A night of desperately hanging to the bare inches of thread that could make itself available for a team that has travelled to hostile shores of Madrid, a rising sensation exploits a perfect opportunity to leave Diego Simeone rueful after a dominant performance that had zero results to show for itself. Manchester United managed to walk out of the Metropolitano unscathed as a flying header from Joao Felix was rescinded by a mindful strike from Anthony Elanga.
Coming to Madrid with the Spanish congregation vociferously cheering on, Rangnick’s men had to be alert in their half to avert a vertiginous slide. Much to the delight of the home fans, Joao Felix conjured a fabulous header that saw him diving to the fullest stretch to put the ball into the back of the net as David de Gea was rooted to his ground like a statue.
Despite the goal saw a decline in Atletico’s interest in invading the United half, there were explosive bursts of counters that left the visitors reeling. Victor Lindelof pulled off a fine job of staving the hosts with a couple of sumptuous blocks and a string of thumping headers that pruned down the chances for Atleti.
Much to the woes of United, two of their main players in the midfield was having an obnoxious day as Paul Pogba hardly had any clue about what was unfolding ahead of him. As the commentator would put, he was a dawdling luxury cruise in a treacherous ocean teeming with warships.
Bruno Fernandes had a sloppy start to the day but initially came back to the game and was also the creator for Manchester’s equalizer that saw him carving a perfectly-weighed pass straight into the galloping stride of Anthony Elanga. The Scandinavian eluded the diving feet of a stretched Atleti defender, took his time and calmly guided it past an out-of-position Jan Oblak.
The woodwork played an emphatic role in allowing Manchester to walk out of Spain unscathed as it denied Madrid twice from securing the lead. In a tussle that needed more belief than ever, a spoonful of luck and an unlikely hero to spoil Simeone’s mood, let us take a look at United’s heroes in Madrid.
The Swede skipper was in a phenomenal form that saw him belting out a couple of crucial blocks to deny Madrid from playing their own brand of fluid football. He started as a right-back and eventually found himself ubiquitous in the United defence, especially on an unceremonious day where Varane seemed rattled. He took one for the team as he was booked for bringing a surging Atleti attacker down because what followed could have been the telling blow to the United aspirations.
One may say that Ronaldo was way off his own scintillating form and was quite often felled by a raging Atletico defence. In the naked eyes, it would definitely be a truth. However, the magical part came from his off the ball prowess. Simeone well aware of the kind of onslaught that CR7 is capable of unleashing asked his defenders to be always on his toes. Every time he received the ball, Atletico had to force a challenge or surround him with at least two to three men. Now that kind of situation happening without the ball is quite a defining factor in football. The goal that came from Elanga was because half of the Spanish defence had vanished from their actual positions. If you still believe that one cannot pen magic unless he has his eyes set on the ball, you are so very mistaken.
Honestly, it would be a bit cynical to add him to this list of warriors where they braved an inimical Madrid concourse who did not miss one single opportunity to boo Manchester United but had it not been for his signature calm, Manchester could not have produced the equalizer. It needed someone offbeat, it needed someone fresh and it needed someone to do the dirty work when the thinktanks had exhausted their fair share of ideas and who better than the aspiring colt who would take every opportunity falling his way count?