When Manchester United got through to the knockout stages of the Champions League, they were group winners and hence, were supposed to avoid some of the trickier teams in the next round.
However, in the pot of teams that they could face were non other than Spanish Champions, Real Madrid, who finished second of their group (the same group that saw Manchester City humiliatingly eliminated). It came as no surprise to many then that, as in the rehearsal draw, Manchester United were drawn against the Spanish team which means Cristiano Ronaldo will return to Old Trafford for the first time since his
£80m move from United to Real in June 2009.
Manchester United last faced Real Madrid in the knockout stages 9 years ago, in the 2002-2003 season which saw high scoring ties for both legs with Real Madrid edging a 6-5 aggregate after a 3-1 win for the Spanish team at the Bernabéu and a 4-3 win for United in the fixture at Old Trafford. The star of the show that year was undoubtedly Ronaldo (the Brazilian) who scored a hat-trick and was applauded off the Old Trafford pitch.
All eyes will be on Ronaldo yet again, albeit a different one, as the star winger/striker returns to a place that saw him break onto the international scene and helped his price tag reach an astonishing level. The first leg of the tie is sure to be a pulsating encounter at the Bernabéu with Ronaldo and his team having to travel to Manchester for the second leg.
For the neutral, history suggests that the games will be played at a high tempo with both teams playing for the win, and if this season is anything to go by, both teams seem to have the attitude of trying to outscore the opposition rather than worrying about the little matter of defending. United should have their defensive rock and captain, Nemanja Vidic so their defending should get back to a somewhat respectable state, and with Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney scoring for fun who knows what can happen. Expect a boring nil-nil draw then!
For the rest of the ties, Celtic will play Italian side Juventus, while Arsenal take on last year’s beaten finalists Bayern Munich. Four-times winners Barcelona take on seven-times champions AC Milan, while Valencia face Paris St Germain. Borussia Dortmund have been drawn against Shakhtar Donetsk and Porto take on Malaga, while Galatasaray will play Schalke.
Don’t you just love Champions League football!
Thanks for reading,