all set for Manchester United!
This “all set for…” post is a bit different, because not only do we look forward towards this upcoming Champions League round of 16 second leg game between Real Madrid and Manchester United (20:45h) but we also look back at the last two times Madrid played in Old Trafford: the epic games of 2000 and 2003. For long time fans (especially the kind like me who remembers the Vicente del Bosque era with such fondness), it will be a great trip down memory lane, and for newer fans, you can learn a little more about Madrid’s recent history and why those games have had such an effect on el madridismo.
Marca kicked things off with a three-part series by Enrique Ortego (the author of the biographies on Zizou, Cris, Sergio, Iker, among others). The first part had Vicente del Bosque and Toni Grande looking back at the two games Madrid played at Old Trafford in 2ooo and 2003, and the second part had Fernando Morientes, Fernando Hierro and Iván Helguera doing the same. I think I’ve made it clear in the past how much I absolutely adore all of these men, so you can imagine how excited I was to relive those games with them, and feel the same excitement, nervousness, pride, relief that I felt when watching those games. (And I have to admit, I let out a little squeal of excitement when I saw there was an interview with VDB and Toni Grande, and another squeal when I saw that an interview with Fernando, Iván and El Moro would be published the next day.)
Vicente del Bosque & Toni Grande.
They don’t like to talk about the past, especially if the talk turns to their achievements, but Vicente del Bosque and Toni Grande agree to speak about the games that Madrid played in Old Trafford in 2000 and 2003. They were Madrid’s coaches. They won the first one and lost the second one, although they qualified for the next round in both cases.
VDB: we’ll talk about them one by one, since it will be easier that way. The first one, the one from the 1999-2000 season, is a game that I will never forget. It was our first year. We had tied 0-0 at home. And the season was on the line.
TG: we were missing Hierro and Sanchís, who were injured.
VDB: we had worked the previous week to change the system and play with three centerbacks. At least we won. If not, we were expecting to be blamed. We were not doing well in the Liga, and we weren’t even ranked high enough to qualify for European play. It was an extreme situation. I decided to change the system because I was very afraid of United’s two forwards: Cole and Yorke. They opened up the field with Beckham and Giggs and I tried to reinforce the center of the defense with these three centerbacks: Iván Campo-Helguera-Karanka. It was a risk, since we hadn’t ever played like that before. Then we continued with this strategy of three centerbacks until the final in Paris against Valencia.
TG: we placed Helguera in the back, but Vicente explicitly told him to go up whenever he could to help out in the midfield. We always said Iván felt happy playing there.
VDB: it wasn’t only changing the system for technical issues, as we also thought, and we were correct, that we could change the losing dynamic that we had. The team was not doing well. The players worked together to do it well and they felt comfortable. We had the motivation to try and do something new. We evaluated it a lot. We put Macca close to Redondo, Raúl and Savio in the mediapunta and Morientes above. They weren’t supposed to play a defensive role. We attacked with five and with six. Helguera could join the midfield. Karanka was an astute, left-footed centerback. A good defender. Iván Campo wasn’t a starter either but he did everything perfectly. There was a tremendous complicity between them. Hierro and Sanchís helped them a lot. They were always on top of them.
TG: the fullbacks went up constantly, we told them to. Although we didn’t really have to convince Roberto Carlos to go up, he was always up there. But Salgado made an effort to join in and our first goal, which was an own goal from Keane, was from a cross he gave.
VDB: they stuck to Beckham and Giggs and tied them up. That allowed the centerbacks to stop the forwards and Scholes, who came up constantly.
You called him “The Milkman.”
VDB: who told you that? It must have been the players! But it wasn’t meant to be an insult, he had very white skin. Sammy Lee, the former Liverpool player who played in Osasuna, was also called that. What a great player he was! He has to be good if he’s still playing today. Scholes, I mean.
TG: Macca, which is what we called McManaman, had a great game. He was teased a lot because he was a Liverpool player, but he did great work, both in this game as well as the next one three years later.
VDB: Macca was deceiving. He was not only a great player, but also a leader in his own way. He was valued by all his teammates. He was full of life, and also an active, energetic, disciplined man, who was always thinking about the team and never got angry. His behavior was irreproachable. Makelele, years later, reminded me of him, he also worked for the team and never complained.
The play of the game was Redondo’s taconazo that led to the second goal.
VDB: it wasn’t a play that surprised us because Fernando was like that, he protected himself with his elbows and he showed off his technique. A lot has been said about Redondo’s play, but what Raúl did to elude the defense at the second post was marvelous. He came from behind accompanying the play and he was ready to strike the ball when necessary. I suffered a lot in that game. I can’t quantify it, but we were playing with fire, since we could crash out of Europe. Then we eliminated Bayern in the semifinals and Valencia in the final.
Let’s talk about the second game, three years later.
TG: the day before we were to travel, Raúl got sick. He had appendicitis, and had to have an emergency operation. For us, it was an important loss. We were on the right path after winning the first game at the Bernabéu (3-1), but we couldn’t rely on that. We remembered the game three years ago.
VDB: we put in Macca for Raúl, we put him on the left to protect Roberto Carlos, where we normally had Zidane. Zizou went to the middle where Raúl usually was. Looking at the photo now, I realize that we were a super offensive team. Hierro and Helguera were two very offensive centerbacks. In the middle, Guti could play behind the ball and ahead of it, and even as a center forward. Beckham didn’t start the game. It was said that he had a problem with Ferguson, that he had thrown a boot at him… his entrance complicated things for us. They pressured and pressured and were on the verge of scoring a fifth goal that would have complicated things for us.
It was Ronaldo’s night.
TG: I was just going to say that, the game was marked by his three goals. How easy it was for him! It seemed that he wasn’t there, but there he was. He made it look so easy! He received a huge ovation when we took him out.
VDB: we all remember this game because of him. He was unique, special. A good person. A very positive player, those who are happy to be playing football. It’s a shame that he was injured in the semifinals against Juventus. I remember before the second leg game, I went into his room, he was with Flavio. I asked him if he could play and I didn’t think he was very convinced of it. I asked Dr. Del Corral, who was with us, what his opinion was. Those two teams were very different, but very mature, complete, with personality.
And on Tuesday…
VDB: Madrid has the ability to win there. The result was worse than ours the first year. But it’s a team with great energy and an extraordinary physical condition. The win over Barcelona should have helped the morale, although the final of the Copa can never repay an elimination in the Champions. An error in the Champions is an error in the Champions. There is much more responsibility than in the Copa. We have to be optimistic. I am.
TG: what is clear is that Tuesday’s win has reinforced the morale of the players and also the football aspects. They won with their style. I’m sure that Madrid won’t back down at Old Trafford. Although Manchester is not Barça, they will have spaces and I’m sure they will score a goal. They have to be very careful of set pieces. Back then, we emphasized those types of play a lot.
What can you tell me about Ferguson?
VDB: he’s a manager who has won the respect of everyone in a world where not everyone has the same opinion and at times expresses them without respect. His 26 years in one club would be unheard of in Spain. I haven’t seen a similar case since Miguel Muñoz. And he spent many years without winning, in the beginning, and after some periods, such as last year. But he has outlasted everyone. We were eliminated by Juventus in the semifinals after winning two Champions and we were fired, right Toni? I believe that was an excuse to do away with us, don’t you think so Toni?
Fernando Morientes, Fernando Hierro & Iván Helguera.
The three of them, who give the sensation that they are friends and much more than former teammates, are proud of having played a part in the two great elimination games against Manchester United. Iván Helguera played both those games, while Fernando Hierro and Fernando Morientes played one each. Photos from those games helped them to remember the moments.
April 19, 2000.
FH: you invented the phrase “the spirit of Old Trafford,” Ortego, and each time we had something at stake, you would come and remind us of that spirit.
IH: but how old was Iker here, he looks like a child! I don’t think he was even 20 at that point… In the Bernabéu, we tied 0-0, but we played a partidazo. We deserved to have scored a couple of goals, but yes, the truth is that there was tension on the flight, during the meals, in the hotel in the morning… there was a golf course and we went there to hit a few balls so that we wouldn’t think about what was coming up.
FH: I didn’t play, I was injured. I was injured in Rosenborg, during the group phase. The giant Carew came after me during a corner kick, he twisted me around in the air and destroyed my knee. But we all traveled with the team to Manchester to hacer piña. The truth is that the season was on the line. We were out of it in the Liga and everything was falling down on us.
FM: I was also injured in Rosenborg, during the training session before the game. I tore a muscle due to how cold it was. But I recovered in time for Manchester and I played. You’re right, Fernando, we were a bit fucked up for what was at stake.
IH: there is a lot of difference between the two teams, the first one had a lot of quality, a lot, but of course the second team…
FM: … Figo had already come, as had Ronaldo…
IH: with the first team, we went up the wings to attack much more, since we had El Moro there, the styles of play were very different. Roberto went up a lot…
FH: … because there were three centerbacks: Iván, Aitor and Iván Campo. Del Bosque decided to change the system, and was very criticized at that moment. It was said that he was being too defensive because it appeared that we were playing with five defenders, but when the team spread out on the field, you could see that it wasn’t defensive at all, since all of us would go up. Judging by the performance of Míchel Salgado and Roberto, it was a change that gave us a lot of security.
FM: it was precisely because you weren’t there, since you were worth two players, and that’s why he put in three centerbacks. With them and Redondo, we often dominated the midfield and the fullbacks. We were well covered in the center, since the fullbacks went up a lot. Up front were Raúl, Anelka and me. That team wasn’t defensive at all, I remember in the final Anelka, Raúl and I played and Del Bosque told us that one of the three would have to defend a bit on the left…
FH: … and it fell to you. And Anelka ended up playing on the right.
FM: that was during his good period.
FH: Nicolas played sensationally in the two semifinals and in the final.
FH: the first team was much more national (Spanish).
FM: the entire defensive line was Spanish, except for Roberto.
FH: plus there was Raúl, you (referring to Morientes), which is why I mentioned it. The second team was different.
IH: we (the first team) were a good team, with a good relationship between everyone. We functioned as we were. We played a lot on the wings, with many crosses into the center. No one thought we could win there and eliminate an English team.
FH: we were told so much about the Theatre of Dreams, about the atmosphere, how the fans didn’t stop singing the entire game, and it’s true that we were quite scared. But we were scared more for the responsibility we had than for the atmosphere.
FM: but it’s also true that we had nothing to lose. Everyone placed their bets on Manchester, who was a fantastic team and in addition had gotten a good result at the Bernabéu. In that sense, there was no pressure on us.
IH: the day of the training session, I went out on the pitch with my teammates and we all looked at the empty stands and we said yes, it was great and beautiful. But it was a lot less amazing than the Bernabéu. We controlled the game very well from the beginning. We scored on The Milkman, which was what Del Bosque called Scholes, and we went ahead on the scoreboard.
FM: our first goal was scored by Keane in his own goal, but I was there to push it in if the ball hadn’t gone in. Then came Redondo’s play, with the taconazo and Raúl’s goal. It was heartening to go into the halftime with a lead.
IH: it was a final, for the way we approached it. If we didn’t pass there, well the Liga was already lost, the Copa as well, so it wasn’t about individual players, it was about the Real Madrid shirt.
FH: La Séptima had a lot of influence that year, because we knew we were capable of winning.
IH: we were the architects of victory and the qualification for the semifinals, but I believe that day the shirt of Madrid played its part. The escudo also played that day.
I love that!!!!
April 23, 2003.
Three years and four days later, Madrid returned to Old Trafford to play the quarterfinals of the Champions League against Manchester United. They had packed the “spirit” in their suitcases, and had been much more consistent that year, with a 3-1 win in the first leg. They also wore black in Manchester in an effort to repeat what had been achieved three years ago.
IH: we could have decided the game in the Bernabéu, but Ruud (van Nistelrooy) scored a goal that gave them a bit of life. We had a fantastic team… in comparison to three years before, there was a great difference. The first team was closer, more national, more of a group, perhaps, but the second had great players. We attacked on all fields. The base could have been the first one, but it had more of everything.
FH: and where is Raulito in the photo?
It was when he had the appendicitis attack the previous day, remember?
FH: aaaah, yes, I forgot about that… in Madrid, Rulo scored two and the first one was by Figo. He had already done his part. The base of the team continued to be Spanish, but those who were in the spotlight were Figo, Zidane and Ronaldo. I believe that of los galácticos hurt us a lot in that moment, but you can’t control the situation. The truth is that for some time, there hadn’t been a team in Europe with so many world-class players. It was spectacular.
FM: you’re telling me, I was benched (laughs). And how could I protest, as Raúl, Guti, who played that day, were also there… I will never forget that game because I experienced something I had never experienced before. The benches at Old Trafford are almost in the stands and even though Ronaldo scored one goal, then another, then another, no one (referring to the fans) said anything. They even made gestures of admiration towards things that Zidane or Ronaldo did. There wasn’t a single word of reproach directed towards us, and they were right next to us. Instead, they commented on the plays with us. I have never experienced that anywhere else in England and I know because I played for Liverpool and I believe Fernando will tell you the same, as he played for Bolton. In many aspects, English football is incomparable, different than the rest.
FH: but do you remember what happened at the end of the game? We went out to thank our fans on one side and then we had to go to the center of the field because they (Manchester United’s fans) were clapping for their players and they wanted to clap for us as well.
IH: we suffered less that day than three years earlier. We had Ronaldo, who put us ahead three times, and we also knew them better.
FH: don’t believe it, in the second half they pressured and if they had scored a fifth goal… it still puts the fear of God in us. I wanted the game to end so much! The amount they pressured after Beckham entered the game didn’t seem possible. Although they were eliminated, they wanted to win the game at any cost for their fans. In the end, everyone was happy.
FM: the truth is that we had an exquisite team. McManaman played an extraordinary game that day. After beating Manchester, it was a shame to fall to Juventus, because this team had everything to become champions again.
March 5, 2013.
IH: I believe the most important thing for Madrid is to stay calm and not to try and win the game in the first five minutes. They have 90 to win it and I have no doubt that they will have opportunities to do so. Old Trafford is not a big field, Manchester will attack for sure and we can score on the counterattack because it’s what we do best. But it’s important for the team to stay calm and to wait for occasions to come, and they will come. The best example that I can give is Tuesday at the Camp Nou. If Madrid repeats this game, it will be in the quarterfinals.
FH: I would be careful with the first 20 minutes. They’re going to try to score a goal from the very beginning. They know that if they score one quickly, Madrid could lose hope and become anxious and then they will be very dangerous. But if they stand firm for these first 20 minutes, Madrid can impose their play, take away the ball. They’re going to pressure up front.
FM: Madrid knows perfectly how it has to play. It should widen its attack when it has the ball, because they collapse a lot on the center, like they did in the Bernabéu. The less time Manchester has the ball, the better it is for Madrid, who should try and spend as much time on their side as possible. That’s what the team should do.
FH: Madrid has to have a cool head. These two wins against Barcelona, especially the one in the Copa, will be good for the team. If they had been eliminated from the Copa, they would have had to travel to Manchester with the entire season on the line. Knowing that there’s another final coming up should be a positive factor, but never a relaxing one. Madrid has come out stronger from the Camp Nou, not only because it won, but also for how it won that game.
FM: what Fernando said is important. You should never show that there’s fear, because Manchester is a team with great experience. If they see doubts in you, the team and the public will have you at their mercy.
IH: the team has to keep Van Persie reined in; he’s a spectacular player and one of the best in the world. And they also have to be very careful with set pieces. But it’s one thing to say it and another to do it. The English have always lived off of corners, fouls, even throw-ins. We know that Madrid suffers a lot with those types of play. It’s a shame that Marcelo isn’t in shape to play because he’s a player that can do a lot of damage in the attack. The two styles are quite similar. I’m sure both teams will attack. Manchester already attacked in the Bernabéu.
FH: Madrid has never known how to speculate and it’s not going to do so now knowing what is at play, because the pressure of the Champions is present after 10 years without winning it. We won La Séptima and that helped us a lot to win La Octava and La Novena. Before putting La Séptima in the trophy case, there was a real obsession with the European Cup since 32 years had passed since the last time we won it, and right now this issue is there as well, although less time has passed.
IH: you look at the equipazo that Madrid has now, and it has only reached the semifinals in the last two years.
FH: we won three Champions and got to two semifinals in five years. That’s not easy at all, Pedja and I spoke about that at a recent dinner. It’s not easy to play in three Champions League finals and win them. Normally, you might play in three and win just one, or play in two and lose one.
FM: we made history. It wasn’t easy to play three finals and win them. Juventus had lost twice before playing against us. Zidane had to come to Madrid to win one. And he made the right decision.
Fernando Redondo & Ronaldo.
As you can see above, the most talked about part of the first game was Fernando Redondo’s taconazo and the most talked about part of the second game was Ronaldo’s performance. The third part of the Marca series had an article about the taconazo, which said, “a few days after the game, Redondo was eating at De María when he saw some journalists. He greeted them and they congratulated him for that play. He lowered his eyes and whispered, ‘it wasn’t that important, I just did the only thing I could do, since the rival was collapsing on me. The taconazo wasn’t a luxury, it was a recourse, since I had no other resource.'” I love him so much! Meanwhile, Ronaldo has been quoted as saying, in response to the standing ovation that Old Trafford gave him when he was substituted out, “that gesture from the public made me very happy. I had only had a similar experience once, when I played with Inter against Brescia. Seeing all those people standing is something that I will never forget.”
El Mundo interviewed Iván Campo, who now lives in Palma and coaches a youth team. He’ll be watching this game on TV.
What do you remember about the moments right before the game?
How small the locker room was. In England, the stadiums are spectacular, but the locker rooms, especially those for the visitors, are very austere. There were the normal things – some shouted encouragement, others gave high fives. We were a piña there, those who played and those who didn’t, and we were having trouble in the Liga, we came into the game from a 0-0 tie in the Bernabéu, so we looked at each other and said, “chicos, we win or we’re fucked.”
And Del Bosque? What did he tell all of you?
Vicente is a very tranquil person. We watched a video that morning, but he left us to do our own thing. There was the group of Spaniards, but everyone was united. Roberto Carlos always came to have a beer with us.
One of my favorite moments of La Octava…
The day before the game? That seems to be impossible…
Yes, yes. There’s no need to make a big deal out of it. A beer after having dinner at the hotel, it’s the most normal thing in the world.
Let’s go back to Del Bosque.
As I said, he left us to do our own thing. He respected those moments of tranquility. There are other coaches who make you go to video sessions, chats… Vicente preferred to leave people alone, so that they could be relaxed. We talked about different things over those drinks, such as our families, our children. We joked around. El Moro would film us fooling around with his video camera…
What impressed you the most on that day?
When we were winning 3-0 and the fans were all encouraging Manchester. I thought, “madre mía, if this happened in the Bernabéu, they would be eating us alive.” And later when they got to 3-2, we said to ourselves, “joder tío, will this ever end?”
What can you tell me about Redondo’s famous taconazo?
I didn’t think it was anything unusual, although I understand that all of el madridismo remembers this play. The taconazo is eternal. I say I wasn’t surprised because I knew that he was a spectacularly quality player. I haven’t seen many players do what he did with the ball. He also had a wonderful personality.
Here are excerpts from an El País interview.
How was the week before the game?
¡Madre mía! We were in a bad moment because in the Liga we weren’t getting good results. And then we had to go to Old Trafford. The good thing was that we had a wonderful team (as in the relationships between the players). That triumph was a triumph of the team. If you don’t have a good team, then it’s hard to achieve big things. The week before was tough because there was a lot of uncertainty. We came from beating Zaragoza with a penalty from Raúl. The press was criticizing us. And then came this marvelous game.
Did you have a good time celebrating it into the early hours of the morning?
In the locker room, we had a good time every day. It didn’t matter whether we won or not. The group was fantastic and the celebration continuous. We had a great time. After training sessions, we’d go have a beer together. We were very united.
What is a united team?
A good atmosphere, help from teammates, support from the bench, having dinner together, enjoying yourself in a rondo… when we finished the training sessions, we would go to the basketball pavilion, which was inside the old Ciudad Deportiva. The last one to arrive would pay for the beer of the rest. The cafeteria was inside the installations where the basketball team trained, and we got together with them: Herreros, Angulo… there was a great friendship. We encouraged each other. That’s how you consolidate a fantastic group.
Did Redondo always pay for the beers?
He had a special knack for being the last one to arrive. Fernandito had the privilege of saying, “look, I have to do my exercises, my recovery…” he was a very tranquil person. So he was forgiven, for that and for more things.
How did Del Bosque prepare for the games?
He transmitted very much serenity and he didn’t create any problems for you. His chats were restrained: he explained to you the strengths and weaknesses of the rival, and he told you what you could do. But he didn’t tell you: “we’re going to play this way, the fullback has to do this, the midfielder has to do that…” we already knew what we had to do. Sometimes it’s not necessary to say a lot. For the game against Manchester, we were left with the idea that if we wanted to move on, we knew what we had to do. And to do it well, we had to enjoy ourselves. As soon as we went on the field, we said, “chicos, this is to enjoy! You have to have a good time!”
Fernando Morientes, Macca, Roberto Carlos, Santi Solari.
Fernando Morientes also spoke to La Sexta, telling them that “Old Trafford is a beautiful and big stadium, but not more so than the Bernabéu…. I remember there was a lot of tension, silence, and silence is normally a sign that there is a lot of concentration… Redondo’s taconazo is a play that forms part of the history of el madridismo, it was genius.”
COPE’s “El Partido de las 12” got Steve McManaman to analyze the upcoming game and provide his view of the two teams. Macca says he’s working with ESPN now and spending time with his family, and only playing “a bit” of football. He laughs when they ask him if he thinks he’ll be allowed to enter Old Trafford (due to his Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester City past) and when they say if Giggs can still play, then you can too. He also reveals that his team after Liverpool is Madrid, as he still has a lot of friends there, and in fact he’s going to the hotel tomorrow (today) to visit with the fisios and massage therapists.
And Onda Cero’s “Al Primer Toque” had special guests Santi Solari from Bristol, Connecticut, where he’s working with ESPN, and Roberto Carlos from Moscow. Roberto jokes about how warm it is in Russia, and Santi jokes about the “ovation” he got at Old Trafford. There’s a lot of adorable banter between the two!
I had so much fun writing this post because of my love for all these men! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!