How can Man United stop Real Madrid legend Ronaldo?

Feb 12, 2013

Theories abound on how to stop the former United winger from coming back to haunt his old club

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IF THE preparations of the British press are anything to go by then Jose Mourinho was right when he said the world was waiting for the clash between Real Madrid and Manchester United this week.

The game on Wednesday pits Mourinho against his friend and mentor Alex Ferguson and sees former United star Cristiano Ronaldo take on his old club for the first time since he left in 2009.

"It is a fixture associated with memorable football," writes Henry Winter in the Daily Telegraph, looking back on the clubs' four previous meetings in 1957, 1968, 2000 and 2003. "A showcase for creativity [and] the fixture that helped shape United's reputation for resilience in adversity," he says.

Away from the romance of the match-up, much of the attention is focused on how to stop Ronaldo, who has scored a phenomenal 182 goals in just 179 appearances for the Spanish side since leaving Old Trafford.

Unfortunately, figuring out a way to stifle him is "about the closest thing there is in football to asking how to nail a jelly to the wall", says Daniel Taylor in The Guardian. He recommends cutting off his supply by targeting Xabi Alonso.

Meanwhile, The Times reports that Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra are hoping their old team-mate will be overcome by the occasion. "It will be emotional for Ronaldo because he loves Manchester United," said Evra. "I hope the emotion gets to him. That will be perfect for us."

Former United defender Gary Neville told the Telegraph that playing with Ronaldo had changed the way he thought about football.

The full-back said he was used to playing with a winger who tracked back and stayed in position - but Ronaldo was different. "He's slipping across the line, switching wings, playing as the false nine," he explained.

"Team-mate or opponent, you can't pin him down, your head's spinning. Ronaldo's almost reinvented the system. Like Messi, like Cruyff, Maradona, the great players alter your perception on the game."

He also told the Daily Mail that the Portuguese attacker was a "monster" who liked to "bully" defenders. He recommended defending in numbers and crowding the player out.

However, the same paper places Ronaldo a disappointing sixth on a list of all-time Madrid greats, behind the likes of Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas, Zinedine Zidane, Raul and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who is out injured.

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If he plays anything like he did against Granada, United haven't got anything to worry about