Maybe Jose Mourinho has a point in deflecting the blame from his own players to the way Manchester United played, but in all fairness, Real Madrid needed more from Cristiano Ronaldo, and more from the talent around him, that didn’t step up – especially Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil.
This match was always going to be about what midfield made the better plays, played the better match. While Ozil and Di Maria enjoyed the chaos in the Manchester United defense early in the match, mostly because Rafael simply couldn’t keep up with anyone coming to play on his wing, be it Fabio Coentrao, Cristiano Ronaldo or Angel Di Maria, the second half was completely different, and Di Maria was substituted as well.
Tactics left aside, it was a matter of execution. David de Gea made the right kind of saves, Jonny Evans put in the right kind of touches, Phil Jones eliminated Ronaldo from the match in the second half, as he was wandering away from where everything worked so well for him during the first. Maybe it was a tactical mistake by Jose Mourinho, maybe it was simply Ronaldo trying to surprise his former club and not succeeding in it. It didn’t work, whatever it was.
While United hardly had any possession in the second half, they did get chances. The fear of their counter attack and despite the advantage in the middle of the pitch, Xabi Alonso stayed too deep, not really giving the extra man it felt like Real needed at times to create some long range threat or be useful with a clever pass or two. Sami Khedira made a few forward runs, but when it comes down to it, despite a few chances, Real Madrid made the least of what was given to them on the field in the crucial 45 minutes.
Jose Mourinho remains confident that a qualification can be salvaged from all of this. His last chance to make the people in Real Madrid sorry for not treating him as the genius he is (according to him), and his own players, and his own mistakes, made it much harder for him.
Despite all the money spent on world-class talent, Real Madrid is a one-man team. Completely relying on the ability of Cristiano Ronaldo to beat the man defending him time after time. When that doesn’t work and even more so, Ronaldo barely touches the ball for the entire second half, all the quality in the world can’t replace the lack of individual charisma and confidence these players have when compared to him. Mesut Ozil is too afraid to take a shot in the box, while Angel di Maria and Fabio Coentrao can’t find a way to break down the re-enforced right wing with Rooney or Valencia helping Rafael.
To win great clashes you need great players, who rise to the occasion. In the first half, despite conceding early, it looked like Real Madrid are the team with the right players, the right manager. In the end, all that was left is Pepe taking the pitch for Xabi Alonso, with Mourinho not making a single substitution to try and change what went down on the pitch. Failure? Not yet, but beginning to look like one.