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?