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Thursday 14 February 2013

Ferguson: 'United have a great chance in return'

United manager pleased with side's 1-1 draw at Real Madrid which has set up an intriguing return leg

  • Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck heads his side in front against Real Madrid

Sir Alex Ferguson is under no illusion about the difficulty facing his side in the return leg but, after sharing a 1-1 away draw with Real Madrid on Wednesday night, he believes that Manchester United have a “50-50” chance of progressing to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.

In a compelling round of 16 first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu there were opportunities for either side, with the visitors producing the opening goal through Danny Welbeck’s 20th-minute header.

"We dug in and got the result to take back to Old Trafford and it gives us a great chance"
Sir Alex Ferguson

The nine-time winners of the competition hit back 10 minutes later through former United forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who rose athletically to steer a powerful header past David de Gea, and in an entertaining match both sides might have scored again.

“We've made great chances,” said Ferguson. “The disappointing thing is we sat off them too much in the first half. They had a lot of play around our box, and that is not healthy. We changed it in the second half, pushing Danny Welbeck further forward, and that made a great difference.

“We had a lot of good chances and played some good attacking football at times. They had more possession, but you expect that at a team like this, playing at home. We dug in and got the result to take back to Old Trafford and it gives us a great chance.”

De Gea heroics

Ferguson was indebted to his Spanish goalkeeper De Gea for making a string of saves, the pick of them a superb stretch to his left to deny Angel Di Maria’s curling, goalbound effort early on, but United might have scored themselves in the second half with Robin van Persie’s crashing drive tipped against the bar by Diego Lopez, and his subsequent shot scrambled off the line by former Liverpool midfielder Xavi Alonso.

“It is very open,” Ferguson said. “We know they are going to be tremendous on the counterattack in the second leg. We've got a big job on our hands but it is definitely in our grasp. Before the game we would have taken 1-1, without question.

“This is a difficult place to come to and their home record is outstanding. I think it is 50-50. It could go either way, it really depends on who scores the first goal. The team that scores the first goal will have a great chance.”

"It is 50-50 – they don't have an advantage from their away goal, we can score more than one goal in the second leg"
Jose Mourinho

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho agreed that the tie remains evenly balanced, even if United do boast the advantage of the away goal.

“It is open, very open, for the second leg," said the former Chelsea manager. "It will go down to the final minute. They changed the way they play to have 11 men behind the ball and they did not put a foot in our half in the second half. They were just waiting for a set piece or a counterattack. They defended well.

“The result leaves it open and if you ask me for a percentage, I will say, like I said before, it is 50-50 – they don't have an advantage from their away goal, we can score more than one goal in the second leg.”

In the evening’s other Champions League match, Mats Hummels scored three minutes from time to salvage a 2-2 draw for Borussia Dortmund at Shakhtar Donetsk. Douglas Costa had restored the hosts' lead midway through the second half after Robert Lewandowski had cancelled out Darijo Srna's free-kick in the first half. The match was officiated by an English team of Howard Webb as referee, with assistance from Michael Mullarkey, Darren Cann, Stephen Child, Michael Oliver and Andre Marriner.

UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg results

Tuesday 12 February
Celtic 0-3 Juventus
Valencia 1-2 Paris Saint-Germain

Wednesday 13 February
Real Madrid 1-1 Manchester United
Shakhtar Donetsk 2-2 Borussia Dortmund

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Key Points

  • Manchester United draw 1-1 at Real Madrid in Champions League Round of 16 tie
  • Danny Welbeck scores for United before former Red Devil Cristiano Ronaldo equalises
  • Sir Alex Ferguson believes his side have '50-50' chance of reaching quarter-finals