Real Madrid – Manchester United Preview

José Mourinho says the world is waiting for a great Real Madrid CF v Manchester United FC game – which, for Sir Alex Ferguson, will be the acid test of his side’s credentials.

Real Madrid - Manchester United

José Mourinho is relishing the opportunity to renew his rivalry with Sir Alex Ferguson when Real Madrid CF host Manchester United FC in the first instalment of their round of 16 tie.

The Merengues coach has faced United twice before at this stage of the UEFA Champions League, with FC Porto in 2004 and FC Internazionale Milano five years later, and is savouring the build-up to an encounter he believes the world is “waiting for”. Sir Alex concurred with his opposite number and regards the tie as the “acid test” of his side’s credentials for a fourth European crown.

Real Madrid
José Mourinho, coach
It won’t be a disaster if we don’t win the Champions League. There are some great teams and coaches who never won it. Real Madrid want to win their tenth [European] title and I want to win my third. I don’t want to finish my career with two.

That the press room is full is indicative of what this match represents in the world of football. We are waiting for a great match – it’s what we all want. Knowing English football culture and Sir Alex Ferguson, I can say they are also thinking about playing well. Tactically, we have worked very hard and know how we want to play.

We all enjoy these big matches. Every player wants to play [in them]. I could feel today that some players were a bit frustrated because they won’t be starting tomorrow. The ones who will start are not anxious. They have what they want, which is to play in a big match.

We all want to play against big teams, big coaches and big players and Manchester United represent all of that. [I don’t expect to replace] Sir Alex Ferguson as I believe we will finish our careers at the same time, him at 90 and me at 70.

I’ve had great players and Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t more special than others in my heart. If we are talking about football, though, he is a player from another planet.

Weekend result
Saturday: Real Madrid 4-1 Sevilla FC (Benzema 18, Ronaldo 26 46 59; Manu 87)
Diego López; Arbeloa, Albiol, Ramos, Coentrão; Essien, Modrić, Kaká (Pepe 68); Ronaldo (Morata 63), Benzema (Callejón 68); Higuaín.

• Cristiano Ronaldo set up Madrid’s first and then scored a hat-trick to draw level with club great Francisco Gento on 182 goals for the Whites. Gonzalo Higuaín was subsequently dismissed for Madrid – who remain third in the Liga – while Hedwiges Maduro followed suit for Sevilla, for whom Manu grabbed a late consolation.

Team news
Iker Casillas is the only notable absentee from Madrid’s 22-man matchday squad, having broken a thumb on 23 January. Pepe is available after making his first appearance in six weeks on Saturday following ankle surgery, while Xabi Alonso (groin) and Raphaël Varane (hamstring) are on the list despite injury concerns.

Sir Alex Ferguson, manager
José summed it up perfectly when he said it’s a game everyone has been waiting for. It’s a fantastic challenge for us. It will be a great encounter between two teams and two clubs who embrace the best parts of football.

Right now we have everyone fit and are looking forward to the challenge. It is a good time to play Madrid, because we have a fantastic [12-point] lead in the Premier League and we have everyone fit.

Is Ronaldo a better player now [than he was at United]? Yes, absolutely. He has got that maturity. He’s at the peak of his career and will be for the next three years. He was still young when he left me. You’ve seen how he has flourished. I never thought he would reach the goalscoring targets he has – it’s phenomenal.

We have a good chance [this season], but the acid test is tomorrow and we have to get through that if we want to win it. The intention of Manchester United is always to try to win and to score, which can sometimes lead to chaos. We have to balance that with a sense of responsibility and make sure we don’t leave the door open.

It won’t be 0-0 tomorrow. There will be goals and the game can of course live up to expectation. It’s unfortunate we are meeting as early as this – we would have preferred it to have been in the final at Wembley.

Weekend result
Sunday: Manchester United 2-0 Everton FC (Giggs 13, Van Persie 45)
De Gea; Rafael, Vidić, Evans (Smalling 81), Evra; Valencia, Cleverley, Jones (Carrick 56), Giggs; Van Persie, Rooney.

• United moved 12 points clear atop the Premier League with an ultimately comfortable win, with Ryan Giggs maintaining his remarkable record of having scored in every Premier League season since its inception in 1992.

Team news
Paul Scholes has not travelled because of a knee injury, but Ashley Young makes the journey after recovering from a similar problem. Jonny Evans and Phil Jones have overcome the niggles that forced them off on Sunday, and the latter could be asked to mark Ronaldo after successfully shackling Gareth Bale and Marouane Fellaini in recent weeks.

Match fact
• Although United reached the round of 16 as Group H winners, Group D runners-up Madrid have won eight of their last nine UEFA Champions League home fixtures and can draw further encouragement from the fact United have conceded first in their last five European outings.


Probably Lineups:

Real Madrid:

Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao
Khedira, Alonso
Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo

Manchester United:

De Gea
Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra 
Carrick, Cleverley
Valencia, Rooney, Kagawa
Van Persie

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