Cristiano Ronaldo scores a majestic equaliser after Danny Welbeck's opener, while David de Gea made an amazing save
Both halves ended equal, yet that doesn't tell the story. Madrid battered United in the first half; in the second, United defended with increasing authority and, although they failed to impose themselves in possession, created some extremely good chances on the break. Ultimately they were thankful for the genius of David de Gea – watch public opinion of him do a 180 now – and yet they will also go home with the nagging feeling that they could have won this.
A scoring draw is a brilliant result for United – the best they have ever taken back from a first leg in the Bernabeu. They have still a big job to do, such is Madrid's counter-attacking brilliance. It sets up a humdinger in 64 weeks' time, or whenever Uefa have scheduled the second leg. Thanks for your emails; night.
90+3 min United almost snatch it with the last kick of the game! When a Van Persie free-kick from the left is cleared, Madrid charge out in an attempt to catch offside. Jones plays a brilliant lofted pass, right to left behind the outrushing defence for Van Persie on the corner of the box. He chests it down and hammers a superb low shot towards the far corner that is touched round by Lopez. That's a fine save. The tedious jobsworth of a referee doesn't allow the corner to be taken before blowing the final whistle, so that's it.
90+1 min Ozil, a sinuous menace all night, wins another free kick 40 yards from goal. It eventually goes down the left to Modric, whose low left-wing cross leads to a desperate scramble on the six-yard line, with Jones blocking brilliantly twice from Ronaldo. That looked certain to be a goal.
90 min United look as comfortably defensively as at any point in the match. There will be three added minutes.
89 min Rio Ferdinand has had a great game. This is all.
88 min Antonio Valencia is booked for accidentally elbowing Ramos in the face as they jumped for a goal kick.
86 min United will be very pleased with the last 20 minutes. They have still done little with the ball – the chances have come out of nothing rather than as a result of extended spells of attacking – but their defensive discipline has been really good in the second half.
85 min Ronaldo lines up a free-kick, 35 yards out, and booms a ludicrous effort that swerves and dips onto the roof of the net. De Gea didn't move.
84 min United have defended better in the second half, if still rather desperately. Pretty much all of the saves De Gea has made since half-time have been from distance. Sir Alex Ferguson makes his final substitution, with Anderson replacing the right-back Wayne Rooney.
83 min The final Real Madrid substitution: Pepe replaces Xabi Alonso.
81 min Ryan Giggs misses a great chance! Evra's low cross hit the covering Ramos (I think), who then fell over and couldn't cover as the ball ran to Giggs, 12 yards out. It was begging to be hit first time, but Giggs took a touch and that allowed a couple of defenders to get across and smother the chance.
79 min After a sustained Real attack, the ball is half cleared to Khedira on the edge of the box. He gets over the bouncing ball superbly and batters it towards the left-hand corner, and De Gea does very well to hold the ball as it kicks up sharply off the turf. That's a deceptively good save.
78 min "This is just like City's game at the Bernabeu, minus a Yaya Toure tour de force in midfield, plus a better goalkeeper," says Phil Podolsky. "Real enjoy preposterous amounts of uninterrupted possession around United's box, as they should being the far better team, playing at home etc."
77 min Higuain manufactures a shot out of nothing from the edge of the area. De Gea gets down to his left to save comfortably, although it was going just wide anyway.
75 min Another substitution: Luka Modric replaces the brilliant Angel di Maria, so presumably Ozil will move wide right.
73 min Danny Welbeck, who looks shattered, is replaced by Antonio Valencia.
72 min A loose ball comes to Khedira, 18 yards out, and he cuts across a lovely right-footed shot that swooshes not far over the bar.
71 min Van Persie hits the bar and has a shot cleared off the line in the same attack! First he was found by Rooney on the right of the box and scorched a rising drive that burst through Diego Lopez's hands and onto the bar. It almost beat Lopez for pace but the touch he got on it was just enough to divert it onto the bar. Seconds later, when a loose ball was headed beyond the Madrid defence, Van Persie ran through to collect it by the penalty spot. He set himself up perfectly with his chest control as the ball dropped, but then totally mishit a left-footed volley. It bobbled over Lopez but was going so slowly that Alonso could get back to clear it off the line.
70 min Magnificent defending from Ferdinand! Higuain hammered a low cross towards the near post, four yards from goal, and for a second it seemed Ronaldo had the run on Ferdinand, but Ferdinand just managed to get there first and stab it wide of the bear post.
69 min "What's with all the Man United pessimism?" says Niall Mullen. "Last time I checked you're winning on away goals (they count triple right?) and out of sight in the League. My beloved Liverpool are 342 points off the top of the league and just tanked at home to West Brom. What I'm saying is enjoy it ffs!"
It's not just about winning though, is it? Or at least it shouldn't be. To quote those esteemed philosophers, the Bluetones, no challenge should be faced without a little charm and a lot of style. United have been pretty meek tonight, and pretty un-United, whatever the result.
68 min "Fair enough, I guess that's the grumpy ex-centre half in me talking," says Ian Corfe (58 min). "Though to my mind a couple of the saves De Gea has pulled off including this last one at the near post have been more of the 'whoa' gut clenching type..."
67 min United have settled into a 9-0-1 formation now. Di Maria turns on the afterburners to leave Rooney for dead down the left, and his clipped cross is headed behind by Ferdinand.
66 min "This is tense," says Simon McMahon. "Like when you're driving home and you notice a police car behind you, and then remember that you never got round to getting that brake light fixed, and the pint and a half you had at lunchtime.."
Is that the first ever drink-driving banter on the Guardian?
64 min United's first substitution: Shinji Kagawa is replaced by Ryan Giggs.
63 min Welbeck picks up the ball 40 yards from goal and tears at the Madrid defence, teasing the last man Varane with a stepover before shifting it to the left of the box. Varane stays on his feet, shows his pace and blocks Welbeck's shot. Lovely defending.
62 min De Gea makes a remarkable save with a flying kick! A brilliant cross from Khedira on the right came to Coentrao, who lost Rooney at the far post and slid the ball towards the near post from the left of the six-yard box. De Gea's weight was the wrong way, leaning backwards, so he hoofed it clear with his right foot. A playground save, but an effective one.
60 min The first substitution, with Gonzalo Higuain replacing Karim Benzema.
59 min There is a suggestion Varane tripped Evra too. I'm not sure about that. I thought the shove knocked Evra off balance, but I'd like to see another replay.
58 min "I've seen a few replays and I'll go as far as to say it was a very good header, but I'm still standing by the fact that Evra ducked made it easier and look better," says Ian Corfe. "Your photo at the top shows he's only a couple of feet off the ground, but Evra is falling away so making it look higher..."
You might be right, but the whole thing looked so beautiful that I've no inclination to analyse it too deeply. I do see you point, and each his own and all that, but it feels a bit joyless to pick holes in it. It was a stunning visceral experience.
56 min I'd like to see that Varane thing again. United could certainly argue that both Madrid centre-backs should have been sent off. Then again, Madrid could argue they should be 7-1 ahead.
54 min With Madrid playing a very high line, Carrick slips a through ball behind the defence for Evra of all people. He is muscled off the ball by Varane, who would surely have been sent off had a foul been given. It wasn't. The contact was pretty similar to Jones on Di Maria in the first half, a shove that was weighted somewhere between strong challenge and free-kick.
53 min Di Maria, 25 yards out, touches a bouncing ball infield, thighs it up into the air and then lashes a beautiful volley that whistles fractionally wide of the right-hand post with De Gea motionless.
52 min Another fierce long-range shot, this time from Di Maria, bounces just in front of De Gea, who holds on well. It's all Madrid at the moment.
51 min "What's happened to Mourinho?" says Graham McGregor. "He always looked dapper at Chelsea with the grey overcoat but now he looks faintly shabby and his burgeoning gut suggests he can't lay off the patatas bravas ..."
It's mind games, I'm telling you. He'll swagger out at Old Trafford in a shell suit.
49 min Ronaldo finds some space in the D and blasts a left-footed shot that is too close to De Gea. He parries it and collects the rebound.
48 min "The last time I had this sinking, helpless and desperate feeling when supporting United was the champions league finals of 2009 and 2011 against Barcelona and last year's matches against Athletic Bilbao in Europa league," says Venkata Subramanian. "Looks like it's a good idea to face anyone other than the Spanish. Will Manchester United be relegated then if we were actually a team in Spain's La Liga?"
That's not fair at all; they know how to get a 0-0 draw against Villarreal.
47 min A United corner is headed up in the air by a Real defender at the far post, and Phil Jones loops a tame header over the bar from 15 yards. It wasn't much of a chance.
47 min United have switched to a loose 4-4-2, with Kagawa left and Welbeck supporting Van Persie. A lovely left-wing cross from Van Persie almost finds Welbeck, 10 yards out, and then Lopez has to stretch to touch Rooney's cross away from Kagawa.
46 min Manchester United kick off from right to left. Mourinho came out three or four minutes early and sat on his own in the dugout. He is magnificent.
"Big United/England match night drinking game," says Eoghan Sweeney. "Knock one back when Rooney behaves like a whingeing git and commentator informs us 'You have to feel for him'."
"I'm getting a bad feeling about the second half," writes
Sir Alex Ferguson Ben Hendy. "Could be plenty of goals for Real the way it sounds like its going. Any words of comfort for me?"
Alcohol numbs pain. Do they count?
On Sky, Peter Schmeichel says he doesn't know how David de Gea made that early save, which tells you how good it was.
Manchester United have been battered 1-1. It's been exhilarating stuff, with two unforgettable moments. an amazing save from David de Gea, and a mighty equaliser from Cristiano Ronaldo. Danny Welbeck put United ahead earlier in the half. See you in 10 minutes.
45+1 min Another headed chance for Ronaldo. A teasing, hanging cross from Coentrao finds him ten yards out, clambering all over Jonny Evans, but he can't quite get enough flick on the header and it goes wide of the near post. "He heads the ball like a third division centre-half" coos Gary Neville, who is having a storming game himself.
45 min A sharp counter-attack down the left from United leads to a corner. It's curved very deep by Rooney, headed back to the edge of the box by Van Persie and smashed high over the bar by Rafael.
44 min "Like to know what went through Mourinho's mind when he was getting dressed tonight," says Craig Trainor. "Hmm I need some neckwear to go with this suit. A tie? No of course not I'll wear a snood. Berk."
On the contrary, that'll be mind games. Everything he does is geared towards winning. I'm sure he cultivated a paunch for a few months in 2011 just to unsettle Barcelona.
43 min Ronaldo, coming infield from the right, screams a thrilling left-footed drive just over the bar. Real have been great, but you have to say that United, yet again in the Bernabeu, have bottled it. In the first half at least. Kagawa has been the liveliest attacker; even he has been on the periphery though.
42 min Gary Neville said it would have been "a soft penalty". I'm not so sure, and I know more about football than Gary Neville, so there. United really need half-time there. They've needed it from the first whistle in truth.
41 min Jones gets away with a shove on Di Maria on the right of the box. That surely should have been a penalty, although we haven't seen a replay.
40 min The wonderful Ozil makes a fool of Rafael, who is booked for tugging him down on the byline, just outside the box on the left. The free-kick comes to nothing. United are being battered here.
39 min Anders Lindegaard has been warming up, which suggests De Gea must have some sort of injury concern. United are on the brink here. The ghostly Ozil breaks into the box on the left and squares it to Ronaldo, who tries to backheel it behind his standing leg. It's blocked desperately.
38 min Ozil almost makes it 2-1. Real had a free-kick in their own half on their left wing, and with United sleeping Alonso whistled a 60-yard crossfield pass to Ozil. He took it in his stride and, from the right of the box, whistled a good near-post shot that was pushed around the near post by the diving De Gea.
37 min "There is, of course, no such thing as hang-time, but lifting the knees and getting up high helps to give that impression," says Gary Naylor. "What was even more impressive was Ronaldo's preternatural balance that allowed him to time the header magnificently. Balance like that is a gift from the Gods."
35 min Everyone will focus on Ronaldo's leap, which was one of the greatest you'll ever see, but the actual header was superb too. Had the placement been any less precise, De Gea would have got there. It was a glorious goal.
34 min That was so nearly another goal for Danny Welbeck! Van Persie's excellent near-post cross from the left found Welbeck unmarked, six yards from goal. He stretched to get a stud on the ball and it hit Lopez – who had already committed himself in diving for the cross and knew nothing about it – on the bum before deflecting fractionally wide of the far post. I don't know if it was going in or not. From the corner, Rooney came back inside from the left of the box and dragged a disguised shot just wide of the near post.
33 min Rooney lost his rag with one of his team-mates a moment ago. You have to feel for him. One of the world's most celebrated attacking players, who dreams about playing in games like this, and most of the time he's asked to play as a second full-back.
31 min What a goal. In its own way that's every bit as good as the one at Roma in 2008.
Di Maria dumped over a good, outswinging cross from the left, and Ronaldo on the penalty spot rose majestically above Evra, hung in the air for an age and planted a wonderful header that swerved and dipped into the bottom-right corner. That's an awesome goal. I was going to say he hung in the air like Denis Law, but Gary Neville nailed it when he said he hung in the air like Michael Jordan. There was no celebration; inside he must doing cartwheels because that was a simply awesome goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo equalises with a monstrous header!
28 min Carrick fouls Ronaldo, 25 yards from goal. Yes, he is going to take the free-kick. He lashes it into the wall and then, when the ball runs loose, fizzes a vicious left-footed shot that whooshes <i>this</i> far wide of the left post. I think De Gea might have had it covered but it was a stunning strike.
26 min The two faces of David de Gea: he comes for a cross and misses his punch completely, but gets away with it.
26 min The referee gives a foul against Van Persie for not very much. It might be worth keeping an eye on that. He was sent off against Barcelona a couple of years ago of course.
25 min United are in uncharted territory: they have never before led in the Bernabeu.
24 min "Real Madrid haven't scored from a corner this season," says Alistair Mackay. "By January, they'd dropped 10 of their 18 points dropped in La Liga thanks to goals conceded from set pieces. So, basically, everything's going according to plan.
23 min Real pick up where they left off before the goal, in the UNited half, and Ozil's sharp low shot from 20 yards is pushed round the post by De Gea, diving to his left. It was a routine save for a keeper of his class.
The goal came from a left-wing corner after a rare United attack. It was swung in beautifully by Rooney, and Welbeck – whose starting position was almost on the goalline – backed away from his marker Ramos to flick a neat header into the far corner from six yards. He was moving away from his goal at the time and did well to judge the contact so that it drifted into the net. That's totally against the run of play. Remember when United never scored from set pieces? This season they have been lethal.
The centre-forward who never scores has scored!
20 min "It's a glorious spectacle between two grand teams," says Matt Dony, "but any occasion can be improved with a bloke taking a ball to the giblets at full pelt. Thank you, Benzema."
19 min A delicious slalom from Ozil takes him infield from the right to within 20 yards of United's goal, from where is low shot is blocked.
17 min Xabi Alonso's free-kick is headed over his own bar by Evans, who stayed down after being elbowed in the back of the head by Ramos. My first impression is that he might have been sent off for that, but I'd like to see a second replay. It's moot, because the referee didn't see it. Evans is up now.
"When is Lopez going to start doing impressions of Alistair McGowan then?" says Adam Hirst.
16 min ... and it drifts all the way across the box for a throw-in.
15 min The atmosphere, you don't need me to tell you, is magnificent. Evans is spooked into conceding a soft corner by the presence of Ronaldo. It'll be taken by Ozil...
14 min Rafael hasn't started brilliantly, and he was done a moment ago after diving in on Coentrao. Who needs a drink?
13 min "Hawrite Rob! Ryan Dunne (real name, no gimmick) here!" says Ryan Dunne. "Hope your officiating tonight because you've got a hot date tomorrow that would clash with the Valentine's Day MBMs? (I'll probably still be emailing 'em. Hope there's some girls.) Re: sobriquets. Not sure if it counts as creepy, but do you know how Starbucks ask your name so they can put it on the cup? I fantasise, after confirming that nicknames are OK, of telling one of the lovely lady baristas to write "The Hoemeister" on my cup (which isn't actually my nickname but for all she knows I'm a popular, dateable etc etc functioning member of society!)."
I'm sorry, but I could have sworn you just typed 'The Hoemesiter'.
12 min Ronaldo skins Rooney and Rafael down the left and squares the ball to Benzema, whose shot from 16 yards is blocked by the sliding Evans. This is hectic stuff. United look lively going forward but they are on the edge a bit defensively.
11 min Rooney, halfway inside his own half, hits a lovely reacher towards Van Persie that Varane, the last man, does well to head clear.
10 min "If that's a yellow (Van Persie) then there's going to be only 18 players left on the field by full time," says Andy Bradshaw. "Jesus it was soft."
9 min United win their first corner. It's headed half clear to Rafael, who totally mishits his attempted volley from 20 yards.
8 min It's all Real at the moment. A quick counter ends with Ronaldo dragging a shot well wide from 25 yards.
7 min "That seals the transfer," says my colleague Paul Doyle of De Gea's save. For all his faults with crosses and the rest, there is a touch of genius about De Gea.
6 min An amazing save from David de Gea! Ronaldo's cross from the left wasn't cleared properly, and Coentrao, 16 yards out, curved a first-time effort towards the far corner with his right foot. De Gea, who was unsighted, got down to his left in a flash and just fingertipped it onto the inside of the post. That's an astonishing save.
5 min Van Persie is booked for putting a hand in the face of Ramos, who went down risibly. Van Persie looked around, but it was an attempt to hold Ramos off, nothing more.
4 min Di Maria comes infield and slashes a rising drive not too far wide from 20 yards. United are actually playing with Welbeck on the left, Kagawa behind Van Persie – and Wayne Rooney on the right against Cristiano Ronaldo, the resumption of a friendship that began 10 years ago.
3 min An early half-chance for Madrid, with Khedira dragging a left-footed shot well wide from 15 yards.
2 min "Re: sobriquets," says Sam Thomson. "I don't know if this counts but the guy whose picture is being used to advertise guardian soulmates gas called himself lankypants... Looks like hot snack mind you."
Yeah sorry, I couldn't think of anything else.
1 min Let squeaky-bum time commence. Madrid kick off from right to left. You know what colours both teams are wearing.
Who needs a drink? Eight minutes to kick off, I'm off to get a drink. I'll leave you with one pre-match thought: Real Madrid v Manchester United.
Nemanja Vidic isn't injured. "We're trying to manage his recovery," says Sir Alex Ferguson. "If we'd had the extra day ... but three days after a hard game on a heavy pitch, I can't take that risk."
Says the man who picked Jonny Evans instead.
Neutrality with Peter Schmeichel on Sky Sports "We need stab... United need stability."
Yesterday, Michael Essien called Jose Mourinho 'Daddy', a name usually reserved for those who refer to themselves in the third person while dementedly rubbing their palms up and down their thighs. What's the oddest naffest/downright creepiest sobriquet you've ever come across?
"4-1-4-1?" says Marek Miernik. "Jones as the 1, Kagawa & Carrick. Rooney & Welbeck wide-ish, alternating support for Van Persie depending on where Ronaldo is."
Could be, but Kagawa has never played that role before for United, and also it would mean they have nobody tight on Alonso. Anyway, enough already, I'm bored of tactics now. Sod tactics. Bye bye tactics! Tactics are only a very small part of a far grander story. I don't know if I mentioned this in the preamble, but it's Real Madrid v Manchester United!
Reasons to be seriously excited about Raphael Varane, part 1 in an ongoing series.
"Whatever happens, you've really got to admire the ambition Ferguson's shown with that selection," says Tom Barneby. "Getting something (even an away goal) from this game is vital and he's gone for it, but that United midfield looks ripe for the overrunning. If Madrid score early I can see this getting ugly. Still, seriously excited."
Hmm, I'd be seriously cautious about assuming United ambition. I think their approach will be somewhere between Barcelona 2008 and going for it, with controlled aggression on the counter-attack.
Not long now to Real Madrid v Manchester United!
"Evening Rob," says Simon McMahon. "Not only Real Madrid v. Man United, but also Mourinho v. Ferguson. "That's enough to stop any self-respecting football man in his tracks. Even more than if Scarlett Johansson was to turn up at my door tomorrow with a single red rose, a Findus lasagne and a bottle of Lambrini and say 'marry me'."
"Hey I got the team right," says Argha Bannerjee, "except that i was playing Young on the left wing instead of Welbeck."
Do you see the infinitesimal flaw in your reasoning?
"How on God's green earth does Welbeck start ahead of Hernandez?" says Ben Walls. "I've seen newborn foals that are steadier on their feet..."
Hernandez can't play on the wing, so it wasn't really a decision between those two. Welbeck has been picked ahead of Nani, Valencia and, in a sense, Cleverley.
"How do you know Ronaldo won't be man-marked?" says Adam Falla. "Jones in playing in midfield which suggest he might well man-mark Ronaldo."
If he was going to do that there would be two other central midfielders, but there is only Carrick.
Approximately 47 million human beings tried to predict Sir Alex Ferguson's XI for this match. They all got it wrong. That is a fascinating team selection, with no Nemanja Vidic – he's not on the bench, so is presumably injured – no man-marking job on Cristiano Ronaldo and, perhaps, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney playing wide.
It looks a very attacking line-up, but you never really know with Ferguson: away to Barcelona in 2008 United effectively played 9-0-1, even though Hargreaves, Scholes, Carrick, Park, Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo were all on the pitch. It's a pretty mobile front six, which is all about counter-attacks: stopping Madrid's as well as starting United's.
Real Madrid's team is pretty much as expected, with perhaps one exception: the marvellous teenager Raphael Varane is preferred to Pepe.
Real Madrid (probable 4-2-3-1) Lopez; Arbeloa, Ramos, Varane, Coentrao; Khedira, Alonso; Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo; Benzema.
Substitutes: Adan, Pepe, Kaka, Carvalho, Essien, Modric, Higuain.
Manchester United (probable 4-2-3-1) De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Jones, Carrick; Welbeck, Kagawa, Rooney; Van Persie.
Substitutes: Lindegaard, Anderson, Valencia, Smalling, Hernandez, Giggs, Cleverley.
Referee Felix Brych (Germany)
At the time of writing, Ferguson and Mourinho had yet to open official embassies up each other's backsides
1957 Men against Babes. (Madrid 3-1 United; United 2-2 Madrid.)
1968 Bill Foulkes silences the Bernabeu, and destiny-deniers. (United 1-0 Madrid; Madrid 3-3 United.)
2000 Sod, Dame Fortune and Iker Casillas gang up on Roy Keane. (Madrid 0-0 United; United 2-3 Madrid.)
2003 Much ado about an exhibition match. (Madrid 3-1 United; United 4-3 Madrid.)
Does anyone have a video of the 1-1 draw between Manchester United and Arsenal in February 1999? The whole match ideally, but extended highlights would be fine. If so, please email me. In return you get a book acknowledgement, Daniel Harris's eternal gratitude and, best of all, a vague sense of self-worth.
If you don't have that video,
you're dead to me you can still get a vague sense of self-worth by sponsoring my friend Rowan's charity walk.
It's also a big night for the confused ego of English football – because if the team 16 points behind in Spain beats the team 12 points ahead in England, not even Joe Bloggs and Jack Hackett will be able to claim Premier League supremacy. Although I doubt too many ABUs will become ABRs for the night.
There are a few phrases that stop a man in his tracks. His eyes glaze over as he stares off into space for a few seconds, lost in a magical, happy place. "Milky thighs", "you got the job" – and “Real Madrid versus Manchester United.” Of the gazillion possible matches in club football, this is the one, a fixture that is almost too glamorous to function. To borrow a phrase from Sir Alex Ferguson, it epitomises all the dreams of European football. The mere thought of it sparks a sensory overload of Proustian rushes and childlike fantasies. If we can't get excited about this, we might as well all pack up and go home.
The fixtures between the sides have tended to justify the hype. There have been four two-legged European Cup ties, with 31 goals in eight games, two truly great matches in 1968 and 2000, and career-defining contributions from Bill Foulkes and Fernando Redondo in particular.
Many United fans seem scared of what might happen this time, particularly the prospect of Cristiano Ronaldo making them a kind of football cuckold. That's surely the the wrong way to look at things. This is the stuff we live for, the anticipation a game so big that not even a Blackadder simile could do it justice. Colour our lives with the chaos of Real Madrid away.
The two sides have never met at such an early stage in the competition, but in many ways the bigger picture doesn't matter. This fixture exists in resplendent isolation, an end in itself. Real Madrid versus Manchester United.
Kick off is at 7.45pm.