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Did Manchester United deserve to go out of the Champions League?

Nani's sending off in Manchester United's 2-1 defeat Champions League to Real Madrid changed the complexion of the tie completely

Nani’s sending off in Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat Champions League to Real Madrid changed the complexion of the tie completely

Manchester United went out of the Champions League knockout stages in controversial fashion last night.

The Red Devils were defeated 2-1 at home in the second leg of their tie with Real Madrid, which meant they lost 3-2 on aggregate after the first leg ended 1-1 at Bernabeu.

United took the lead early in the second half through an own goal from Real defender Sergio Ramos, before goals from Luka Modric and former-United star Cristiano Ronaldo gave Los Blancos the victory.


I am not a Manchester United fan but to say the result was fair on Manchester United would be simply lying.

Referee Cuneyt Cakir made a game changing decision when he decided to dismiss Portuguese winger Nani for a high foot on former-Liverpool full-back Alvaro Arbeloa.

The decision came as a surprise to most people watching the game. To say it was a harsh decision would be putting it mildly. It may be classed as dangerous play, but I don’t think there was much malice in the challenge, as it didn’t look like Nani knew Arbeloa was even there.

The decision is a very debatable one and will be discussed for years to come. As a neutral I don’t believe it was a red card, other people will probably disagree. In my mind it was an awful decision which ruined what was shaping up to be an intriguing second half.


Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was too distraught to talk after the game. His assistant Mike Phelan attended the post-match press conference in his place. The United assistant boss told the press conference:

“I don’t think the manager is any fit state to talk to the referee about the decision.

“I think it speaks volumes that I’m sat here speaking to you at this moment in time and not the manager of this fantastic football club.

“We all saw and witnessed a decision that seemed very harsh, possibly incredible, at that moment in the game.”


Manchester United were in a winning position prior to the sending off of Nani. The Premier League leaders looked to be relative control against one of the best teams in Europe. It was always going to be hard to beat Los Blancos with 11 men on the pitch, but with 10 it was almost impossible.


Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho was unusually humble in his post-match interview. The Portuguese boss said: “Independent of the decision, the best team lost,”

“We didn’t deserve to win but football is like this. I’m not speaking about the decision as I’m not sure about it.”

Whether these feelings were sincere or not is unknown, but it is well-known that he has a great friendship with United boss Sir Alex Ferguson off-the-pitch and is a great admirer of the veteran Scot. Maybe he was trying to give Fergie some small crumb of comfort in defeat.


I highly doubt that Real Madrid would have gone on to win this tie the way they were playing. Maybe that was what Mourinho was suggesting in his post-match interview. United did well to subdue their key players and didn’t give the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil the space to operate in.

However, when United went down to ten men there was more room for Real’s top players to play and find space. They used that space to find two goals and create a few other opportunities.

In fact, the game could have been a different story if it wasn’t for Real’s stand-in keeper Diego Lopez pulling off some outstanding saves, even when United were down to ten men.


In the end Manchester United produced a valiant effort to stay in the Champions League. Playing with ten men for more than half an hour against a very strong Real Madrid team was just too much for them in the end.

As a neutral I would have liked to have seen whether Real Madrid could have got back into the game if United had kept ten men on the field. Unfortunately due to a very harsh refereeing decision we will never know.

Did Manchester United deserve to go out of the Champions League?

Wed 6 Mar, 2013
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  1. cloud says:

    i don’t want to be rude or anything, but the writer of the column lost all credibility with this statement on the 3rd paragraph ………

    before goals from Gonzalo Higuain and former-United star Cristiano Ronaldo gave Los Blancos the victory.

    .. the goals was scored by Modric and Ronaldo, it is not from Gonzalo.

  2. Coach Lo says:

    I watched the game twice. I disagree and agree the red card. I dont think he would have gotten a red if he didnt try to push away from arbeloa once he made contact. He was obviosly trying to trap the ball and didnt see him but the fact that he kinda of leg pressed arbeloa away made the difference for me.

    I also think Real would have tid it up to a 1-1. Bringing in Modric made a huge impact and I am sure Real would have came back with him and Kaka on the field.

    At the end, red card or not, I think Real would have won. No doubt.

  3. David Nugent says:

    Cloud, the error has been corrected. I obvious knew that Luka Modric scored Real’s first goal, but for some reason I wrote Gonzalo Higuain. As you are a regular reader of the articles on Soccernews I’m sure you realised that these types of mistakes are pretty rare on our site. We are only human though and mistakes do happen sometimes.

  4. Jean Michael Edwards says:

    I agree with this article 100%. I am also a neutral and hoped to see a great game of football. Games of this calibre should NOT be decided by a referee.

  5. Majuwaz says:

    Previous c’zon Barcelona, the so called best team ever in the universe, was beaten by 10 men Chelsea at Camp Nou, which they cal slaughter house 4 Barça. Man U cud’ve done the same, its a matter of game plan, u shud always hv a plan B when tinz are tough, all pple who are crying foul are Man U fans. If a team lose it means it deserved to lose, what’s special abt Man U. Am Chelsea fan not a Madrid fan

  6. Mourinho says:

    Real deserved to win

    Not because of te great game they showed
    Bht bccs of mourinhos quick de isxion making in the changes
    And tactics

    Its true man u got more sloppy after the red card
    But they could stil have had a 1-1
    + pentalty loss

  7. Lasman says:

    Honestly, In the beginning of the game, there was fair and justice. The game could have ended a victory for Man u, but for the harsh and unfair decision from the referee, Real over took the opportunity. Judging from the look of the game. Man u are better off than Real

  8. Mourinho says:

    Its not reals fault for the judge deciscion

    + if you look at te frst leg

    Real ouclassed man u
    And didnt get the win they deserved

  9. Brad says:

    Who says United get all the big, unfair calls against em?

  10. Brad says:

    awoops just noticed that was a mess up. . . sometimes I hate weekends. .. . lol

    What I meant was “who says United get all the big, unfair calls in their favor?”

  11. Kaziya says:

    Am not a Real fan, and am 100% FCB. Nevertheless, Real won the game and Nani deserved the red card… if not, why was Nani pretending to be in pain to a point of sleeping on ground holding ribs as if he was kicked, when it was him who hurt Arbeloa’? I believe if he did not do so it was going to be yellow card

  12. iLOVEbAyERNmUNCHEN says:

    RM would have won this game anyway. Agree with Majuwaz. Man U won the first leg of BPL against Chelsea under questionable circumstances. There comes a time when they too will lose under questionable circumstances.

  13. Haokip says:

    Already leading 1-0,united should have done better in regrouping themselves instead of dwelling in their own self-pity thinking that the unfair red card against nani made the task of winning the game impossible and that the referee was to blame if they lose.. Real on the other hand exploit this weakness efficiently and this made them the deserved winners

  14. pure24 says:

    As a Man Utd fan… Not to say we WOULD or SHOULD have won, but its fair to say the result was put beyond any doubt by the referee – @Majuwaz, we are not taking away anything from a brilliant Madrid side, but the fact we will never know how it might have gone. I mean, Nani’s presence would have changed gameplay (both physical and psychological) and not forgetting that there might have been a strategic change (Nani out for another player) that the dismissal prevented. Plus, Man Utd is NOT Chelsea… We manage to beat Chelsea most of the time, but fail to defeat Barca, while Chelsea seem to know how to deal with such occurrences. Comparing the two is not fair.

    I honestly think ref’s should be more lenient when handling out cards in such games where its more to do with psychology than actual difference in skill – Barcelona Vs. Chelsea, El Clasicos, Man Utd Vs. Real Madrid, Barca Vs. Arsenal… I think it just defeats the team at that exact point. If you check almost all the times, the team with the red card loses – Applause to Madrid, you did nothing wrong and were simply excellent. Whether its because you took advantage of the decision or were just brilliant, the fact is you guys emerged the BETTER side, from goalkeeper to Striker…

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