From the Vault: Manchester United against Real Madrid in the Bernabéu | Ian McCourt
From a 3-3 thriller to one of the most important matches in the club's history, relive the action of United's trips to Madrid
• Classic YouTube: Manchester United v Real Madrid memories
Real Madrid 3-1 Manchester United, 11 April 1957
The first ever meeting between the two clubs is more likely to be remembered for the ensuing violence rather than the football. "Manhandled in a way completely foreign to English notion" was how the Guardian reported Manchester United being kicked from penalty box to post as the Spanish side elbowed their way to victory in the first leg of the European Cup semi-final. Madrid's goals all arrived in the second half – courtesy of Héctor Rial, Alfredo Di Stéfano and Mateos – as Matt Busby's side were given a harsh lesson in European football.
Real Madrid 3-3 Manchester United, 15 May 1968
George Best had given Manchester United a slender one-goal lead in the first leg of this semi-final at Old Trafford but by half-time at the Bernabéu, Real were leading 4-2 on aggregate and comfortably in control. It looked like Sir Matt Busby's men, in their fourth European Cup semi-final, were destined to be the bridesmaid yet again. But in the second half United upped the tempo and up stepped David Sadler to drag them within touching distance. Bill Foulkes, a survivor of the Munich air crash, scored the equaliser and sent Busby's babes into the final against Benfica.
Real Madrid 0-0 Manchester United, 4 April 2000
"One of the most important games in modern Manchester United history" was marked by one of Mark Bosnich's most impressive performances in a Manchester United shirt. Wave after wave of Madrid attacks – spearheaded by the former Liverpool player Steve McManaman – were repelled as Sir Alex Ferguson' side were dominated by Los Blancos. Andy Cole missed three good opportunities to give United a vital away goal in this Champions League quarter-final and afterwards Ferguson had a rare moment of candour and criticism for his team: "It was one of our poorest performances in a big game for some time."
Bosnich passes Spanish inquisition
David Lacey wrote in the Guardian:
Goalless habits may be unbecoming to Manchester United but last night their second 0-0 draw in Spain in the space of a fortnight should set up Sir Alex Ferguson's European Cup holders for a place in the last four once again.
The alertness of Mark Bosnich, plus sound, sensible defending, successfully defied Real Madrid who in the end were looking to Steve McManaman for inspiration.
Yet even the former Liverpool forward was unable to beat Bosnich, although he had an outstanding chance to do so eight minutes from the end. A backheeled return pass from Fernando Morientes left McManaman to beat the United goalkeeper from a range of six yards and an angle of 45 degrees but Bosnich had little problem blocking his shot.
The moment summed up the evening. Real Madrid spent much of the match driving forward and for a time it seemed that the swift, subtle passes and intuitive running of Raúl, Morientes, Savio and McManaman would eventually find a way through.
That happened several times in the first half, though less in the second. But Bosnich was equal to every crisis and as Real tired, both physically and mentally, the authority of Jaap Stam and Henning Berg in the middle of the United defence became more pronounced while Roy Keane put in another performance of tireless industry in midfield.
Not that Ferguson was enamoured of his team's performance. "I am relieved because it was one of our poorest performances in a big game for some time," Manchester United's manager said afterwards. "Our use of the ball was careless and 0-0 is not the best of results for us. We still have a long way to go."
Clearly Manchester United would have preferred a scoring draw if they could not win the game. Even one away goal would have been mighty precious. But, while the result has put them in a strong position, it is worth remembering that after sharing a 0-0 draw in Monaco at a similar stage in 1998, United then went out to an away goal.
Last night three opportunities fell to Andy Cole before half-time but he was unable to take any of them. The best came in the 26th minute after Stam had nodded on Beckham's corner from the near post. Cole met the ball inside the six-yard box but his header flew over the crossbar.
The Madrid youngsters' adulation of Beckham was not shared by the Real fans, who showered him with minor missiles every time he took a corner. Bosnich, too, was the target of a load of rubbish from behind the goal once he moved to the end occupied by the Ultra Sur section of Real's support, but he seemed unmoved.
Gento, a voice from Real's golden age in the 50s, had declared himself confident that in European games the present side could succeed in performing "like 11 Di Stéfanos". United were grateful that their opponents could no longer come up with one Alfredo – or, indeed, Nicolas Anelka, whose pace has troubled Stam before now.
Morientes, doubtful beforehand because of a leg injury, did not look match-fit and with the hard-working Raúl starting to flag, Real lost much of their momentum during the last quarter of an hour.
McManaman was the exception. Stamina was always his strength, and his willingness to run at defenders, take the ball square and make himself available for return passes enabled Real to maintain some attacking force until the end.
Yet it would have been hard on Bosnich had McManaman beaten him at the last. After nine minutes the Australian had denied him a goal for the first time by tipping a diving header over the bar but his best moment was the one-handed save which thwarted Morientes after McManaman and Savio had left the striker with only Bosnich to beat.
Ferguson's point about United's sluggish use of the ball was well made. Although Beckham often switched to the middle in the first half, with Ryan Giggs doing the same in the second, and Paul Scholes strove to get forward to support Dwight Yorke and Cole, United's attack seldom achieved its normal rhythm.
Yet briefly, on the stroke of half-time, they thought they had gone in front. Iker Casillas, Real's 18-year-old goalkeeper, failed to hold Scholes's low shot from 25 yards and, though Yorke pounced to put in the rebound, he was adjudged to have been offside earlier.
That moment apart, the game was always going to end as it did if Real failed to score.
Real Madrid (4, 4, 2): Casillas, Salgado, Campo, Karanka, Roberto Carlos, McManaman, Helguera, Redondo, Savio (Balic, 75min), Morientes (Ognjenovic, 86), Raúl.
Manchester United (4, 4 ,2): Bosnich, G Neville, Berg, Stam, Irwin (Silvestre, 87) Beckham, Keane, Scholes (Butt, 81), Giggs, Cole, Yorke (Sheringham, 76).
Real Madrid 3-1 Manchester United, 8 April 2003
"I just hope Raúl doesn't like travelling," Sir Alex Ferguson said after the first leg of this Champions League quarter-final, "because failing that we might have to stop him coming into the country. They've bought Ronaldo, Figo and Zidane, but for me the best player in the world at the moment is Raúl." The Spanish striker was in imperious form that spring night in Madrid scoring twice and wreacking general havoc among the Manchester United defence. The match had been billed as the two best teams in the world coming face to face but only one team showed up on the night.
United hopes hang by a thread
Kevin McCarra wrote in the Guardian:
Manchester United can never have dreamed that they would look a 3-1 defeat in the face and greet it with civility. Gary Neville and Paul Scholes will be suspended for the return leg, but the second part of this quarter-final is not wholly academic. A goal by Ruud van Nistelrooy halted a rout at the Bernabéu.
Primitive arithmetic states that a 2-0 win would send United through, but this was a game that demands more subtle calculations. Sir Alex Ferguson's team, with a dogged desire to attack when possible, contributed to the drama. Even if they had to make do with a minor role, lesser sides would have struggled to get into camera shot at all against elusive Real.
United have to decide if this was a throwback to the cringeworthy nights of the early 90s or simply a rendezvous with a truly great team. The Old Trafford club could not cope with the searing buildup in midfield and here was reaffirmation that no one else quite has such delicate and deceptive touches as that otherwise robust midfielder Zinedine Zidane.
There is no counterpart, either, to Raúl, who scored twice to take his total to 43 goals in the Champions League. From a 25-year-old, such abundance is almost baffling. Nonetheless, United had believed they could do much more than shake their heads in regret of their plight and in respect for the victors.
United must have believed that they could block Real, direct them down blind alleys and so make a grittier conflict of this fixture. One of the Spanish sports papers had flatly declared this meeting to be the best game in the world. United had terrible difficulty in keeping up their end of the billing.
In under half an hour they were already 2-0 down and indebted to the referee Anders Frisk for not awarding a blatant penalty. This was meant to be a gathering of peers, but United, to their disbelief, had to rediscover what it is to be outclassed. Worse still, with the second leg in mind, it was hard to see what they can do about it.
The cunning Scholes was the very last man they could afford to lose, since he was alone in looking as if he would merit a place on the Spanish club's payroll. Real behave as if defence, like income tax, is a wretched obligation and that grudging attitude could get them into trouble a fortnight from now, but there was no indication that United will thwart their creativity. To Ferguson's certain chagrin, Roy Keane and Nicky Butt were no obstacle at all last night.
By the interval Real were subtly imperious, switching suddenly from ambling manoeuvres to a hair-raising inspiration. The coach Vicente del Bosque had welcomed this tie for the stimulus it would provide. There can be something scatty about Real, as if they need to be alarmed before they can feel utterly alive on the pitch. Had Júlio César not missed for Lokomotiv Moscow in the last minute or if Real themselves had not equalised against Borussia Dortmund in stoppage time, the German champions would have taken their place in the last eight.
At the outset here they had the careful manner of men newly awakened to their heavy responsibilities and United were the lighter of heart for all too brief a while. Van Nistelrooy, with his back to goal, had just hooked a difficult opportunity over the bar when Real scored in the 12th minute.
Luís Figo had come over to the left wing and his body language declared that he saw opportunity for his refined right foot, even though the angle would have discouraged most. But the Portuguese virtuoso had the nerve to shape a shot around Fabién Barthez and high into the far corner. United were confounded.
After 20 minutes, Ronaldo was sent into the right of the area and befuddled Wes Brown before the defender thrust out an arm and leg to stop the Brazilian. Yet Frisk saw nothing amiss, and he had no greater taste for intervention when Barthez absent-mindedly palmed the ball outside the penalty area soon after.
Real, with 28 minutes gone, took matters into their own hands. Zidane fed Raúl, whose trickery on the turn had Rio Ferdinand floundering as he fired home low at the near post. United were capable of no more than gawping wonder.
Real were not so very secure themselves, but the truth of that proposition would have been doubted as they lashed in a third goal in the 49th minute. Although Figo's cut-back was measured, the United midfield's inability to rush Raúl was a token of the havoc wreaked on their minds. The attacker's strong, low 20-yard shot was perfect.
United, laboured though they were in comparison with sleek Real, could count on their character. Neville went forward in the 52nd minute and, when Iker Casillas parried Ryan Giggs's shot from the cross, Van Nistelrooy was lurking to head home the loose ball.
United kept on attacking because it is in their nature and because it was also the most natural way of rationing home possession. Real still had much of the ball, especially when Figo and Raúl breached the central defence, and Ronaldo shot wastefully high.
United clung on last night, but success in this tie may already be beyond their reach.
Real Madrid (4-4-2): Casillas, Salgado, Helguera, Hierro, Roberto Carlos, Figo, Makélelé, Conceição, Zidane, Raúl, Ronaldo (Guti, 83).
Manchester United (4-4-1-1): Barthez, G Neville (Solskjaer, 86), Ferdinand, Brown, Silvestre (O'Shea, 58) Beckham, Butt, Keane, Giggs, Scholes, Van Nistelrooy.
Filed under: Euro 2012
Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!