With much of the fallout from Manchester United’s Champions League exit at the hands of Real Madrid centred on Turkish referee, Cuneyt Cakir, the performance of their Spanish opponents has flown under the radar.
Los Blancos coach, Jose Mourinho, admitted after the game at Old Trafford that the best team had lost, and certainly many United fans would agree. Those supporters who felt robbed by the decision to send Nani off certainly have a point, with Real having underperformed in both legs of the last-16 tie.
However, despite being off colour, the European Cup’s most successful club is through to the quarter-finals, as they search for a tenth title. There is no doubting the quality of the reigning Spanish champions. However, did the game with United show them to be just short of what is required to win the Champions League this season?
Los Galaticos have often been seen as a collection of individuals, rather than a team, and that seemed to be the case at Old Trafford.
While United’s work ethic took them to the brink of qualification, it was a couple of pieces of individual skill which saw Real through. We all recognise the talents of Cristiano Ronaldo but, as United proved, it is possible to keep him quiet, while you have 11 men on the pitch.
As such, if you were Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund, you would take heart from how well United did against Mourinho’s men. The two German outfits have a superb team ethic and are extremely well drilled.
We saw that last season, when Bayern, albeit on penalties, disposed of Real in the semi-finals. Dortmund have also proven that they can better Real in this season’s competition, beating them 2-1 at home in the group stages and drawing 2-2 at the Bernabeu.
While the majority of the clubs in the draw for the quarterfinals will be keen to avoid Real, who remain favourites in the Champions League odds, these two serious contenders from the Bundesliga should be licking their lips. The Champions League winner is unlikely to come from Spain this year, as we enter a new era of German dominance.