Cristiano Ronaldo made a dream return to Old Trafford as he scored the goal that sent Real Madrid CF into the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals at the expense of his old team.
The Portuguese international, the recipient of such a warm ovation before kick-off as the stadium announcer welcomed him back, scored the close-range goal that completed Madrid's turnaround after substitute Luka Modrić had cancelled out the lead given Manchester United FC by a Sergio Ramos own goal early in the second half.
United's hopes were not helped by the dismissal of Nani for a high challenge on Álvaro Arbeloa with the score at 1-0, and Madrid duly made the ten men pay to complete a memorable week that had already included two victories over FC Barcelona.
It was United who had the better of an absorbing opening period. Sir Alex Ferguson had raised eyebrows before kick-off by leaving Wayne Rooney out of his lineup, yet Danny Welbeck, starting behind Robin van Persie, certainly justified his inclusion. The evergreen Ryan Giggs also featured, lasting the duration of his 1,000th competitive appearance for United.
Welbeck's direct running asked questions of the Madrid defence and he should really have had a goal in the 21st minute when Nemanja Vidić headed against the near post and the ball dropped to the young England forward, who rolled it straight to Diego López. Another chance came his way when López parried a Van Persie shot, but the goalkeeper saved well from Welbeck's follow-up strike.
At the other end, Ángel Di María sent Gonzalo Higuaín clear on the left side of the penalty box, but David de Gea made the block. Although Higuaín put the ball in the net from the ensuing corner, the referee had already blown for an infringement.
United's breakthrough came three minutes into the second half when Arbeloa failed to clear after Welbeck and Van Persie had both gone close. Nani punished him at once, crossing for Welbeck, who got a touch before Sergio Ramos turned the ball past López.
Madrid were a goal down and had lost Di María to injury, but after Nani's 56th-minute dismissal José Mourinho sent on Modrić. The Croatia midfielder soon delivered the equaliser, collecting a pass some 20 metres from goal, stepping outside Michael Carrick and bending a shot in off De Gea's left-hand post.
Three minutes later, Ronaldo made it two. Mesut Özil's lovely back-heel gave Higuaín a crossing opportunity and he flashed the ball across goal, with Ronaldo arriving at the far post to turn it in. As in Madrid, he tempered his celebrations out of respect for his former employers. United's heads did not drop, though, and López made a trio of fine stops, with substitute Rooney also hooking over. At the other end, Kaká hit a post and De Gea denied Ronaldo a second, but Madrid's job was already done.
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