All the usual pundits are predicting doom and gloom for Manchester United as they prepare for their monumental clash with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night in the Champions League knock out stage. Of course, most of these pundits are the armchair journalists who sit in their offices in London and rarely venture north of Watford in case they get lost! Most ex-players are predicting a very different outcome and for good reason. Sir Alex has formulated a plan to neutralise Ronaldo. He should know how to do this, as Ronaldo played under Sir Alex for 6 years at Old Trafford, so who better to know his weaknesses. Ronaldo has recently admitted that his best years were at Old Trafford, but that should not mislead anyone into thinking that he does not still pose a threat.
Any aficionado of football will have watched with interest how United dealt with the immense threat from Gareth bale when they played Tottenham recently. Furthermore, how they dealt with the threat from Marouane Fellaini in the previous match against Everton. They utilised an old trick in football that is used all too infrequently these days; they man-marked the player out of the game. Of course it is a negative ploy and does mean that one of your players is effectively also out of the game, but in extreme circumstances, the plan will work as it did against Tottenham and latterly against Everton.
People make the mistake that because Sir Alex is now in his threescore and ten years, that he is losing his marbles! Don’t you believe it. He is still as sharp as ever. Assuming he is fit, Phil Jones will once again adopt the role of spoiler-in-chief and negate the threat from Ronaldo by following him around the pitch closer than a shadow! It is `old school` but it is effective.
Furthermore, there are serious division in the Real squad this season. We are in the third season of Mourinho`s reign and anyone following the `special` one`s career will know that is his shelf life at any club. Fallouts between him and Iker Casillas and Ramos, both powerful influences at Real, will result in only one end. Mourinho will leave at the end of this season. This is because at Real Madrid, the top players have the ear of the president. There is a direct line of communication between the president and the top players, unlike at any other club. At Real, the players take precedence over the manager. You only need to ask Pellegrini, Del Bosque or Fabio Capello, all of whom won the league title or Champions League, only to be sacked because of player unrest.
Add to that unrest, the dismal defensive record this season and you have the perfect recipe for disaster. Real will be facing two of the most dangerous strikers in Europe at the moment and both are at the top of their form. Rooney and Van Persie are one of the main reasons why United are running away with the Premier League. I don’t buy the media nonsense that the Premier League is not as good this year. United have stepped up a notch and are supreme this season with the inspired addition of Van Persie.
I expect at least a draw at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night and then United will win at Old Trafford by at least 2 goals in the return match. United only have to deal with Ronaldo; Real Madrid will have to deal with Rooney, Van Persie, Hernandez and Welbeck. There can only be one outcome.