Real Madrid host Manchester United in the first leg of UEFA Champions League on Wednesday (13 February). The tie, one of the most anticipated tie in this stage of the competition pits two of the best teams in the world, two top quality sides with fantastic players and if that wasn’t enough – both sides are managed by two of the most influential and successful managers in Football.
Q. An easy 2-0 victory against Everton at home. What did you make of United’s performance? And who were your standout players?
It was a brilliant result to take full advantage of the loss by City to Southampton on Saturday. The performance itself was one of real Championship quality, the team were 100% committed to getting the result and they made sure that the quality going forward to get the goals were joined with a great defensive display to keep the clean sheet. Our defence was particularly superb, Nemanja Vidic displayed form of old whilst Rafael was named Man of the Match.
Q. What is the mood like at the club and among fans before the game?
United fans are excited about the upcoming Madrid ties. It’s a mouth-watering fixture with plenty of quality players on display plus the added hype with Jose Mourinho returning to face United once more. It’s a great chance for United and some of our players to really see where we stand in terms of how good this team is now. Progressing past Madrid would be a huge confidence boost.
Q. Where on the pitch has United been vulnerable this season? Do you think that you are still susceptible to such problems?
No question we have had a poor season at the back, conceding far too many goals which is a major concern when you are about to face Ronaldo, Benzema, Ozil and co. There have been massive improvements of late though, Rio Ferdinand has been at his best and Nemanja Vidic looks to bet getting back to 100% sharpness.
David de Gea is under huge and unfair pressure in the English media for his weakness with the high ball, an area he is improving all the time in my opinion. His shot stopping is top class and could be the key if United are to get a result on Wednesday.
Q. It would be difficult to go without thinking of this game and not talking about Cristiano. How crucial do you think he would be for Real and prove difficult for United?
If Real Madrid progress I have no doubt it will be because of Ronaldo. He is world-class and I’m very proud to have seen him play live so many times whilst at United. He will get a great reception from the United fans pre kick off and who knows, the last Ronaldo to play at Old Trafford for Real left the pitch to a standing ovation!
Q. We have Cristiano going all guns blazing and United has had Robin Van Persie. How valuable has he been this season?
No doubt about it, he as been signing of the season and without him I would suggest the title race would look a lot different. He not only adds class up front but he has given our whole squad a lift. The team believes we will win because we have such a quality player in Red.
Q. Which in your opinion would be the key battles in the game?
United will be wanting to keep the game tight and look to counter attack for a possible away goal. With those tactics its key that United don’t let Mesut Ozil dictate the game. Ronaldo will be a threat no matter how we play but if we can keep Ozil quiet then it will no doubt give us a platform for a result.
Q. What would your starting lineup be? And what formation?
I really don’t know! Id be tempted by this Dimaond formation which we have seen a few times this season in big away games.
Rafael Vidic Ferdinand Evar
Cleverley Kagawa (or Jones)
Welbeck Van Persie
Q. What are United’s positives and weaknesses going into the game?
United are 12 points clear at the top of the table with a fully fit squad to choose from. They will go into this game excited and confident. We have great energy (if the right players are selected) who will look to put pressure on Real all over the pitch and use their quality on the break.
My main concern, which it has been all season, is our lack of a real Centre Midfield warrior who can help break up the game. Michael Carrick has been superb this season and will need to be at his very best if United are to stop Real playing.
Q. Real Madrid have not lost at home in 33 games. Do you think United can stop them?
If I’m being honest no but coming away with a draw would be a great result but the you can never rule United out. We have the players capable of a win that’s for sure.
Q. One of Real’s most crucial attacking style is the counter attack. How do you think United can combat that approach?
I think United will sit deeper not allowing them to really break at pace. They will ask Real to break them down whilst looking to counter attack themselves.
Q. Prediction time.
I will go with a 2-2 draw. Ronaldo and Van Persie to both score.