Last night's result left the tie finally balanced, and the Spanish press are, perhaps understandably, divided. [Reuters]
After a match which divided opinion around the world, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Spanish press has offered a mixed reaction to Real Madrid's draw with Manchester United last night.
The country's three biggest sports newspapers, Marca, AS and El Mundo Deportivo, all repeated the assertion that there is "everything to play for" at Old Trafford. However all three appear to favour United at the tie's half-way stage.
Marca, Madrid's biggest newspaper which has close ties to the Bernabeu, was particularly pessimistic. The paper noted that, on the four occasions Real have drawn 1-1 at home in the first leg of a European knock-out tie, they have been eliminated every time - losing 5-0 to AC Milan on one occasion.
Marca's match report claimed the game was "full of highlights," but the main one was United goalkeeper David De Gea, who was "infallible" in goal.
The paper continued: "The United keeper, who alternates been good and not so good performances in England, played possibly his best game as a Red Devil in the Bernabeu."
Marca's praise for United's Madrid-born goalkeeper was echoed by the city's other sports paper, AS, which called De Gea "heroic." In a rather acerbic piece, AS chastised Madrid for "an act of arrogance in underestimating Manchester United, over something so incidental as its rickey defence and troglodyte midfield. They are Manchester, and this is the European Cup."
On a slightly less vituperative note, the paper carried an interview with Emilio Butragueno, former player and now technical director at Madrid. Butragueno claimed Madrid "played some great football in the first half, and were better", adding that Madrid "they are a great team with a great competitive spirit."
However he said that, in Manchester United, "we are facing a great team who know their history and are conscious of it. It is one of the great names of the world. They got a great result for them, but they will knew it is a dangerous result as well."
Over in Barcelona, it appears the football cognoscenti are even more sceptical about Madrid's chances than their counterparts in the capital. El Mundo Deportivo, a paper which is typically pro-Barca and rarely declines the opportunity for some Bernabeu-bashing, said United are "now clear favourites to advance".
Writer Jesus Galindo asserted that Sir Alex Ferguson "has one foot in the quarter finals" after giving "a tactical lesson" to Jose Mourinho. He added that "all the genius and skill of Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo is not enough to beat a team of Manchester United's calibre."
Thus it appears United have emerged with their reputation very much enhanced among the Spanish public, while Real are swimming against a tide of scepticism. But don't bet against Marca stirring up a Bernabeu bid for De Gea when the summer transfer window opens.
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