by Tom Allen
The standout tie in the Champions League last 16 and all eyes on The Bernabeu
Real Madrid versus Manchester United is always going to catch the eye, the
pair has won this trophy 12 times between them, and neither leg is likely to be
The bookmakers have the La Liga champions as clear favourites to advance to
the quarter-finals and with former United star Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks
it is easy to see why.
Madrid are a long way off the pace set by Barcelona this time around
domestically however and their season, and perhaps Jose Mourinho's future,
hinges on success in the Champions League.
The Portuguese enjoyed plenty of success against Wednesday's opponents while
manager of both Porto and Chelsea and his friendly rivalry with Sir Alex
Ferguson adds extra intrigue.
There is no doubt Mourinho possesses the trump card in Ronaldo but United
know all about CR7, of course, and I'm not sure they should be as big as the 6/4
available with Coral to get the better of their more decorated hosts over the
A 2-0 win versus Everton on Sunday saw United stretch 12 points clear at the
top of the Premier League and the return of Nemanja Vidic from injury in recent
weeks could prove crucial in deciding the tie.
The Serbian defender has looked back to his very best of late and United have
conceded just six goals in their previous 10 matches, a vast improvement on
their early season form.
While the home team can turn it on at will, as when thrashing Seville 4-1
last time out, their overall record is patchy and just six wins from their
previous 13 matches will not have satisfied Mourinho.
In contrast, United have won 28 of their previous 36 games since an opening
day defeat at Goodison Park way back in August and their away record in the
Champions League in recent seasons has been terrific.
It is 14 wins for Sir Alex in United's last 19 games on the road in this
competition and their meaningless 1-0 defeat to Galatasaray in the group stage
was only the second time since February 2009 they had failed to find the net.
Ferguson knows the importance of an away goal and, with Wayne Rooney and
Robin van Persie in tandem, United have more than enough quality going forward
to get one.
2pts Back Man Utd To Qualify (vs. Real Madrid) @ 6/4 (Coral)