The Manchester United Perspective

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

The Correspondent Q & A before the first leg of the last-16 Champions League tie between Real Madrid and Manchester United proved a big hit, so much so that ESPNFC Manchester United blogger Mark Payne and I thought we would do it again for Tuesday night's return leg.

We are in for a scintillating night of entertainment at Old Trafford as Los Blancos make the trip to Manchester looking to continue their route to La Decima. Here's what to expect from Sir Alex Ferguson's men, from the United point of view - where the dangers are, how United's form is, and what special treatment the hosts will give old boy Cristiano Ronaldo.

-Payne: The Real Madrid perspective
- Giggs expects high-scoring affair
- Marcotti: Managers could spring surprises

- More blogs: Jolly - Delaney

May the best team win...

NR: What was the general reaction to the result from the first leg from United fans? And what about from Ferguson?

MP: There was always the possibility that Ronaldo and Co. could put us to the sword, so to go and score first, getting a result in the process, was very satisfying. In general, United fans were pretty proud of the way a relatively young side played and delighted that the homegrown Danny Welbeck scored. If anything, by the end of the game, there was a sense that United should have won.

NR: How has United's preparation been since that first leg to Tuesday's return?

MP: Results-wise, United have been exemplary. The issue could be that the standard of opposition was not the most challenging. Nonetheless, you can only beat the teams in front of you, and United have certainly done that. The levels of concentration required against Madrid will be 10 times that needed against Norwich, so that could count against us. The squad has been rotated but there is a worrying question mark above Phil Jones’ fitness (ruled out for Tuesday's match). Robin van Persie has gone a bit quiet, too.

NR: Many think United will set up differently at home. Will that be the case?

MP: Some of the personnel may well be different. The ethos of the club is to attack but if we go hell for leather, Madrid will bayonet us. My expectation is that Fergie will opt for quick, disciplined players in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Shinji Kagawa advertised himself very nicely at the weekend; he has the kind of quality that could win the fixture. We have been told that Ryan Giggs will feature at some point and Nani was imperious last week. Definite starters are David De Gea, Rafael, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney and van Persie.

NR: Will there be any special preparations for Ronaldo?

MP: In the past few weeks, Fergie has been trying to flatter him into submission. There have been a number of "United to bid for Ronaldo" stories in the build up to this fixture.

With Jones out, Plan B could be Antonio Valencia to play deep and double up as cover for Rafael at right-back. However, we all know how good Ronaldo is. If he fires, nobody can stop him.

NR: ... and on the Portuguese -- will Ronaldo get a bit of a hero's welcome back at Old Trafford?

MP: Absolutely, United fans know football and appreciate genius when they see it. I am sure he will get a standing ovation and he deserves it. A wonderful player who did amazing things for the club.

In fact, it could be a night of standing ovations if Giggs comes off the bench for his 1,000th game.

NR: Who do you expect to be your key man, and who are you fearing the most from Madrid?

MP: The tie is delicately poised and discipline in the midfield will be crucial. Michael Carrick is in the form of his life and much will depend on how he threads the ball forward from defense. Any of our attackers could win the game but they will need the ball first. Rooney is hitting form right now and would love to make his mark on this match.

Madrid have match-winners all over the pitch, but Ronaldo is clearly the biggest threat. Mesut Ozil and Gonzalo Higuain, are also troublesome. However, Sergio Ramos is very dangerous when he goes forward and United will need to be clear who is marking him at dead balls.

Equally, he can switch off when he is supposed to be defending and he was at fault for Welbeck’s goal in Spain. I expect Fergie to be targeting him a little. Look out for Rooney and van Persie hassling him at Old Trafford.

NR: What's you score prediction?

MP: 2-1 United, last-minute Giggs overhead kick. Ronaldo to sign for United again, on the pitch, after the final whistle.

Follow Mark on twitter @markjpayne; follow Nick at @nicholasrigg

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