Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson hailed Cristiano Ronaldo after the Real Madrid star rescued a 1-1 draw against his former side in last night’s Champions League last 16 first leg clash.
Danny Welbeck’s first-half header gave the Red Devils a precious away goal but Ronaldo also left his mark on the meeting with a brilliant equalising header.
Ferguson declared himself happy with the result — and confident that his side can complete the job at home — but was quick to praise his former protege.
“What a header. Unbelievable. You can’t stop that,” he said of the Portuguese’s goal.
“The spring, the way he holds himself in the air, the power in the header. I said to Patrice Evra at half time, ‘you didn’t challenge for that’. And when I saw the video I thought, ‘what was I talking about?’.
“I think it’s difficult for Cristiano playing against us, his old team. There’s a little bit of emotion attached to it for him because he had so many great years for us.
“But when he gets the ball you’re praying, more than anything.”
Thinking ahead to the return game, Ferguson added: “It will be very open. I think we’ll score at Old Trafford. We have a big job on our hands but it is definitely within our grasp.”
Real coach Jose Mourinho believes the tie remains finely balanced.
Mourinho said: “Nothing new. Not a surprising match, not a surprising result.
“I think basically [it was] what I was waiting for, which is everything very open for the second leg. As I was thinking, I think this will go to the last minute.
“They defended well and the result is open. If you ask me percentages, I don’t change one single number — 50/50.”
Mourinho remained upbeat about his side’s chances heading into the Old Trafford rematch on March 5. Asked whether the draw handed the advantage to United, he replied: “No. We can score more than one goal there.”
United striker Robin van Persie, who might have had a hat-trick on another night after spurning some inviting openings, was cautious in his assessment of the result.
Asked if his side were now in pole position, he said: “Slightly, [but] at this level these kind of teams don’t really care if they play home or away.
“It’s half time and we will be ready for the second half. People who have watched the game have seen chances for both sides. It was a great game to watch.”
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