5 Things We Learned: Manchester United 1-2 Real Madrid

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By Jason Freeman

1. Anger and Disappointment but also Pride

It’d be hard to find a United fan who didn’t display all of these emotions on Tuesday night. We’ll never know how the game would have ended if the poor decision to send Nani off had not happened but it’s without a doubt that we looked in control of the tie up until that point and looked to be going through. The sending off allowed Real Madrid to take off Arbeloa in favour of an attacking midfielder, Luka Modric, who scored and allowed Real Madrid to take advantage in the central area as Welbeck had moved to the left in place of Nani. Before and after the sending off the players did us all proud, the crowd too were incredible before the red card and even better after it particularly when urged to by Fergie and then Giggs. Rio Ferdinand described the crowd as the loudest and best support he’d heard at any ground during his career. On his first return to Old Trafford since he left in 2009, Cristiano Ronaldo said the atmosphere overwhelmed him for the first time in his career. These 2 statements speak volumes about how good the support was.

2. It’s Carrick You Know

It took 7 seasons for Carrick to be finally appreciated by fans and given a song, a song that we can’t stop singing at the moment. It seemed that with each interception, block, tackle that Carrick made against Real Madrid, the crowd sang about him and it happened a lot with Carrick making 5 tackles, 3 interceptions and blocking 2 shots. It took a while for the majority of fans to warm to him despite his great record for winning trophies since joining, he probably still has his critics, most players do but the tide has turned and comments are certainly more positive nowadays. Cleverley has had a very positive impact on Carrick, his energy and movement has proven to be the perfect foil for Carrick. Carrick still performs very well when Cleverley is not there but when he is partnered by Cleverley he seems to be performing at an even higher level.

3. Vidic is back

I worried about Vidic’s selection before kickoff, before his knee injuries this would not have been the case but while he’s performed very well since returning from his recent injury, I still had my doubts whether he could do it against a very good attack especially as he’d played 90 minutes vs. Norwich at the weekend. This was the first time since his most recent return from injury that he’s played 2 games in quick succession and it was a huge positive that he was able to do so and perform so well. There aren’t many better centre back partnerships than Rio and Vidic and even in the last stage of their careers they proved that the other night. Jonny Evans is also getting better and better and despite a few injury setbacks has probably been one of our best players this season. With Rio’s career coming to an end in the next season or so I expect Evans to become the first choice to partner Vidic soon providing that the Serbian’s knee injury problems are behind him now and he can hopefully play a big part for us again not only for the remainder of this season but next season and beyond too.

4. Lessons learnt from last season’s Euro campaign

I wrote a 5 things article after we exited the Europa League against Athletic Bilbao last season, one of the things I said was that the youngsters would learn from a disappointing campaign in Europe and it seems they have. The likes of De Gea, Rafael, Evans, Jones, Cleverley and Welbeck have performed exceptionally well in the 2 legs against Real Madrid, in fact they were probably our best players. They still have a lot to learn but the signs are very promising after these 2 legs, playing in games of this magnitude will be great experience. The disappointment of going out will provide them with even more reason to improve ahead of next year’s European campaign. It wasn’t to be this season but it wasn’t our last chance to do well with this group of players, in fact this was only the first.

5. Giggs can still tear you apart

What can I say about Ryan Giggs? Probably nothing that would do him justice to be honest. But I’ll try. What an incredible sportsman, at nearly 40 he was given the task of helping Rafael in trying to keep Ronaldo and Coentrão quiet while also being needed to provide an attacking outlet in a right wing role he’d not often performed in, yet he gave Coentrão a tough night with a couple of brilliant dribbles and some wonderful crosses, one of which with the outside of his left boot which had van Persie connected with properly could have been a contender for assist of the season. Giggs didn’t stop running all night, made some fantastic tackles and was in the right place at the right time to cut out some of Real Madrid’s passing. It was an unbelievable performance regardless of age, anyone would have been proud of that performance which makes it hard to believe he is nearly 40 years of age. It is hard to imagine we’ll ever see another like him, so enjoy watching him while you can, a true great of the game.
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