Manchester United put in a near faultless display away at Real Madrid to take a very useful and realistically impressive 1-1 to Old Trafford; passing what Sir Alex Ferguson described beforehand as the side’s “Acid Test”.
His side on a few occasions did ride their luck, but it was pretty much a flawless defence performance with the plan to counter attack and be clinical utilised well.
There were many standout performances for United, but goalkeeper David De Gea’s is likely to have silenced his vast number of critics. The Spaniard, 22, put in an outstanding display, stopping shots throughout and putting in a performance reminiscent of his predecessor Edwin Van Der Sar. He looked reliable, confident, and athletic as ever, whilst managing to keep a hold of some impressive Real Madrid shots. A performance such as this however begs the question, with his shot stopping ability and natural talent, why can’t he be given the time to develop physically by his ‘critics’? Take a look at the before mentioned Van Der Sar, and you can only agree that his own physique at a young age was similar, but what he resulted into was one of the World’s top keepers. Perhaps the Champions League is more beneficial for him, as the game tends to involve less aerial onslaughts, but the quality of De Gea tonight means I will be baffled if anyone is able to criticise him tomorrow.
It may seem like I am being very pro United here, but Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans are also likely to have proved several wrong tonight. Welbeck’s first club goal since United’s 4-2 win over Stoke City back on October the 20th couldn’t have come at a better time. Welbeck may not be a consistent goal scorer, but like De Gea, at just 22 he is developing all the time. But even at such a young age, his power was obvious throughout; his pace and strength combined gave Raphael Varane a troublesome time, whilst he managed to out muscle FIFA’s team of the Year centre back, Sergio Ramos, to give United the opening goal of the night from a Wayne Rooney corner. If there was any doubt about both his ability and his place within the squad, tonight showed he is a key figure.
Jonny Evans on the other hand has come of age, at 25 there is little doubt surrounding his ability in my eyes. He’s grown into an authoritative figure that is strong and pays attention to the finer details in his game; he played a big part in the very strong United performance tonight. With Nemanja Vidic out, United fans will surely agree that it was great to see Evans fit in well against the very best.
If I’m going to talk more about those who proved some wrong, then you can add Rio Ferdinand to that list. Ferdinand’s England squad exclusions are at some point soon going to need a new justification, because tonight he was at his very best, showing that any “footballing reasons” are beginning to look no longer valid. Ok, he is 34, but despite that Ferdinand tonight impressed up against some of the world’s finest forwards. If he’s good enough to play at such a standard, then surely he is good enough for fixtures such as San Marino in the coming weeks, for England. I understand that England need to continue their sense of direction with youth, but that doesn’t mean blindly excluding those older talents who obviously still have something to give.
Perhaps United’s only criticism was the wasted chances, with 3 or 4 goal (Most notably Robin Van Persie) scoring opportunities failing to give Sir Alex Ferguson’s side an even better result. That and the poor performance of Shinji Kagawa were the few stains on a very, very pleasing result.
But inside the United camp the feeling may be slightly different; they all are aware of the good result, getting a draw away at one of Europe’s top clubs (and an away goal) but they know there is work to do, and a lot of it.
Old Trafford awaits for what will be a classic European atmosphere and night. Expect goals, expect incidents. Ronaldo’s return will steal the initial limelight but once the football gets going both managers are wary of not just their own side’s talents but also one another’s. Sir Alex Ferguson said post match, “It’ll be very open. They’re terrific on the counter, we’ve a big job on our hands, but it’s within our grasp, no doubt about that.”
Check back soon for reaction regarding specifically Real Madrid.
By Stowe Gregory – Follow or tweet @stowegregory