Cristiano Ronaldo will be the man the whole world is watching tonight when Real Madrid host Manchester United. The Portuguese faces his old club for the first time since his world-record 80million pound move, and emotions will no doubt be running high for 'CR7' as he looks to progress to the latter stages of the tournament with Real Madrid.
One advantage Manchester United do have is that they nurtured Ronaldo into the talent he is today. Cristiano spent 6 years at Old Trafford before his multi-million pound move, so Fergie and the team will know his game, his strengths and his weaknesses.
Rafael will get the nod tonight, and you can expect the Brazilian to give Ronaldo similar treatment to what he did Gareth Bale. Manchester United know that this draw has given then a huge advantage with the home leg being played second, so United don't need to rely on the Brazilian's attacking side. Rafael will be ordered to sit deeper in the Red's half, occupying Ronaldo for the whole 90 minutes.
Phil Jones has the potential tonight to be a massive player for Sir Alex Ferguson. Against Gareth Bale and Marouane Fellaini, Jones proved he is more than capable of excluding a player out of the game with two different styles. Against Spurs, Jones covered Rafael well enough and slid in to cover the Welsh winger whenever needed. Whilst against Everton, his man-marking physicality kept Fellaini out of the game. Both side's major threats were seemingly nullified by Jones, who will no doubt be on Ronaldo's shoulder for the entire game.
If Jones and Rafael can get their game right, Ronaldo will have to cut inside. Thats were Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic prove to the world, and Fergie, they are still the top defensive duo at Manchester United. The two of them had the world at their feet in 2008 when United last won the Champions League, and whilst injury and age have caught up with them both, they will be key for Manchester United this campaign. Rio Ferdinand may not have the pace he once had, as many 'experts' in the game ridicule, but it is his experience and mentality that has so far assured the Englishman has had an impressive season to date.
Danny Welbeck or Antonio Valencia will have to play right midfield in order to track back and help defensively. Both are known for their emphatic work rate, and will be ordered to fall back whenever Ronaldo has the ball at his feet. The two of them may be in a dire run of form right now statistically, but with sheer defensive discipline, one of these guys could have a massive say on the effectiveness of Cristiano Ronaldo.
David de Gea you can almost guarantee will have an impressive game tonight in goal for United. The foundation of the Spaniard's game was built in La Liga, where reflexes and agility are a necessity. The long ball or crossing approach has little impact in Spain, so de Gea will arguably feel more comfortable in the Bernabeu than Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson recently came out to the media to admit he is fully behind David, who will no doubt want to put on a performance to impress his boss this evening.
In stopping Cristiano Ronaldo, they stop Madrid. Thats no disrespect to Real, who have a plethora of world-class talent among the ranks. However, CR7 has now scored 182 goals in 179 appearances for Madrid [Wikipedia] and is the main attacking force behind Los Blancos. If he can be kept quiet, Manchester United stand a chance.
Can Manchester United stop Cristiano Ronaldo tonight? Will they get a decent result against Mourinho's men? Leave me a comment and let me know!