It’s not over yet, but the smell of defeat was in the air. Jose Mourinho had no answers to the Manchester United defense, or a couple of great saves from David de Gea. What he needed the most was Cristiano Ronaldo at his best for more than one half, and more than just a single goal. That didn’t happen, and Real Madrid find themselves not too far from ending their season in February.
For one half, while the game was a bit more even between the two sides, Cristiano Ronaldo was everything you’d expect of him. Running free on the left wing, with the terrible (at defending) Rafael covering, or at least trying to cover him. Ronaldo found himself free once again, time after time, while both Patrice Evra and Rafael couldn’t handle him. Angel Di Maria had his way with Rafael in the 30th minute, setting up a fantastic equalizer for Ronaldo, leaping over a helpless Patrice Evra.
And the second half? I don’t know if Jose Mourinho gave Ronaldo the order to play in a free role and wander the pitch looking for space, or it was his own decision. Instead of staying on the wing where he is more comfortable and facing a lesser player, Ronaldo moved to the middle, and was shadowed pretty well by Phil Jones for the entire second half, not getting a chance except for lucky scramble in the box, which he couldn’t get a footing on.
The greatest player in the world (according to him and a few others) needs to be on his best in the most important match of the season, or one of them at least. Instead, he disappeared, not for the first time, during the second half. You can live with that. Real Madrid are supposed to be much more than a one-man team. Mesut Ozil had plenty of space to make use of with Ronaldo taking up Phil Jones’ time. Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Xabi Alonso.
Despite the big names, the big talents and the big price tags, everyone that should have stepped up while Ronaldo was being closely watched by a stubborn and physically equal player failed. Mesut Ozil didn’t take a shot twice when he needed to. Xabi Alonso never really joined the attack, playing a bit too cautiously. Angel Di Maria, like Ronaldo, had enough magic for one half. Both Higuain and Benzema weren’t really felt in the match.
It’s not over yet, but a 1-1 draw at home against Manchester United and Alex Ferguson, proving, at least for now, that he’s a better manager than Jose Mourinho, isn’t a good result. The first half of the battle goes to United, because the second best player in the world forgot to show up for the second half, and one of the richest and most ambitious clubs in the world are actually a one-man team.