Real Madrid hosted Manchester United at the Santiago Bernabeu last night in what manager Jose Mourinho described as the match ‘the world is waiting for’.
Wait we did and, I may be in a minority of one but, after all the hype, the tripe, and anticipation, I was a little bit disappointed. It was an anti-climax of gigantic proportions – akin to being promised caviar and then tossed a bacon sandwich.
With the stars on display last night – Cristiano Ronaldo, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil, Xavi Alonso, Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain – one expected the ‘glamour tie’ it had been built-up as.
Yet two headers – one from a cross and one from a corner – settled the game as a dull 1-1 draw. Meanwhile, as I had predicted yesterday, in Donetsk there was the passion, the drama, the goals, and the spectacle we had been told would be served up in Madrid. Borussia Dortmund held Shakhtar to a thrilling 2-2 draw in their first leg clash.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that the two sides didn’t play football – they did – it’s just the football wasn’t footbally enough. It didn’t have the flair, the thrill, the unexpected about it. There was some good passing – Madrid put together some pretty little triangles and both sides displayed some keen footwork.
But it didn’t have the penache of an El Clasico, it didn’t have the aggression of a Manchester derby, and it certainly didn’t have the goals of previous encounters between the Spanish champions and the Premier League leaders.
These two sides are two of the most successful, glamorous, and historical clubs in the world, their managers two of the most decorated and yet, it was a bit of a damp squib.
It was a bit like when you go to shake someone’s hand that you really admire and respect and their hand is all clammy and limp. But, alas, perhaps the best is yet to come from this tie – let’s hope so anyway.
When Real visit Old Trafford both sides will have all to play for and nothing to lose and, as is so often the case, they were probably just sizing each other up in the first leg. There’s more to lose in the first leg but on the return, the men are separated from the boys.
Only one can go through to the quarterfinals so there is only one certainty from here on out: one way or another, a giant will be slain in Manchester. That should be exciting, shouldn’t it?
image: © jansolo09