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Analysing How Manchester United Will Shape Up Against Real Madrid At OT

Here’s a look at few selection and strategy options for Manchester United ahead of their Champions League second leg fixture against Real Madrid in two weeks.


Here’s a look at few selection and strategy options for Manchester United ahead of their Champions League second leg fixture against Real Madrid in two weeks.

Central Defence

If all players remain fit, the dilemma for Sir Alex will be whether to stick with the same central defensive partnership that started at the Bernabeu or bring in Vidic to replace either Ferdinand or Evans. Given that Ferguson is still managing Nemanja Vidic’s return from injury, it won’t be surprising if he is preferred for the Norwich game instead on the Saturday prior to the second leg. Moreover, both Evans and Ferdinand put in a solid shift in the first leg. Vidic might be a better header of the ball and more of a physical presence but against a team like Real Madrid who will be looking to counter attack, the mobility of Evans will be preferred.

Rooney’s position

In all likelihood, Sir Alex will require Rooney to put in another ‘defensive’ shift, pressing high up the pitch by marking Alonso, and tracking back down the wings to provide cover. But, unlike the first leg where he was deployed on the right, Rooney needs to be playing on the left. This is a position that he’s played in the past. Although, this isn’t his ideal or favourite position, he can’t do much worse than he was in the first leg.

This might seem a tad harsh given that he was asked to do a specific role and curb his attacking instincts. But it was Rooney’s intent to stop Ronaldo despite both Phil Jones and Rafael were doubling up on him that left Fabio Coentrao in lots of space to have an effort on goal (that was pushed onto the post by De Gea). He was at fault for not closing down Angel Di Maria soon enough; hence enabling the winger to pick out a perfect pass for Ronaldo’s equaliser.

A move to the left will provide extra cover to deal with Di Maria who found a lot of space and time and ran Patrice Evra ragged in the first leg. As in the game against Spurs where all emphasis was placed on closing down Bale which in turn left Lennon unattended, similarly the mission to thwart Ronaldo using effectively three players (Rafael, Jones and Rooney) meant that Di Maria saw more of the ball and was a constant menace down the left flank. In addition, while attacking, he can drift inwards and switch places with Kagawa (assuming the latter starts) and play in the hole behind Robin Van Persie.

And Danny?

Welbeck can play his pressing game on the right too as he did so quite effectively after coming on as a substitute in the win over Manchester City earlier this season. The other option, unthinkable as it might sound on the back of his performance in the first leg, is to drop him in favour of Cleverly or Nani. The latter can be frustrating at times but can still attack better with the ball, is a better finisher, and can put in a decent cross (eg, against Reading in the FA Cup). In a game where chances could be a luxury, it is imperative that United make the possession and opportunities count.

Plan B if Phil Jones is injured?

Up until a few weeks ago, not many would associate Phil Jones with Plan A against Real Madrid in a Champions League knockout fixture (mind you, some probably still don’t). The earlier jack of all trades is now being called on to carry out a specialist role of marking (read: chasing and harrying) the oppositions’ ace card. Tom Cleverly, who started all of the team’s ‘big’ Premier League games (Chelsea, City, Liverpool) was sacrificed in the process. But having sustained an ankle injury that saw him on crutches after the FA Cup tie against Reading, Jones’s chances of a repeat performance in the second leg is uncertain. If this were to be the case (extent of injury not known at the time of writing this article), it is likely that Cleverly will start alongside Michael Carrick in midfield. He might not constantly breathe down Ronaldo’s neck but his quick passing, intelligent movement and ball retention capabilities will be important for United.


Though fans at Old Trafford would prefer a more attacking approach from their team, one can expect Ferguson to exercise a bit of caution and focus on ball retention, both of which will be important in protecting what is essentially a lead in the tie for Manchester United.

How would you line-up for the second leg? Get involved in the comments section below.

Follow @bivlar on Twitter.



  1. chuks anucha

    February 21, 2013 at 9:45 am

    It ‘ll be a hard game as we all knw it, Madrid is coming to win. To stop them, I’ll suggest we play vidic n Ferdinand in d middle with Rafael n Evra @ d sides. Carrick n Cleverly in midfield Nani on D right wing wazza on d left wing RVP n Welbeck/Chicharito in front. Wit these players we ‘ll defend well n also counter attack wit Nani n rooney frm d sides

  2. Ken teks

    February 21, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Dd gea,rafel,vidic,evans evra
    carrick cleverly anderson
    nani rvp rooney

  3. chioma ifejiofor

    February 21, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    our line-up for the home tie; De Gea, Raphael,Ferdinand, Evans,Evra, Phil jones(if fit) or cleverly, carrick, nani(on the right wing), Rooney in the hole getting inbetweeen their defence(helping out in midfield and attack),welbeck(on the left wing, switching positions with rooney when we are not in possesion to enable Rooney double up with Evra on Di Maria as Rooney did with Giggs against Everton to devastating Effect), Van Persie(lone forward). In the absence of Phil Jones, Carrick will look to support Rafael and Nani as much as possible in marking Ronaldo while ensuring that Cleverly is not left isolated. If he fails to support cleverly, Rooney will be forced to drop into midfield thereby nullifying our attack.

  4. Jeffrey Handsome

    February 21, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    I quite agree wit Mr. Chuka. Dats d winning team for d decisive game. Hopefully, Nani can perform some tricks, RVP a lone forward, he is capable causing mayhem to RM defense. Summary Manchester United- 2 RM- 1

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