Tuesday 19 March 2013

Nothing Compares to Zlatan

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Sweden coach Erik Hamren compared Zlatan Ibrahimovic's stunning overhead kick for his fourth goal against England to "watching a video game".

The striker's amazing improvisation saw him acrobatically volley Joe Hart's headed clearance in from 30 yards, as Sweden won 4-2.

England captain Steven Gerrard, winning his 100th cap, said it was "probably the best goal" he had seen live.

"I don't know if you will see another like it in your life," said Hamren.

"Sometimes, when he's doing these things, in training or in matches, you don't think it's possible. Because it's not possible to do that - the fourth goal, for example."

Ibrahimovic's spellbinding final effort combined unfathomable imagination and expert technique to stun the Friends Arena crowd in stoppage time.

The 6ft 5ins forward has split opinion throughout his career, with many on mainland Europe hailing a genius who has been the driving force behind title successes for clubs Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona and AC Milan, while British sources sometimes cite an enigmatic figure who rarely performs on the biggest stage.

Speaking after his four-goal exploits in Solna, Ibrahimovic commented on his reputation by saying: "That's the way it is with the English. If you score against them you're a good player, if you don't score against them you're not a good player.

"I remember Lionel Messi before the 2009 Champions League final for Barcelona.Then he scored against Manchester United and suddenly he was the best player in the world. Maybe now they'll say something like that about me.

"Hart was a long way out and I was just trying to get it into the goal. I was on the ground when it was on the way in.

"I saw a defender sliding in to try to get rid of it and I wanted to scream 'No' but the ball went in."

An example of Ibrahimovic's trademark confidence came in the build-up to the friendly. When asked to grade his international career while on the cusp of receiving his 100th cap, Gerrard responded: "Six or seven."

In contrast, when posed with the same question on Wednesday night, Ibrahimovic replied without hesitation: "Ten."

England manager Roy Hodgson was quick to praise Ibrahimovic's invention on BBC Radio 5 live: "The fourth goal was the crowning glory.

"It's a wonderful goal to see on a football field, though I would rather have seen it against someone else."

Gerrard believes the goal eclipses that of Wayne Rooney's for Manchester United against Manchester City last season.

The England striker's stunning overhead kick, which gave United a 2-1 win, was voted the best goal in the history of the Premier League.

"I think the best goal I have seen before that is Wayne Rooney's (against Manchester City)," said Gerrard.

"Everyone knows how special that was but this one tonight - an overhead kick from 25 yards [sic] when the ball is six feet in the air - only certain players can do that."

Former England manager and BBC Radio 5 live pundit Graham Taylor insisted the Swede's superb volley was one that will live long in the memory.

He said: "That is one of the best goals I have ever seen. What a fantastic goal, it has made this game one we will never forget.

"Ibrahimovic scores exceptional goals. It was an exceptionally gifted, talented goal."

England debutant Leon Osman said: "Ibrahimovic just seemed to have five minutes of dominance and then the wonder goal at the end.

"It is certainly the best goal I have seen live, in its presence. To do what he did, the imagination of it alone and to get as high as he did for a big guy was unbelievable, and it found the back of the net. It was a terrific goal and the best I have seen."

Taylor's colleague Pat Nevin said: "His fourth goal was beyond perfection, it was magical. His technique was off the scale."

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Pick Lions in Best Form - John Bentley


Former British & Irish Lions international John Bentley believes reputation should count for nothing when coach Warren Gatland picks his squad for next summer's tour to Australia.

Bentley, a key member of the last Lions squad to claim a series victory over South Africa in 1997, is confident that the elite tourists can repeat that feat against the Wallabies if Gatland gets his selection right.

"Warren Gatland has been proven in the last four years as being a great coach with Wales and he has got the best out of his players, so he is the best man for the job," said Bentley, who started the second and third Tests in 1997.

"The important thing about selecting the Lions squad initially is selecting players who are in form at the time, reputation will count for nothing. He has to pick those who are playing well.

"The Lions comes along only once every four years and they only go to three countries and it will be a great challenge going to Australia. But of the three countries - Australia, South Africa and New Zealand - it's probably the best one to go to to seek that elusive win.

"The important thing is to try and get them to be a team as quickly as possible. In 1997 we became a side, a team, and importantly it doesn't want to be a midweek team and a Saturday team. Ultimately everyone wants to play on a Saturday because that is when the Tests are played."

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Friday 15 March 2013

Event Sponsorship Irish Style

With the news that consumers face a 2% levy on all non-life and health insurance policies to help fund a €720 million shortfall at Quinn Insurance the second edition of RTE’s Late Late Show of this season will run on Friday with Quinn-Direct as the high profile programme sponsor. In the wake of the details of the Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2011 being published the  sponsorship market in Ireland sees the state broadcaster, already under pressure for its inflated cost structures and over reliance on state subsidy, flaunt a sponsor that may now send shivers down the spine of consumers – all of whom must now bear the costs of Sean Quinn's former company. 

Surely the pragmatic thing would have been for RTE to renege on the second year's money, not only in the interest of good taste, but as part of its contribution to the new era of austerity.

It seems that that €720 million will now be needed by the fund, of which and €280 million will be advanced by the exchequer in the fourth quarter of this year to meet the requirements of Quinn Insurance. The Government envisage that the levy, which will indirectly be charged to consumers through their insurance providers, will raise about €65 million per year - as in 1984, following the collapse of PMPA the previous year. 

At that time there was insufficient money in the fund to meet liabilities so a levy of 2 per cent was paid by all non-life insurers until the end of 1991. This was then reduced to 1 per cent for the following year. 

With consumers now facing household charges and already paying for a TV licence the new Director General at RTE failed to use any imagination in the second year of the Quinn Direct sponsorship deal,  and demonstrate they too are prepared to face real market forces in 2011. Choosing instead to accept the funds from an organisation now on a state life support subsidy. 

The history is that the Quinn group signed up to the two-year contract, following on from the previous sponsor, Halifax, which at the time RTE claimed was worth more than €1m over two years - and vital addressing the estimated €68m advertising shortfall projected in 2010.

Meanwhile at another one of the those state companies, where staff are demanding 'disturbance money' to move just three kilometres to new offices, Bord Gáis, bought the naming rights to the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin’s Docklands, run by Harry Crosbie and Live Nation.
The deal is understood to be for six-years with suggested estimates in the region of €400,000 a year, despite Harry Crosbie seeking €1 million for those same rights in advance of its opening. 

At the same time earlier this month Bord Gais customers learned that they will pay nearly 22%  more for their home gas supplies from next month after the Commission for Energy Regulation approved the price rises for residential customers. Indeed, as far back as July, Bord Gáis had applied for an increase of 28 per cent in prices, but in the end the approval was for 21.7 per cent. 

In a sector where the state multiple is a dominant supplier the need for high cost branding and consumer visibility would appear negligible and of limited strategic value - in an internal domestic market - even if it was for sale sometime in the future. Apparently Bord Gáis believes it is engaged in a competitive three-way battle with ESB and Airtricity for market share in the gas and electricity sectors. In contrast Airtricity sponsors the League of Ireland and the figures suggested for that deal are closer to 25% of those Bord Gais secured for the Grand Canal Theatre. 

The expense also comes on on the foot of securing 460,000 electricity subscribers from the “Big Switch” marketing campaign in the past two years with Lucy Kennedy of RTE - which was exceed all marketing forecasts - and more that paid for itself.

On the other hand the venue naming rights game is an expensive business and has proved so  in Ireland in recent years, replicating experiences overseas, with private companies like Mobile operator O2 sponsoring the former Point Depot, and Aviva securing the rights to the new Lansdowne Road stadium. 

In golf it is Failte Ireland who are the main sponsors of the national championship with the re-named 'Irish Open presented by Discover Ireland' failing to attract a commercial title sponsor for this year’s event at Killarney Golf and Fishing club. 

The claim is that last year’s Irish Open provided the perfect global marketing platform for Ireland as over 82,000 fans flocked to Killarney to create one of the highlights of Ireland’s sporting calendar. Given that Fáilte Ireland is a long-term investment partner with The European Tour they chose to build on the success of last year’s tournament reaching an agreement to rename the event at a cost of €1.5 million event as ‘The Irish Open presented by Discover Ireland’. 

As experts in the area of Sports Sponsorship the question is why should a company be interested in sponsorship in the first place at these rates? 

The answer in theory is it should offer significant opportunities for distinct marketing and competitive advantages, as well as showing support for an event. A successful case in point being the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club, albeit that was hosted at the peak of the Celtic Tiger when affordability was not an issue on any one's radar. 

In short though sponsorship is a financial or in-kind support for an activity, used primarily to reach specified business goals and according to IEG’s Complete Guide to Sponsorship is explained as follows  "Sponsorship should not be confused with advertising. Advertising is considered a quantitative medium, whereas sponsorship is considered a qualitative medium. It promotes a company in association with the sponsee." 

In addition sponsorship allows you reach specifically targeted niche markets without any waste and is a powerful complement to other marketing programmes. It can also have a dramatic influence on customer relations as often companies are looking to improve how they are perceived by their target audience. By sponsoring events they can appeal to a market that are likely to shape buying attitudes and help generate a positive reaction. 

Sponsorship can also be geared to driving sales and offers a potent promotional tool in creating positive publicity or heightened visibility for a brand. 

Not sure which of the above apply to the decisions made by Quinn Insurance, RTE, Bord Gais or Failte Ireland - which are all state funded - by a state that is by any normal business definition, insolvent - borrowing daily to meet its current budget overspend. 

However a key fundamental parameter to all the sponsorship programmes is simple affordability. And there in lies the question about these decisions. Seems like it is sports sponsorship Irish style.

Also known as pay for it now and hope they will come in the future.

First published 2011

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Tuesday 12 March 2013

Olympic Legends - Shirley Strickland

Second only to Merlene Ottey in Olympic medals won by a woman, Shirley Strickland won more Olympic medals than any other Australian in running sports. 

Strickland should in fact have won an eighth medal - photo-finish evidence from London 1948, discovered in 1975, confirmed that she finished third at 200m, but she was placed fourth and the result was never amended.

Strickland was a late starter in athletics because of the Second World War, but built up her career and became dominant in the 80m hurdles in particular. 

Her father was also an athlete, but he was unable to compete in the 1900 Olympics because he could not afford the trip to Paris. She was one of the bearers of the Olympic Torch at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.

New Clubs Hold No Fears - McIlroy

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Rory McIlroy has no fears that ditching the Titleist equipment that has taken him to number one in the world will result in any diminishing of his golfing powers.

The USPGA champion's switch to Nike clubs next season, a deal that media reports estimate will be worth $250 million over 10 years, has been the subject of much debate with six-times major winner Nick Faldo among those questioning his decision.

Asked by reporters in Dubai on Tuesday if he had any concerns the change would jeopardise his confidence or form, McIlroy replied: "No, not at all.

"I think all the manufacturers make great equipment nowadays and it's all very similar - a lot of them get their clubs made at the same factories. I don't think it will make any difference."

Twice major winner McIlroy will bid a fond farewell to his old clubs at the $8 million DP World Tour Championship that starts on Thursday, the end-of-season showpiece event on the European Tour.

"I've started the process of trying a few new things," said the 23-year-old Irishman.
"I've tinkered about a little bit with the new ones, enough to feel comfortable going into next season" - Rory McIlroy.

"I'm still playing with my Titleist clubs - this is the last week - but I've tinkered about a little bit with the new ones, enough to feel comfortable going into next season."

McIlroy is delighted with the progress he has made this season and European Tour chief executive George O'Grady presented him with a special money clip on Tuesday.

"I thought we would take this moment to acknowledge the extraordinary performance of Rory this year, winning our Race To Dubai money-list before coming to the final championship, and winning the money-list in America too," said O'Grady.

"He played brilliantly all year and conducted himself in a manner where anybody would be proud to say, 'He's our champion'."

McIlroy said he felt "proud and honoured" to join the long list of greats to have won the European money-list.

"I've had four goes at it and it was great to be able to do it this year," he added.

"It's been a phenomenal year but I've still got one tournament left and I want to finish the season strong by picking up two trophies at the end of the week."

McIlroy agreed with many of his fellow players when he said the importance of the DP World Tour Championship had been diluted after he clinched the money-list title nine days ago.

However, he disagreed with Ryder Cup team mate Luke Donald who earlier in the day urged the tour to consider recalibrating the money-list ahead of the tournament in order to keep the excitement going until the final event of the season.

"I think the format is good," said McIlroy. "It's a season-long race - that's the way it is.

"I guess it is a bit of an anti-climax this week but as I said earlier I would love to pick up both trophies come Sunday."

McIlroy was undoubtedly influenced by the fact he missed out on overall victory in the FedExCup despite having won two of the four tournaments in this year's US playoff series.

Ultimately he knows he will be remembered for his wins in the 'big four' tournaments but he refuses to put on any additional pressure by targeting Jack Nicklaus's record haul of 18 major victories.

"I've always said I'm never going to put a number on it," said the 2011 US Open winner. "I don't want to do that, I just want to get my third.

"When I get my third then I want to try and get my fourth. A career grand slam is probably the next obvious goal," added McIlroy referring to a clean sweep of the British Open, US Masters, US Open and US PGA Championship.

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Saturday 9 March 2013

If Only Ferguson Read Kipling....

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When cool heads were needed in the heat of battle at Old Trafford the dugout was empty and leader less. In that void Jose Mourinho went about his business, making tow vital changes. One of which had almost an immediate impact when Luka Modric reshaped a somewhat inert midfield and then struck a delightful ball inside David DeGea's left hand post. The rest, as they say, is history and the world moved on. 

Except for Sir Alex Ferguson. 

The most decorated man in Premier League history spoke for the first time since Tuesday at a Friday press conference ahead of the vital FA Cup clash against Chelsea. In summary Ferguson feels he has been denied the chance of Euro glory on a total of three occasions by referees. This week was just another after that controversial Champions League exit at the hands of Real Madrid in the last 16. 

Remarkably Ferguson admits his side lost their focus as Real pounced with two goals in three second-half minutes 

“It cost us the game. When you get a player sent off and he deserves to be sent off the reaction from your players is ‘Oh you stupid bugger!” but you don’t lose your composure. 

“We lost our composure for that 10-minute period. We were all over the place. That period was the killer. 

“There was a sense of ‘here we go again’. Then we lost the second goal. 

His side have also suffered previous injustices in the same competition. 

Ten years ago against Mourinho and Porto, Paul Scholes had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside in the second leg which would have finished the tie. But Porto pounced in the last seconds to knock United out. 

In 2009, at the quarter-final stage a red card for Rafael allowed Bayern Munich back into the second leg, and Arjen Robben the scored and Ferguson went out on away goals. 

“It’s hard to keep your faith when you see these things happen. 
“That’s three European Cups we’ve been knocked out of due to refereeing decisions. 

“But somewhere along the line you have to find the energy to get back up and carry on.” 

The truth is that it was the manager who lost his cool and was unable to keep his head while everyone else was losing theirs, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling. Not only did he neglect his post, he rudely bungled past one of his backroom staff, then berated the fourth official, menacingly finger pointing at the referee and the waved his hands at the crowd to raise the Red roar. A few steps away Real Madrid number two Karanka was sensibly advising the officials that Modric would replace Arbeloa. Soon after Pepe was on for Ozil. One wonders whether Ferguson, or indeed assistant Mike Phelan, even noticed, so out of control were their emotions. 

Three minutes later the game was just about done and dusted. 

For the rest of the footballing world it was a night when funny things can happen, and where events, my dear friend, can be the making of a football game. Or indeed not. Let’s remember United at Camp Nou in 1999, Liverpool’s Istanbul final in 2005; Or Moscow in 2008 when John Terry lost his footing when taking his penalty in the Champions League final -and hit the post. Albeit it was Nicolas Anelka’s miss that sent the trophy Manchester United’s way. Or just ask Bastian Schweinsteiger the same questions after his very uncharacteristic penalty miss at the Allianz Arena last May, which rewarded Terry’s team – against all the pre-match odds. 

Sometimes this stuff is just written. 

The trick is not to lose focus and so accustomed is Ferguson perhaps to dominating the Premier League, real life in Europe highlights some tactical shortcominbgs. It’s an unforgiving place where the teams like Bayern Munich, Juventus, and Real Madrid have long legacies at this elite tournament. They too have been managed by numerous managers during the same time that Ferguson has been the sole boss at Old Trafford. That is a healthier set of affairs for footballers, backroom staff, who learn with every change, forced to adapt and can thrive on the unpredictability. Many international managers probably relish playing The Reds as the tactics and players vary little, so when United face top talent they can fall way short. Just revisit that final in 2011 at Wembley when Pep Guardiola guided his side easily past Ferguson’s men as if it were a training game. 

The hiccup at Basle was the result of arrogance in the group stage with United winning only 2 of their 6 games. Then having to chase the game in Switzerland to keep their hopes alive against Champions League neophytes. Which they failed to do after a master class in keeping the ball from Basel. A year later little has changed and in the end two average teams met in the last 16 with one progressing courtesy of a referees’ decision. But also as a result of number of misses from Robin Van Persie, which twice in Madrid could have put the tie beyond - not only keeper Diego Lopez’s reach – but Mourinho’s. Rather than drop Rooney why not Van Persie. 

The Dutchman has not scored in his last five outings for United. 

Against Real Madrid on Tuesday night, RVP was a shadowy figure compared to the early part of this season, with a couple of miskicks reminiscent of the first leg. The statistics suggest it his worst run of form since the start of the 2010-11 season, when injury still plagued him as he scored just one goal in his last eight appearances. At least Rooney scored last week at Norwich, as did Kagawa – three times. 

But seemingly these issues cannot be raised about Fergie. 

Regardless of the referee Manchester United came to defend the one all score line from Madrid and hoped that the impressive Danny Wellbeck would deliver a goal. Even against the run of play. This was preferred than a more offensive setup that would inhibit Real Madrid, who under Mourinho, also play the counter attack so effective. In fact Sir Alex’s visit to see the Cope del Rey semi-final at Camp Nou might have influenced his thinking a bit too much and caused him to opt to stifling Xabi Alonso as his Plan A. And for a lot of the game it worked. Yet as the game went on it was clear Mourinho would throw the kitchen sink at United in search of that vital goal. But that all became academic once the Turkish referee made his call. 

That decision notwithstanding, a robust and over eager Wayne Rooney would have been the better option and the call in RVP from the bench if all else failed. 

One sad note is the venom that many Manchester United figures voiced for one of the greatest sons, Roy Keane. A man who captained his team in Turin in 1999 to win in a match that The Reds had little hope – after going down 2-0 in the second leg – and 3-2 on aggregate. That night Keane headed a goal in the second half that set off a most unlikely come back that secured his team’s place in that infamous Barcelona final. Earning himself in the process a yellow card, which absented him the Champions League showpiece. Even allowing for some mischief, and Keane has had his fair share of questionable tackles in his career, the bile that came his way for comments on the Nani red card on the ITV panel are shocking. 

But the Ferguson, Ferdinand and a number of others showed that they should really read more Kipling. 

"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same;"

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Wednesday 6 March 2013

Ferguson Goes Nani About Red

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At the Champions League final in 2011 at Wembley Sir Alex Ferguson selected Ryan Giggs in the starting line-up, a player who had had just undergone major scrutiny about his private life. And a test that would have rendered most men incapacitated after the national redtops had their field day. The decision by the Manchester United manager to name Paul Scholes on the bench was perhaps missed by the less, seeing it as soppy and nostalgic touch by the United gaffer. But by the time Scholesy hit the field in the 77th minute the game was over and his impact was nefarious, to say the least. As was Giggs’ on the night, more than obviously burned out by tension of many weeks of public scrutiny. 

Although Pep Guardiola's side were the best in Europe that night, by any measure, it belied a reality that afflicts the record of Ferguson’s Champions League record, where Moscow came down to penalties, and the 1999 win coming in a bizarre final 90 seconds at the Camp Nou against the run of play. As even George Best had left the stadium in despair that night, missing those final two goals from Solkjaer and Sheringham. In fact to this day one wonders as to what went through Ottmar Hitzfeld's mind that night in Barcelona and why he decided to take off Lothar Mathaus in the 90th minute. But on such fine things are Champions League games balanced. 

It was no different at Old Trafford on Tuesday when Ferguson chose to rely on Ryan Giggs, who at 39 years was playing his 1,000th time for the club, yet ill equipped to be that pivotal player in such a key European match in 2013. A fact that more clearly highlights the true value of that 12 point lead in the Premier League, as playing a top European teams is very different to a visit to Norwich or Sunderland. A point that the highly decorated Manchester United manager fails to appreciate at times despite those successes in 1999 and 2008. 

For all the potential controversy of the refereeing decision to send off Nani, which was without doubt a turning point, it somehow fails to explain how the lead was only obtained though the misfortune of Sergio Garcia – who pushed the ball into his own net. Albeit that the home side were applying all the pressure, Real Madrid were able to absorb it up to that stage. 

Having said that, Nemanya Vidic should have taken the lead, except for the rigid upright which deflected the ball into the groin of Madrid keeper Lopez, and kept the score level. But Madrid could also claim the goal by Higuain was valid and not illegal as deemed by the referee. But on such delicate moments do Champions League matches hinge. 

It seems that for Ferguson there is a failure to understand - that for many managers who live away from the over hyped Premier League – winning the Champions is where the standards are set. In that competition all teams come with no baggage, history or reputation. In that sense Mourinho’s Real Madrid are as humble as the next, as the club have not won the trophy since Vicente Del Bosque took them to Hampden Park in 2002. And for a club that waited many decades before winning it in 2000 and 2002 there is a real appreciation for the competition. Particularly after the accumulated history from the 1960's. At times United seem to forget that history. 

And so it was at OId Trafford when the pretender, Mourinho, showed the master the way forward, even despite the referee’s decision to banish Nani for an over the top tackle on Madrid defender Arbeloa. Which, rightly or wrongly, then changed the complexion of the tie and indeed the momentum. But then again on such moments are Champions League ties balanced. 

The only surprising with the Premier League Champions elect was their failure to find a formula that could hold a Madrid side - way off the lead in La Liga – and with the Copa del Rey the only other remaining challenge. The United defeat on Tuesday goes a long way to confirming Pep Guardiola's choice to manage Bayern Munich next season as the right one. Clearly the British teams struggle with the game in Europe, with Celtic facing an unlikely comeback against Juventus in Turin on Wednesday, and Arsenal fearing the worst in their return trip to the Allianz Arena against Bayern. 

On the night though it was the Ferguson’s decisions that highlighted a myopia that fails to see European football as different. The major one being to start Giggs from the kick off in a role, and in a match, that would require a physicality that even the fittest 39 year old would struggle to fulfil. The other decision to absent Rooney from the beginning was also unusual, given he is a player that most in Europe would regard as a threat. Even if he were playing with one leg tied to the other. 

For Real Madrid it was a tough night most of the time and it proved tricky game for Xabi Alonso who was unable to release the ball when marked so closely by an impressive Danny Wellbeck. In addition, the runs of Gonzalo Higuain, tested the defensive line of Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra - albeit without any result. The trouble for United compounded perhaps by not allowing Antonio Valencia rampage up the flanks and dilute the attacking flair of Fabio Coentrao. But such is the game that sometimes the tactics can be too clever. 

Which in essence is where Ferguson led to his own downfall. Last season it was basel that put the Reds out at the group stages. 

For Madrid it was a roller coaster night which saw the game come and go, and it was only the arrival of Luka Modric that changed their game plan – and he would have done so facing 10 or 11 men. On the night his movement was sharp and it allowed him find an opportunity inside the right post of David DeGea's goal. A strike of the type that made him so popular with Spurs fans a number of seasons ago. The fact that he has not been a regular in the starting eleven for Madrid makes it more dramatic. On this occasion his goal took the pressure of Cristiano Ronaldo, and rendered that vital goal in the 66th minute. On such moments are Champions League ties balanced. 

The Stretford End was then silenced when Ronaldo put the tie beyond reach three minutes later. 

The damage from the Nani sending off was evidenced by Sir Alex Ferguson’s failure to appear before the post-match cameras, a contrast to the elegance of Mourinho, who was modest in his assessment of the result. Too often in Clasicos he has been on the receiving end of unfavourable or bizarre refereeing decisions. He knows far too well what that feeling is like. 

“Of course we are happy to have qualified, but I expected more from my team. We didn't play well. We took advantage of the ten to 15 minutes after their sending-off. The first half ended scoreless and it was a very tactical game until that point with both sides giving their all. When Luka Modric came on I felt he changed the dynamic of the game in midfield.” explained Jose Mourinho. 

“Having said that, we suffered until the end; United were physically very strong. We suffered too much while they had ten men and the fact that our goalkeeper Diego López was our best player in that time says it all. When your keeper is your best player with a numerical advantage it shows you are not controlling the game as you should. Our midfield was filled with players during the later stages, yet we didn't control the match.”

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