A dramatic Champions League Round of 16 draw was made Thursday morning in Nyon, Switzerland, giving football lovers exciting matchups to look forward to in February and March but after Round of 16 Draw… Everyone’s Eyes are on Madrid-United Match.
Real Madrid vs. Manchester United
Dramatic Draw… featuring, Cristiano Ronaldo returning to his former club for the first time; also Jose Mourinho up against United, the team against whom he made his name with Porto’s Champions League win at this stage of the competition in 2004 (and with whom he has been linked as a possible successor to Sir Alex Ferguson); and the memory of what happened in 2003, when Madrid won a quarterfinal 6-5 on aggregate in a game that, arguably, changed the face of English football forever. Watching the second leg at Old Trafford, a 4-3 United win in which the Brazilian Ronaldo scored a hat trick, was Roman Abramovich, who was reportedly so seduced by the attacking football that he bought Chelsea. (He can’t have liked it that much: the first coach he hired who really played an attacking game was Roberto di Matteo this season, and he only lasted three months.)
The difference is that each team has a different priority this season: for United, it has to be wresting the league out of the grasp of its “noisy neighbors” Manchester City. With City out of all European competition, after finishing at the bottom of Madrid’s group, that won’t be easy. Madrid, on the other hand, have as much as written off La Liga: it is currently 13 back on Barcelona, and president Florentino Perez reportedly told Mourinho that winning a Copa del Rey and Champions League double was his target for the season.
“We have set a clear goal: to win the Champions League,” midfielder Sami Khedira told Bild this week. “We aren’t doing Real Madrid justice this year. We cannot be happy with the season we are having. We haven’t been able to get into the right rhythm since the very beginning.”
The chance will come in February, and it will be fascinating to see Ronaldo up against his former teammates. They might be surprised by how much better he has become.