Jan Molby

United must take the game to Madrid

Jan Molby

View photo


Manchester United have no choice but to attack Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.

All season they have been outscoring opponents, and they must do so again against Madrid, who I can see scoring in both games.

The last United team to win the Champions League in 2008 did so on the foundation of a rock-solid defence.

They had great attackers, but they could also soak up pressure and defend leads if they had to.

I don't think they can do that any more. Look at the goals they have conceded domestically. They are much better when they take the initiative and play in the opposition's half.

Another advantage of taking the game to Real is that if they get on top early they can try to disrupt the crowd in the Bernabeu, who have seen their team struggle this season and are starting to turn against Jose Mourinho.

This is Mourinho's last chance to win a major trophy this season, and he knows that if Real gets knocked out it will be all over for him.

Where he goes next is anyone's guess, but I don't think it will be Old Trafford. As a manager he has always gone in and finished off work started by others, and has done so very well.

At Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid the foundations were already in place, but he gave them a push across the line.

When Sir Alex Ferguson leaves United, it will be the start of a new phase, and they will look for a manager ready commit to a long-term project - someone more like Pep Guardiola.

Although United have struggled defensively, I'm not sure they have got the credit they deserve this season.

People say they are the best of an average bunch but their record bears comparison with any previous vintage - 65 points from 26 league games and 62 goals is extremely impressive.

They have gone behind on countless occasions, but time and again we have seen their resilience and knowledge come into play.

They just know how to win football matches - they don't panic when things go against them and they have remarkable mental strength.

Even though they might need three goals over the two legs, I think they will do it.

And if they do, it will help to boost the reputation of the Premier League, which has had a tough time in Europe this season.

Looking at the other contenders, Barcelona are the standout team as ever, but there are a lot of good teams in the last 16.

Shakhtar Donetsk were great in the autumn, though they could be hamstrung by the fact they are on their winter break at the moment.

There are two very strong German teams - Bayern Munich everybody knows about, and they are well clear in the Bundesliga.

Borussia Dortmund are not going that well domestically, but they were brilliant in the group stage, topping that group with Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax.

Paris Saint-German have a good chance of beating Valencia, but I think it's probably a bit early for them to be serious contenders for the whole tournament.

And I'm off to Glasgow tomorrow to watch Celtic play Juventus. Given their win against Barcelona in the groups, you can never rule Celtic out, but Juventus look a very strong side.

People are down on Serie A these days because the quality of the spectacle has declined so much in recent seasons, but Juventus play some great stuff.

The only thing they lack is a top-class goalscorer - all their forwards are similar and they don't have an out-and-out finisher. That's the only thing holding them back, but I think they will be too strong for Celtic.

View comments (93)