De Gea, Ronaldo or Fergie – who impressed in Madrid?

Man United keeper grabs the headlines from Real Madrid superstar in 1-1 draw

LAST UPDATED AT 11:12 ON Thu 14 Feb 2013

THE FIRST instalment of the Champions League showdown between Manchester United and Real Madrid ended in a 1-1 draw last night, with both sides declaring themselves pleased with the result.

With nothing to separate the two sides the second leg at Old Trafford in three-weeks time promises to be a classic.

The match produced talking points galore with much of the coverage focusing on individual performances and battles. Most of the headlines were dedicated to United keeper David de Gea, who produced a string of outstanding saves to keep his side in the game.

"As the shots rained down... he threw himself to the left and to the right, using his hands, his feet and any other part of his anatomy to remind us that, when it comes to the art of shot-stopping, there are few better," said Oliver Kay of The Times.

But Kay noted that Madrid did not try to target De Gea's fallibility on crosses. Madrid manager Jose Mourinho "had not done his homework on how to exploit a chink in United’s armour".

Henry Winter in the Daily Telegraph says the keeper could be the difference between the sides. "If David de Gea continues to keep goal as defiantly, athletically and occasionally as unorthodoxly as this, United will continue to progress towards Wembley," he wrote.

Despite De Gea's heroics, he could not keep Cristiano Ronaldo out of the limelight and the latter's header cancelled out Danny Welbeck's strike for United. "Ronaldo kept Madrid in this tie, make no mistake of that," claimed Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail.

He added: "When United scored against the run of play, it was Ronaldo who dragged his team-mates back into the contest."

Sid Lowe of The Guardian agreed. Ronaldo's headed goal was the "stand-out moment" of the game, he said, adding: "This was not just an impressive performance, it was a clever one, in which he moved astutely, dropping deeper and switching sides, composed. Always involved."

Spare a thought for Rafael Da Silva, given the job of marking Ronaldo. "He dived into challenges, collided with defensive team-mates, misjudged the bounce of the ball and was, quite frankly, given a chasing down Real’s left flank," said Mark Ogden of the Telegraph. It was as though he was "tormented by a succession of white-shirted matadors".

The Independent claimed that nothing could have prepared him for "this kind of white heat" but said that he was ably assisted by others including Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones as United "matched rapier with resilience" and produced their "finest night of football for several years".

But what of Wayne Rooney? He played on the right and was given a defensive brief, helping to shackle Ronaldo, but Jamie Jackson of the Guardian praised a display "drawn from his all-action mode". However, he also damned Rooney with faint praise, describing him as one of "football's eternal triers" who "reside in the class below Ronaldo".

So, who won the battle of the managers? Madrid boss Jose Mourinho said he was "100 per cent sure" that his side would progress after the second leg at Old Trafford in three weeks time, but United have a crucial away goal and manager Alex Ferguson admitted that he would have taken a draw before the match.

"Was it a tactical victory for Ferguson?" asked Bill Edgar in The Times. "He could argue that a draw away to a European powerhouse justified his decision to deploy positive tactics [but] it was only David De Gea's brilliant shot-stopping that prevented the two-goal victory that Real probably deserved." · 

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