Manchester United vs Real Madrid – Champions League

TKTG looks at the controversial match between Manchester United and Real Madrid and brings the best articles from around the web.

Match Report / Tactical Analysis- Jonathan Wilson 

There was no doubt about the moment that changed the game. Manchester United had been leading 1-0 on Tuesday night, 2-1 on aggregate, and was winning the tactical battle when, 11 minutes into the second half, Nani leapt to try to take down a dropping clearance from Rafael. His raised foot caught Alvaro Arbeloa in the stomach, and Turkish referee Cunet Cakir decided, to widespread surprise, that he was guilty of serious foul play and showed a red card.

Replays showed Nani was looking at the ball and probably wasn’t aware of the exact position of Arbeloa, but in a sense that isn’t really the point. The foot was high, but the rulebook demands “excessive force” for a challenge to become a sending-off offense. Was that excessive? Nani probably could have withdrawn his foot, but it was dangling; careless, perhaps, but it was hard to see how the force involved could have been construed as excessive. Given his foot did catch Arbeloa high, perhaps it did endanger him, but it still seemed a very harsh call.



Until the red card, United had been in charge. Ferguson used Ryan Giggs, making his 1,000th senior appearance (including games for Wales and Great Britain) on the right, his prime duty seemingly being to cut off the supply to Cristiano Ronaldo. He achieved that — and tracked the forward surges of Fabio Coentrao superbly, while also offering an attacking treat with his range of passing.

Danny Welbeck was used in the position many expected Wayne Rooney to occupy, playing off Robin van Persie. His job was less to create than to disrupt Xabi Alonso and prevent him being the metronome who set Real’s tempo. He achieved that superbly, while also offering attacking thrust. Only his finishing, perhaps, is a little lacking — as was seen when he rather snatched at the opportunity that presented itself when Van Persie’s drive was parried by Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez, striking the ball against the goalie, but his intelligence and work rate were first-rate. He and Giggs embodied United’s approach — conservatism with an attacking edge.

There was clearly a feeling, too, that Real might be vulnerable to pace and United goalie David de Gea repeatedly kicked long and early, trying to use Nani’s pace. Real’s more obvious weakness is in defending corners — 21 percent of the goals they’d conceded this season before Tuesday night had come from set pieces

United had its reward, Rafael’s charge leading an attack that ended with Welbeck getting a touch on Nani’s cross – a touch that led to Sergio Ramos diverting the ball past his own keeper. But then came the red card. That, obviously, has a huge impact in itself, but United’s reaction was significant. Welbeck was forced left to take Nani’s place, allowing Xabi Alonso to push on more. United got deeper and deeper, setting up on the edge of its own box. Was that degree of negativity necessary? Did Real push United back, or did United sit back and allow Real to come at them?

Rafael cleared a Raphael Varane header off the line with a hand — unspotted by Cakir or deemed unintentional — five minutes after Nani’s dismissal, and five minutes after that substitute Luka Modric jinked by Michael Carrick and arced a shot in off the post. For a team defending as deep as that, it’s almost impossible to stop long-range efforts; you accept there will be a handful, and you just hope they don’t go in. Three minutes later, with United still rocking, Gonzalo Higuain drove a ball across goal, and Ronaldo turned it in. United had chances after that, but the sense was that it was Real, having brought on Modric to take advantage of United’s numerical disadvantage, that had seized opportunity when it arrived.

See the gif of the Nani card.

Graham Poll (former ref) on the Nani incident

Manchester United v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Round of 16

” The Portuguese winger challenged for the ball with a raised foot and only had eyes for the ball but caught Alvaro Arbeloa. It looked like dangerous play and at worst a yellow card.

Cakir stood and waited for Nani to get up as he appeared to be injured from the challenge.

It is said that the best referees avoid surprises – this referee clearly does not agree with that and shocked the entire crowd at Old Trafford.

However, I understand that the protection of players and ensuring their safety is drummed into UEFA referees at all seminars and with Pierluigi Collina, the European referees’ chief,  sitting in the stand, Cakir will have felt enormous pressure to follow those guidelines.

Those elite UEFA referees watching will not have been surprised at the red card but the English ones would acknowledge they would not have dismissed a player for the same offence in a Premier League game.

Former United midfielder Roy Keane, analysing the incident, supported the red card and the more you watch the incident the more you can see why the Turkish referee decided that the red card was the appropriate sanction.

So, had Cakir been advised to dismiss Rafael as well, then Manchester United would have had just nine players and faced a penalty.

Cakir was having a superb game. He was almost faultless in the first half and despite the debate of the Nani red card he continued refereeing consistently through the game and would, I expect, be congratulated by UEFA on his performance.”

Referee Cuneyt Cakir has a Twitter account, follows Real Madrid & Cristiano Ronaldo



Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir has a Twitter account. It has not been verified with a blue tick and the official has not Tweeted since late February 2013, but it will likely have the conspiracy theorists working over time.

Cakir only ever sent 164 Tweets and appears to have left the social network on February 28 after he was subjected to insults.

This is likely to be as a result of the game Cakir officiated on February 22, when he sent off Bursaspor’s Maurice Edu against Gaziantepspor.

Intriguingly, Cakir follows Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marca on Twitter. Of course, he is unable to follow Manchester United since they do not have a Twitter account.

Of the other 38 accounts Cakir follows on Twitter, the majority are Turkish clubs but he also counts the Spanish tourist board on his list.

For a detailed look at what various people have said about the Nani incident please click on our article ” Views from around the web – Nani red card”

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  1. Views from around the web – Nani red card | TOKNOWTHEGAME.COM - March 7, 2013

    […] an in depth analysis of the match you can read our article here; while the gif of the Nani red card can be also be viewed on our […]

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