05/03/2013 18:31 GMT | Updated 06/03/2013 09:42 GMT

Manchester United 1-2 Real Madrid: 5 Things Learned From The Champions League Clash

An eventful Champions League match at Old Trafford ended in elimination for Manchester United at the hands of Real Madrid for the third time this century.

Marred by a referee's judgement, Madrid nevertheless ended a seminal week in their season with a third successive win, having already done the double against Barcelona. While they are favourites for the Champions League, United now have a domestic double to concentrate on between now and May.

Here are five things learned from the heavyweight clash...


A superb success story since he joined from Arsenal, Robin van Persie has however timed his first Manchester United dip at a critical juncture in the season. It has now been five games since he last scored - which hasn't happened in over two years - and the Madrid tie will be a blot against his debut campaign copybook at United.

robin van persie

Having mishit a gilt-edged opportunity at the Bernabéu, so talismanic has he become he strode out at Old Trafford with Wayne Rooney in his shadow on the bench. Yet Van Persie toiled despite the willing support of Danny Welbeck and was often indecisive. The 29-year-old's touch was heavy as the evergreen Ryan Giggs - 10 years his senior - outperformed him.

Van Persie is too good a player for his form to be anything other than a blip, but United were bereft of his inspiration when they needed it most.


A week ago the vultures were hovering under grey skies at the Bernabéu as José Mourinho prepared for one of the biggest weeks of his managerial career. Seven days on, he was humble and magnanimous in victory after a clean sweep which reminded the football world of his enduring qualities as a manager.

jose mourinho

Mourinho was a humble winner

Having mastered two wins against Barcelona, Mourinho benefitted from some good fortune at Old Trafford but he has made a daunting week look tame with his own brand of nonplussed coolness. At times he looked like Bill Murray in a Wes Anderson film and humbly strode down the touchline like Bill Bixby despite victory. Less animated than usual, the new Mourinho may not suit his admirers but it suits Real's recovery.


Three years ago a red card wrecked United's Champions League chances when Rafael da Silva was sent off for two bookings against Bayern Munich and lightning struck twice on Tuesday night. Nani's erroneous red card was the catalyst for United's elimination, but Sir Alex Ferguson stood still as the storm gathered.

sir alex ferguson

Ferguson was understandably apoplectic with the referee

His bold selection was working well until Cüneyt Çakır stole the headlines from the world's two greatest clubs. Yet rather than restructure and refresh his 10-man team, just like against Bayern United withdrew into deeper and deeper water and the sharks inevitably drew blood. Within 13 minutes of Nani's departure Madrid were ahead, partly thanks to Mourinho introducing Luka Modrić, and just like three years ago, United had a paucity of options in midfield to combat such a situation.

The response after Ronaldo's winner was spirited yet fruitless, however Ferguson's midfield blind-spot was exposed again in admittedly luckless circumstances.


Voted the worst signing by a Spanish club in Marca, Luka Modrić may have changed that after his impact as a second-half substitute. He arrived under auspicious circumstances - Madrid were a man up and United were allowing their opponents time on the ball - but rather than sit alongside Xabi Alonso and gently probe, the Croat took the game to United. Alonso and Sami Khedira offered an expert safety net and Modrić thrived further forward than being restricted in a midfield two, as Mourinho capitalised on United's midfield shortcomings. His brilliant equaliser was only his second goal since the £33m transfer from Tottenham last summer, but it may belatedly galvanise his career at the Bernabéu.

luka modric

Modrić scored a stunning equaliser


Often managers are asked to "explain their comments" after they have supposedly criticised a referee. These are confidential, although the original remarks stem from media obligations and post-match candour the world can hear. Referees can only be heard by their whistles and are not duty-bound to explain their own decisions, so it is unlikely Cüneyt Çakır will reveal why he sent off Nani anytime soon.


Stealing their thunder

A good referee is one that goes unnoticed, which is why the bad ones write newspaper columns, release autobiographies and media whore ad nauseam. The lack of transparency is frustrating however and upholds the supercilious image associated with match officials as they continue to be protected despite dubious standards. Uefa should have reacted after Tom Henning Øvrebø's diabolical display in the 2009 semi-final between Chelsea and Barcelona, an issue re-emphasised during the 2011 last four tie between Barça and Real Madrid. Everyone remains in the dark when light still needs to be shed.

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