Danny Welbeck and Ronaldo make it 1-1 at Bernabeu
'Unbelievable' says Fergie of Ronaldo's header as Man Utd go into second leg with slight advantage
Real Madrid 1 Manchester United 1. Advantage Man United. A goal from Danny Welbeck and several sharp saves from goalkeeper David de Gea ensured Alex Ferguson's side will be the slight favourites to progress to the last eight of the Champions League next month. "The players battled hard and it's a good result for us," declared Ferguson. "We still have a big job on our hands but it is definitely within our grasp."
Real Madrid had Cristiano Ronaldo to thank for the Real goal, the former United star beating de Gea with a brilliant header on 30 minutes. That strike cancelled out Welbeck's effort ten minutes earlier when the young striker rose unmarked to nod the ball past Diego Lopez in the Real goal.
Though Robin van Persie forced Lopez to make a sharp save low down late on in the game, most of the pressure after the goals was directed the way of United. But De Gea stood firm, the 22-year-old Spaniard suddenly finding the authority that has eluded him for so long. Only last month, Ferguson was forced to defend De Gea after a gaffe against Tottenham cost United two points.
At the Bernabeu, De Gea saved his side time after time and Ferguson knew who to thank for giving his side their precious advantage for the return leg at Old Trafford on March 5. "David was excellent and produced three or four really top saves," said Ferguson. "I'm pleased for the boy. This is a difficult place to come and we would have taken 1-1 before the game."
One save in particular was stunning, De Gea fingertipping a low shot from Fabio Coentrao on to the posts. "Absolutely superb", was Ferguson's assessment of the save that left the Bernabeu crowd wringing their hands in frustration.
Up-front the battle of the strikers was won by Ronaldo, whose header was his 35th goal in 34 games this season for Real. Wayne Rooney and Van Persie, who has scored 23 times for United this season, were both under par with the Dutchman in particular guilty of wasting one great opportunity on 72 minutes when he miscued from 10 yards, allowing Xabi Alonso the chance to clear off the goal-line.
"I'm proud to see how he has flourished," said Ferguson of Ronaldo, who left United for Real in the summer of 2009. "Ronaldo, what a header, unbelievable. The spring, how he held himself in the air, the great power in the header."
Ferguson revealed that Ronaldo paid the United dressing room a visit after the game and there was also some good-natured jousting between Real manager Jose Mourinho and the visiting fans.
As the Special One prowled the technical area he was told to "Sit Down" by the United faithful, an instruction that was met with a magisterial wave. "When we get to Old Trafford we know what we need to do," said Mourinho. "We need to score, and if we score we'll be ahead. It is very easy to understand…We are happy, and see you in three weeks." ·