GIVEN TO SCORE makes no apologies for joining the thousands of voices that proclaim tonight’s game with Real Madrid one of the most exciting encounters in our recent history, at least potentially. Given the epic build up on television, in print and in fan voice, there’s a chance that it could fail to deliver; but it’s a small chance so let’s just sit back and think of what is to come.
Ronaldo is good but he still shits and wipes his arse. He is still human.
The Manchester United team are saying all the right things, pointing out that we have waited for a night like this since the disastrous European adventure last year. The team let themselves down last year and in voice at least they seem determined to right that wrong. We have long memories, we know how last season’s European failure hurt and we can only hope it was felt by each man in red but further back than that was Munich, Milan, those hurt too.
I know it’s easy to analyse when you are safely behind a notebook. You can be proper brave with a pen in your hand and as I sit here looking out of my window at snow, Madrid feels like a zillion miles away but for those about to step out and attempt to do the business for Manchester United, there’s reasons to be positive.
It’s possible we are playing Real Madrid during one of their most human, least invincible periods. They aren’t exactly ripping up trees domestically. The expectation on Madrid to do well is going to be immense; their support demands it and they have a manager who oozes confidence even when nothing around him backs that up. It’s what I personally loved and loathed in equal measure when he was manager of Chelsea, it felt like the battle was on before anyone stepped onto the pitch in anger, similar to Sir Alex, he says nothing by accident. We should not underestimate him, his team or what they can gain from playing in front of their home crowd; it can weigh heavy though.
Cristiano Ronaldo is worthy of note. He took what he had learned at the Theatre of Dreams and he has absolutely flown with it since wearing the white of Real. He made no secret that it was where he wanted to be eventually and when he got there he’s taken the ball and run with it. Literally. GTS is not backward in coming forward with praise for him but as far as we are aware, he still has to wipe his arse, he’s still human. His record for Madrid is impressive and we will need to be on our game to deal with him, but it’s a team game. As much as I have seen what Ronaldo can do, I know what our front line can do as well. It’s naive to think he wouldn’t be asked about United and I know he’s only answering questions, I also believe he still has warm fuzzy thoughts for Manchester United, but he’s in a team that we are trying to beat and he’s trying to beat us so I don’t have much time for the ‘my heart is at United’ stuff, I like it and it may be true, but it’s game time.
If you concentrate too much on Cristiano, someone else will come and muller us and we’ll be feeling like we did against Milan, or in Munich, the pain doesn’t go away. We don’t always do well playing to avoid defeat, the Manchester United way has been to play to our strengths rather than in fear of the opposition team’s. This season we have played different ways to get through the tests we have faced, and Wayne Rooney will play anywhere to do a job for the team, Phil Jones too. Robin van Persie will put the ball in the net any time he can do, Rafael still thinks he his Roberto Carlos but he goes back and tackles just as well. David de Gea will probably be happier on Spanish soil, knowing more and feeling comfortable with what he will face, perhaps, clean sheets in the last few games will help him too.
They will all need to be on their game, the collective need to be singing from the same hymn sheet and we need to trust in them.
They aren’t invincible and neither are we. It’s almost that which makes this game quite intriguing.
As I approach the end of this and begin the usual tussle, to publish or not to publish something else strikes me as intriguing.
Wayne Rooney v Cristiano Ronaldo. I don’t mean in direct completion tonight, it’s likely to be the twin being given THAT job… but Rooney v Ronaldo makes me scratch my chin and hmmmmm like a Bond villain.
I will use the word arguably here because a lot of this is open to debate, but go with me on it. When Wayne Rooney came to Old Trafford expectation was high because his potential was amazing. ARGUABLY Wayne Rooney has not completely met that potential, he’s pissed off a large part of our fan base and he runs around the pitch like a headless chicken arguably. You either see his turning up at left back or wherever as indicative of a desire to see Man United succeed OR you see it as being out of position, if he’s at left back then he can’t punish them at the other end. It would be inaccurate to say that the jury is out on him, but it may be fair to say he isn’t quite as exciting as we hoped he would be, he’s a different player now than he was and maybe he has blossomed and I’m being unfair. Maybe.
Look at Cristiano Ronaldo. I watched his debut and a large part of me thought he was going to be all fur coat no knickers, he did the stupid stopovers and he didn’t exactly find a team mate with every cross in the early days. Delivery, Delivery, Consistency.
In contrast to Rooney then, he started from further back, had more doubters to convert and has gone on to more than fulfil his potential. Wayne Rooney seems to have collected more doubters as time has gone on, Cristiano has done a good job of convincing everybody.
Hmmmmmm. OK. Bond villain beard scratching done.
It matters who wins, of course it does, I want Manchester United to win. We are capabale of getting a result we can use in the return leg, let’s say that.
Our eleven against their eleven, who wins? You don’t have to think too hard, it happens for Real in a few hours time.