Real Madrid and Manchester United fought out an entertaining 1-1 draw in their Champions League Round of 16 first leg match on Wednesday, and the managers of both teams, Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson, were quick to give their thoughts on the match after the final whistle.
Speaking to Sky Sports television, Mourinho and Ferguson gave relatively guarded answers, both conceding that the tie was far from over with the second leg to come at Old Trafford.
Mourinho indicated that neither the tactics nor the type of game surprised him, and was somewhat at pains to point out that Real's opposition had been largely defensive for portions of the game.
Nothing new, not a surprise, not the result. We learned nothing new, it was as I expected. I think this game will go to the last minute. They didn't put one foot in our own half, they played with the [defensive] block very far back and they were waiting for a set piece or counter-attack to score the second goal.
They defended well and the result is open. They had two big chances in the second half but chances out of context, they were just defending and waiting for a situation but this is the Champions League, home and away, and they did their match well.
The Real boss was also keen to praise his players for the effort they put into the first leg performance, and stated his belief that the tie could still be won on aggregate, given his confidence that his side would hit the target at Old Trafford.
The players gave everything. The game was difficult, especially because we started strong, hit the post and the first time they go in our half they score a goal out of nothing. Psychologically it is difficult to be losing 1-0 like that.
Now is our time to go to Old Trafford and I think 1-1 is not the best result [for United] because everything is open and we can score one goal, or more than one goal, over there.
If you ask me percentage, I don’t change a single thing, 50-50. They don’t have an advantage with the away goal, we can score more than one there.
There are few managers who have had as much success as Jose Mourinho over two-legged Champions League ties, given his victories in the competition with FC Porto and Inter Milan, and he will certainly still believe he can guide his team to victory in this fixture, too.
Sir Alex Ferguson spoke shortly afterwards and was similarly bullish about his side's chances after securing an away goal and avoiding defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu. Ferguson spoke also about the individual performances of two of the game's key players, goalkeeper David de Gea and Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
The tie is very open. I think we’ll score at Old Trafford, we know they're a tremendous counter-attack team, against [Manchester] City they dominated the game so we've a big job on our hands but its within our grasp, no doubt.
I think there were a lot of incidents in the match, chances at both ends, de Gea made three or four good saves and we missed some fantastic chances ourselves. What a header [for Ronaldo's goal], unbelievable, great spring and power. I said to Patrice [Evra], "did you not challenge for that?" but then I've seen the video after. I think it was a little bit of emotions for Ronaldo playing against us but he’s still a big threat for them.
Ferguson acknowledged that his side sat back more than he was comfortable with, but praised his players for remaining strong and taking the result.
The disappointing part for me was we sat back in the first half too much, it's not healthy, it's unlike us. We changed around for the second half and it made a great difference in terms of the ebb of the game, we made a good start after the break.
We played some good attacking football at times but not with the possession we should have had. Real were at home, it’s a difficult place to come to, the players have dug in and they take us back to Old Trafford with a great chance.
With the tie finely poised, all eyes will be on the home of the current English league leaders in three weeks as the two teams play out an intriguing second leg.
Meanwhile, players of both teams also spoke to the Sky cameras, with Real midfielder Xabi Alonso insisting that though Real hadn't secured the win they wanted, it was not a bad result for his team.
I think that after they scored we knew we needed to be really careful. It's not a bad result, it could have been better as we both had chances, it's quite open, the tie. They knew whenever they are playing away they [had to be] really compact, tight in defence. It was difficult for us to create chances but looking forward to second leg.
We need to go for the win in the second leg, we cant be thinking about a draw. We need to score, that’s the best way to go through. It's not about the performance but about getting a good result. It wasn't bad at all but it could have been better.
United forward Robin van Persie admitted he should have scored from at least one of three good chances he had in the second half to give his team a first-leg advantage.
I had three chances in the second half, I should have put it in when I hit the bar. I slightly miskicked it, with a bit of luck it could have gone in. The keeper made a really good save in the dying seconds because I was counting on that one going in. Its just half time now and we’ll be ready for the second half.
Positive talk from both camps, then, and this game still has a long way to go for sure.
The statistics will point heavily to Real Madrid having dominated long spells of this first leg, but United defended well enough with their deep line to restrict the home team to long range shots, which de Gea dealt well with.
At Old Trafford United will almost certainly be more on the offensive, which will likely leave far more space for the likes of Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria to operate in. As Ferguson noted, Real can be deadly on the counter-attack.
Both managers are still confident of progressing on aggregate—or away goals—after the next game, but right now the tie is far too close to call after the first leg.
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