There's still a lot to play for at Old Trafford in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie between Manchester United and Real Madrid, but the Red Devils will be the happier of the two teams after the first leg. They're in excellent position to advance after grabbing a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Danny Welbeck and Cristiano Ronaldo scored the goals.
Most expected Wayne Rooney to slot in behind Robin van Persie, with Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa on the wings, but Rooney started the match on the right wing. That had a noticeable effect on the game, as Ronaldo wasn't able to get a hold of the ball as often as he does in both matches.
Madrid got off to an excellent start, and were the much better side in the opening minutes. Angel Di Maria had the first good chance of the game, ripping a shot just wide from 20 yards after Welbeck failed to deny him a shooting lane as he cut inside. Ronaldo created an excellent chance the first time he got the ball in a dangerous position, in the 6th minute. He beat Rafael down the left flank and played a low cross, which was deflected towards the top of the box by Phil Jones. Fabio Coentrao was well-positioned and stepped into a shot, which David De Gea just barely tipped onto the post.
The home side remained in control until the 20th minute, when United created a surprising goal on a set piece. Rooney delivered the corner, an out-swinger from the left side, finding Welbeck in the center of the box. He created enough space between himself and Sergio Ramos to get onto the end of the ball, and directed the ball to the far post to put his side in front, very much against the run of play.
It took just 10 minutes for Madrid to find their equalizer, through Ronaldo. He nearly scored in the 28th minute following a free kick, when his initial attempt hit the wall and he blasted a follow-up shot just inches wide of De Gea's right post. Two minutes after that, he was the man on the end of brilliant cross by Di Maria, to the back post where he was waiting. Ronaldo launched himself into the air with an unbelievable jump and appeared to float in the air before nodding into the back of the net.
Real Madrid had numerous chances to take the lead before the halftime whistle, but failed to make the most of their chances. Xabi Alonso caught out Jonny Evans with a diagonal over the top of the defense on a quick free kick, but Mesut Özil failed to make the most of it and hit a very easily saved shot to the near post. Özil had another chance a minute later when he was gifted a great shooting opportunity inside the box, but decided to pass instead, and the ball was cleared easily by United.
Di Maria could have had a penalty in the 41st minute, but referee Felix Brych surprisingly waved play on after Phil Jones absolutely crushed him in the penalty area. Just before the stroke of halftime, Ronaldo found himself in position for what appeared like it would be another headed goal, but he mistimed his jump and failed to connect squarely.
The second half began with a flurry of action in front of the Madrid goal, as Manchester United pressured and took advantage of mistakes by Merengues defenders. A giveaway by Alvaro Arbeloa led to a dangerous cross by van Persie, which was barely cleared out to the left flank. Rooney's return cross nearly found van Persie in the box, but was deflected out for a corner.
Di Maria, who was arguably Madrid's best attacking player in the first half, continued his onslaught on the United goal in the 52nd minute. He had a couple of shots in quick succession, with the second being an absolute rocket that went just a couple of inches wide of the near post to De Gea's right.
Raphael Varane and Real Madrid dodged a bit of a bullet in the 54th minute, when the referee neglected to give a foul against the young defender for a trip on Patrice Evra. The United left back ran onto a through ball and looked to be in on goal, but Varane made contact and he went down. The referee deemed it a fair challenge, but it appeared to be a foul, and given Evra's proximity to goal and the lack of Madrid defenders in the area, it was almost certainly a booking as well.
De Gea had an excellent game all night in net for the Red Devils, but his best moment came in the 60th minute. Coentrao got onto the end of a great low square ball across the penalty area by Khedira that eluded all of Manchester United's defenders, but De Gea was quicker to get to the near post than the ball, and made an acrobatic, flying save.
In the 72nd minute, United had their two best chances of the match, other than their goal. Van Persie had a pair of shots, somehow making the most of a difficult one and scuffing a simple one. He forced Diego Lopez into a save with a thunderbolt of a shot on a counter attack, which the Madrid keeper could only tip onto the crossbar. Seconds later, he beat an offside trap on a ball in from Welbeck, then turned to shoot while completely free on goal, but failed to connect. His weak shot was easily cleared off the line by Xabi Alonso.
As both teams made substitutions late in the match, the game slowed down, and it appeared as if both managers were satisfied with the 1-1 result. Gonzalo Higuain, Luka Modric and Pepe entered for Real Madrid, while Anderson, Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia came into the game for the Red Devils. With players in the game noted more for their defense and ball retention than creative and attacking skills, there were no more goals to be had for either side, though van Persie and Ronaldo both had decent chances denied in stoppage time.