with Mourinho in Manchester to scout United ahead of next week’s Champions League tie.

“I feel privileged about [the meeting] because he is such an important person in the world of football and, more importantly, he is good person.

“I have always had a fantastic relationship with him and I am proud of it. We have had so many matches between us which started with Porto. We had some with Chelsea, Inter and now Real. Of course, I want to win and he wants to win, but I believe the loser will have a little bit of space to feel a little bit happy because of the friendship.”

The advantage lies with Real, of course, and not just because of the extra rest. Los Merengues haven’t lost at home in more than 30 matches. It is a statistic that places United’s task in context, 24 hours additional rest or otherwise.

Ferguson may regret deploying so many of his stars against Everton if a  jaded team suffers defeat at Bernabéu, but with the title now within reach few supporters will concur.

“When you shake hands with the devil you have to pay the price,” Ferguson once said of English football’s deal with Sky.

But it is the hell of City’s title triumph that fans, and Ferguson it seems, recalled with sharp focus on Sunday.

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Comments

  1. Violent Banana says:

    Surely it would have been as (if not more) important to win today had City beaten Southampton, yet Fergie said he would have rested more players? That logic makes no sense to me.

  2. Commenter said:
    Surely it would have been as (if not more) important to win today had City beaten Southampton, yet Fergie said he would have rested more players? That logic makes no sense to me.

    The logic is (I think)…, 12 points is a killer killer blow. The morale of City players will no doubt be affected, and to be frank I would not be surprised to see them drop more points now….they know its a super tough ask
    At 9 points they know they had an outside chance.
    So what Fergie is thinking, and I agree, is that 12 points is a world of difference vs 9 points. Whereas 6 points is also not much worse than 9 points…
    As I said elsewhere, its similar to the getting the 3rd goal mentality…

  3. 12 points is a massive, psychological gap to bridge. Fergie knows now we can afford to lose ALL our three remaining big games against City (H), Arsenal (W) and Chelsea and still end up winning the title if we win the remaining fixtures.

    City on the other hand has to more of less win all their games now and hope for another monumental collapse on our part.

  4. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadffs says:

    will we finally see degea rafa rio vidic evra nani carrick cleverley kagawa rooney van persie

    no

    one or both of valencia and welbeck will be on the wings

    as long as its not the ultimate humiliation for wayne of him being on the wing with a job of stopping ron

  5. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadffs says:

    i bet taggart fucking misses being able to bring in park for this game

    as he sits on qprs bench having proven himself not good enough for the leagues worst side

  6. uncleknobheadffs said:
    will we finally see degea rafa rio vidic evra nani carrick cleverley kagawa rooney van persie

    no

    one or both of valencia and welbeck will be on the wings

    as long as its not the ultimate humiliation for wayne of him being on the wing with a job of stopping ron

    Think Val will start as he tracks back well…need help to subdue Ronaldo

    Unfortunately by the same logic Wellbeck might start as well, in case Ronaldo switches flanks.,,

  7. RedDevilInAz says:

    For whatever its worth Marca; the mouth piece for Real Madrid, has this line up
    ————-López
    -Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Coentrao
    ———Alonso, Khedira
    —-Di María, Özil, Ronaldo
    ————Benzema

    “If you don’t put them in, you can’t know what you’ve got.” – Sir Matt Busby

  8. RedDevilInAz said:
    For whatever its worth Marca; the mouth piece for Real Madrid, has this line up

    ————-López
    -Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Coentrao
    ———Alonso, Khedira
    —-Di María, Özil, Ronaldo
    ————Benzema

    Yeah that’s almost certainly the Real team, injuries permitting. Mourinho’s preferred 11 is very clear.

  9. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    Commenter said:
    12 points is a massive, psychological gap to bridge. Fergie knows now we can afford to lose ALL our three remaining big games against City (H), Arsenal (W) and Chelsea and still end up winning the title if we win the remaining fixtures.

    City on the other hand has to more of less win all their games now and hope for another monumental collapse on our part.

    Wrong thread mate

  10. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    He will start with scholes and carrick

  11. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadffs says:

    oh ffs i forgot about scholes

    this could be a game for experience…

  12. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    ..exactly..he hasn’t played this week and gigs did

  13. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    De gea

    Rachael. Rio. Vidic. Evra

    Scholes. Carsick. Cleverly

    Valencia van persie. Rooney

  14. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    Ffs…predictive spelling

  15. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadffs says:

    but andershite hasnt either

  16. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadffs says:

    and what about kagashite

  17. uncleknobheadffs said:
    and what about kagashite

    Did you nick that name from Denton?

  18. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadffs says:

    tbf kagashite is better than kagawabunga

  19. uncleknobheadffs said:
    and what about kagashite

    does everyone have to be a”…shite” or a “…cunt” – our players do have names which no other ranter has trouble with spelling or pronouncing without the use of expletives

  20. try and play defensively and i really think we will be ripped to pieces
    have to go out and attack and press them as defensively they also have shortcomings
    it will be an interesting evening for sure

  21. Denton Davey says:

    Anantax @ 01:34: “The morale of City players will no doubt be affected, and to be frank I would not be surprised to see them drop more points now….they know its a super tough ask”

    Moreover, they now face a challenge for second from CSKALondon; the RentBoyz visit WasteLands on the weekend for a real six-pointer. Let’s hope for casualties on both sides.

    By the way, “kagawashite” is mere codswallop compared to “KagawaBunga”.

  22. captainhormone said:
    De gea

    Rachael. Rio. Vidic. Evra

    Scholes. Carsick. Cleverly

    Valencia van persie. Rooney

    Yeah, that looks like the kind of thing Fergie would do for this game. You couldn’t rule out anything though, unexpected use of Kagawa … or Young!

    • Scholes simply won’t be able to cope with the pace. In which case, it has to be Evans over Rio.

      Can see Scholes on the bench for sure.

      Wouldn’t rule out Ando playing. It’s about time he had one of those performances when we all go “yep, he’s definitely showing his potential” before he gets injured and goes crap again.

  23. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadffs says:

    oh ffs i forgot about young an all

    weve got too many fucking players

    crap ones at that

  24. The key is for Rooney, or whoever it is that we have playing in the 10/advanced midfield role, to do a job on Alonson. If you shut down Alonso, Real struggle to get things going. Ozil doesn’t contribute much defensively from what I’ve seen of him, so Carrick probably won’t get the same treatment.

  25. bman said:
    The key is for Rooney, or whoever it is that we have playing in the 10/advanced midfield role, to do a job on Alonson. If you shut down Alonso, Real struggle to get things going. Ozil doesn’t contribute much defensively from what I’ve seen of him, so Carrick probably won’t get the same treatment.

    Exactly. Madrid’s silver bullet is the diagonal ball from Alonso, in his own half, that finds Ronaldo on the left, running at the exposed full-back. Shutting Alonso out is as important, if not more so, than man-marking Ron. Stopping the ball ever getting to him is easier than doubling up on him. Teams in La Liga are starting to figure that out, as they’re also starting to figure out the formula to beat Madrid, which is why they’re so far behind in the league:

    Concede possession, restrict the space, defend well, and hit on the counter. The obvjective being, of course, to deny Madrid the ability to counter-attack you, where they can be truly devastating. Look how many goals they (i.e. Ronaldo) score immediately after the other team wins a corner. This realisation among other teams and managers in Spain is the reason they’ve been suffering those 1-0 losses in the league, teams defend well and then, with a bit of luck, nick a goal.

    Dortmund used that specific “shut down Alonso rather than doubling up on Ronaldo” tactic in both group games. They drew the away match 2-2 (Ozil scored in the 90th minute) and won 3-2 at home. Of those 4 goals over two fixtures Ronaldo only scored once. Coincidence?

  26. Our last 20 games in Spain: 2W 8D 10L.

    Jones, Evans, Young and Scholes all training today.

  27. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    han said:
    does everyone have to be a”…shite” or a “…cunt” – our players do have names which no other ranter has trouble with spelling or pronouncing without the use of expletives

    Possibly the most homosexual thing ive read on rant in a while Han.

  28. Scholes hasn’t travelled.

    Squad:
    DDG, Lind
    Butt, Evans, Evra, Rio, Jones, Raf, Smalling, Vidic
    Anderson, Cleverley, Carrick
    Giggs, Nani, Valencia, Young, Kagawa, Welbeck
    Hernandez, Rooney, RVP

  29. My bold prediction: RVp to score….

  30. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadffs says:

    two keepers and three centre mids

    what a fucking state

    • Mongoletsi says:

      Huh?

      You want 3 keepers? 4 keepers? Jones and Giggs (when he’s arsed, which he is atm) can go in CM.

      Or is that the point? That we only have three true CM to choose from?

  31. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    “does everyone have to be a”…shite” or a “…cunt” – our players do have names which no other ranter has trouble with spelling or pronouncing without the use of expletives”

    captainhormone said:
    Possibly the most homosexual thing ive read on rant in a while Han.

    Hang on, I’ll take my tongue out of yours and knobby’s arses long enough to laugh!

    “Fuck that… there’s something about him, gets on my wick… weasly little cunt, needs a good slap”

  32. Hopefully Young was in training just as a Ronaldo stand-in… We could see:

    DDG
    Raf – Rio – Evans – Evra
    Jones – Carrick
    Valencia – Cleverley – Rooney
    RVP

    With Jones doing the job on Ronaldo that he did on Bale recently, and Cleverley in there too to help man stations in midfield if Jones wanders off to keep an eye on Ronaldo. I really see Ferg going for Tony V because he’s good defensively but also has good pace for a counterattacking threat, though I wouldn’t rule out Welbeck on the right wing for the same reasons. And that leaves Rooney on the left, cutting in. The key is stopping not just Ronaldo but Alonso too. We’ll be counting on Roo and RVP for a bit of magic.

  33. Rooney will definitely play in the middle of the 3 to drop onto Alonso, so if Cleverley plays higher up it’ll be out wide. Kagawa and Welbeck were rested for this game so I’d be surprised if at least one of them didn’t start. The team seems obvious, aside from Carrick’s partner, and the two wingers. Certainly feels like Jones has been prepared for this game. Would be foolish to leave big gaps in the middle for Ozil though. Carrick can’t cover him and Khedira.

    Young could easily start for his pace on the counter and defensive ability. Welbeck is better at pressing high up and forcing mistakes, but Young is better when we are sitting back and conceding possession. Same with Valencia and Kagawa. Depends how Fergie wants to play the game. If Jones starts at CM we will have a problem keeping the ball, so could counter that by playing midfielders rather than wingers (so Kagawa/Cleverley) out wide. Team would be much more balanced if we started a CM at CM.

  34. I just had this nightmarish premonition that Fergie isn’t going to start Rooney.

  35. I’d be surprised if Kagawa starts, there hasn’t been much of a pattern of Fergie deploying him in big games. He seems like a CL-type player though. If he starts I think it will be on the left, Real pose less threat on their right wing so we might get away with a less defensive-minded player out there. It’s tricky shit between Ozil and Benzema that has me most worried, Carrick’s not the most mobile and whoever partners him is likely to be distracted by Ronaldo.

  36. Pikey McScum said:
    “does everyone have to be a”…shite” or a “…cunt” – our players do have names which no other ranter has trouble with spelling or pronouncing without the use of expletives”

    Hang on, I’ll take my tongue out of yours and knobby’s arses long enough to laugh!

    please sir, sir, sir…pick me, me , me….
    ffs lackies limited are looking for new recruits pikey
    take it out of their arses and suck them off why don’t you

  37. I think it will finish 2-2, which I would happily take right now.

  38. Tbh I would happily take a 2-1 loss right now..,,away goals will be important…or ANY other score that leaves us with a good chance on the return leg.

    But praying for a 1-1

  39. Commenter said:
    Scholes simply won’t be able to cope with the pace. In which case, it has to be Evans over Rio.

    Can see Scholes on the bench for sure.

    Wouldn’t rule out Ando playing. It’s about time he had one of those performances when we all go “yep, he’s definitely showing his potential” before he gets injured and goes crap again.

    scholes is out – knee injury according to bbc website

  40. we will get an arse tonking i’m afraid to say
    no point getting too excited about the game
    focus on the league as this is where the euro campaign stalls for this season

  41. Nah, we can get a result there no worries. We’re a fucking good team and our away form is unbelievably good.
    We’ve been trying stuff recently, like against Southampton and Everton. It had everyone doing their nut but it’s preparation for what awaits. They should be ready.
    In contrast Madrid are on the verge of a total hysterical meltdown. They are literally holding it together – just – for tomorrow. If we were to actually beat them then Mourinho probably wouldn’t be manager for the return leg.
    Fergie really, really has to get the fucking team right though. There will be at least one surprise.

  42. Who else is getting properly fuckin excited and/or squeaky bum right now? It’s gonna be fuckin great, innit? 3-2 united. Though I’ll probably change my mind and be a crippled shell of a man by the time kick off rolls round

  43. I’m expecting Cleverley to play in the right wing position. Nani could play there too.
    Both players can cross the ball very well so no problems there.

  44. really hope our “freckled demon” gives them a good whipping

  45. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    The Spanish press has called Rooney a “hooligan”… I hope he shuts them up.

  46. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    han said:
    please sir, sir, sir…pick me, me , me….
    ffs lackies limited are looking for new recruits pikey
    take it out of their arses and suck them off why don’t you

    x

  47. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    The Spanish press has called Rooney a “hooligan”… I hope he shuts them up.

    Did you see Ferguson’s response?

    “Rooney can’t read Spanish so we will be all right.”

    lol

  48. captainhormone captainhormone says:

    han said:
    please sir, sir, sir…pick me, me , me….
    ffs lackies limited are looking for new recruits pikey
    take it out of their arses and suck them off why don’t you

    That sounds quite nice tbf

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