Five things we learnt from the big match: Man Utd vs Real Madrid
1 Ferguson still makes big calls
Leaving out Wayne Rooney, whatever the arguments over its tactical sense, his fitness, lack of defensive discipline and how modern-day football is a 14-man game etc was still a huge call by the Manchester United manager.
But then he has made a few of those before and often, with the likes of David Beckham, with significant repercussions. As Roy Keane said, maybe we will see this as the "writing being on the wall" for his United future. It was also a shock to the man himself (his wife Coleen took to Twitter to express surprise). It was the kind of decision that can have serious consequences and this one may run and run.
Big players like to start big games and Rooney's pride will have been pricked whatever way it is dressed up. It confirmed that he is no longer United's main man - having ceded that title to Robin van Persie - even if he came on in the second half.
2 Welbeck is the real deal
Preferred to Rooney, Danny Welbeck's running and ability to get in behind the Real Madrid defence was crucial to United's prospects. He linked superbly with Van Persie, running from deep and in behind the central defenders to cause Real big problems.
He is also not just quick and powerful but skilful although he spurned a superb chance, when he failed to capitalise after Diego Lopez shipped Van Persie's shot, and finishing is a weakness of his game.
However he carried out his instructions to a tee - and that included a disciplined spoiling job, as Ferguson had indicated he would be tasked with, when Xabi Alonso, the metronome at the heart of the Real team, was in possession. Welbeck immediately put the midfielder under pressure which meant that Alonso felt compelled to drop deeper in search of space, which made the striker's job easier.
Welbeck has all the attributes to be a fine international striker - as the watching England manager Roy Hodgson knows - if he can add more goals.
3 Ronaldo is loved at United... Mourinho not so much
There was an astonishing ovation for Cristiano Ronaldo on his first return to Old Trafford since his pounds 80?million move to Real Madrid in 2009 and it clearly touched him - as he pressed his hand over his heart in response.
It also appeared to affect him - for a while at least. There was light-hearted booing with his first touches while Ryan Giggs's diligence and Rafael's willingness to track him down the United right flank meant he was soon switching across the pitch to try and see if Nani was
less disciplined. And, of course, inevitably, Ronaldo scored. The reaction to Jose Mourinho was equally fascinating with the United crowd urging the Real coach to sit down whenever he ventured to the touchline - something he acknowledged with a downturned palm of his hand, as he accepted the invitation to be the panto-villain.
Some of the other chants, referring to his Chelsea past, were more unsavoury. It did not look like here was a man being anointed as Ferguson's successor.
4 Luka Modric is a class act
The Croatian has been lost since his big-money move to Real Madrid last summer from Tottenham Hotspur and has been reduced to a bit-part player coming on from the bench. He did just that last night - but his arrival had a huge impact. Nani's sending off changed everything but it was Modric who got Real Madrid going. Suddenly their passing was far
more incisive, they were pushing United back and retaining possession against the 10-men as they went for the jugular.
And then of course Modric got the equalising goal with the kind of crisply-driven shot from outside the penalty area that he is capable of but which he executes all too rarely.
He was heavily involved in Real's second goal as well as it was his sharp pass into the feet of Gonzalo Higuain that allowed the striker to cross for Ronaldo to slide in. Modric's impact was all the more galling because he was also wanted by United.
5 Old Trafford can create an atmosphere
Too often the atmosphere inside this grand stadium, even on big European nights, can be, well, flat - compared to grounds like Anfield - as if the crowd are waiting for something to happen. Last night United stoked it up with the pre-match rituals and also the unfurling of a huge banner in tribute to those who died in the Munich air disaster.
The occasion lived up to the billing and the crowd were 'at it' from the start - urging their team on and creating an even more hectic feel to the occasion.
This was, and felt like, a big game and the amps went up even further with Nani's sending off. Ferguson was apoplectic at the decision, on the touchline urging the fans to get behind their team. They responded even if the dynamics of the game had changed and it was backs against the wall. It was a night of real - and Real - drama.
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