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Real held in Champions League blockbuster

Story highlights

  • Real Madrid held to a 1-1 draw by Manchester United in the first leg of its last-16 tie
  • Cristiano Ronaldo scored against his former club after Danny Welbeck had put United in front
  • Borussia Dortmund recorded a 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk
  • German side came from behind on two occasions to claim crucial away goals

Jose Mourinho -- "The Special One."

Alex Ferguson -- "The Hairdryer."

Cristiano Ronaldo -- "The Prodigal Son."

The Oscars aren't until February 24 -- but the latest Champions League blockbuster and its all-star cast didn't disappoint.

The intrigue, the subplots, the glitz and glamor of two European giants steeped in glorious history.

This had everything. The master and the apprentice ably played by Ferguson and Mourinho.

    The love affair between the two, the cozy drinks and the bottles of red wine, the terrible children cast as Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.

    The best of "frenemies" is how the pair are described. If only Ferguson hadn't admitted to leaving his finest claret on the airplane.

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    Enter stage left, Real Madrid -- the nine-time winner of the European Cup led by the man who once wore the red of United with such distinction.

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    Ronaldo -- all $124 million of him -- is the man who lives a movie star existence, scoring goals for fun, 183 in 180 appearances since his move from Manchester in 2009.

    Real, the first club to ever break the $650.5 million revenue barrier in a single year and the most successful club side in the history of European football.

    Then of course there's Mourinho, the man constantly linked with a move to Manchester when Ferguson eventually retires.

    Suave and sophisticated with his film star looks, Mourinho's departure from England in September 2007 is still mourned to this day. A natural on camera, a wonderful way with words and his ability to charm, made him a favorite with the country's football aficionados.

    With Real 16 points behind Barcelona in the Spanish league and Mourinho already stating that his next club will be in England, perhaps this duel with Ferguson could be considered an audition.

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    If so, then perhaps it is the elder statesman who holds the aces.

    Ferguson has always claimed that United's three European titles are not enough for a club of its magnitude.

    Whether his team will add to that collection this year remains open to question, but after securing a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu, United will retain lofty ambitions.

    This contest had everything.

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    There were goals -- Ronaldo scoring against his former club -- moments of controversy, world-class saves.

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    It was pulsating, breathless, two heavyweights of the beautiful game slugging it out at the very highest level amid one of the most dramatic settings in world football.

    A cauldron of noise and expectation greeted the players and yet, in one single movement of Danny Welbeck's head, the Bernabeu was silenced.

    Rooney, on the periphery of the action for much of the night, sent in a corner and the young England striker rose highest to plant a header into the far corner -- only his second goal in 28 games.

    First blood to United

    So many had predicted Real would use their attacking prowess to blow holes in a United side deprived of warrior-like defender Nemanja Vidic.

    But this is Manchester United -- this is a club which knows how to fight, to survive when the odds are stacked heavily against it.

    It may not be able to match the nine European titles of Real, but this is a club which has made the final in 2008, 2009 and 2011 on top of its three successes.

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    Real's history and appeal worldwide is well known, but United are catching up both on the pitch and off it.

    Finacially, United continue to reach new audiences and according to Austin Houlihan, Senior Manager in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, the club is on track to overhaul the Spaniards.

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    "Manchester United continue to successfully leverage their global brand," he said following the publishing of the annual Football Money League table.

    "The new world-record seven-year shirt sponsorship deal with General Motors will double the revenues the club receives from its shirt partner in the first season of the new deal in 2014-15.

    "This combined with new Premier League broadcast deals from 2013-14, which will deliver incremental distributions of between £20 million ($31.7 million) and £30 million ($47.5 million) per club, will help Manchester United push the two Spanish clubs above them, for a top two ranking."

    While money matters, there can be no doubt that the biggest bargain was Real's decision to throw piles of cash at United for Ronaldo.

    It was his equalizer on 30 minutes which caught the eye, his ability to hang in the air and generate an unfathomable amount of power to head the ball into the net remains a joy to behold.

    From there on it was simply wonderful to watch.

    Robin van Persie hit the crossbar and had another effort hacked off the line, while the much-maligned David De Gea produced an astonishing performance in the United goal, fending off every effort which came within his grasp.

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    Both teams had opportunities, Real might have even been reduced to 10 men had the referee not afforded Raphael Varane a huge let-off for his foul on Patrice Evra as last man.

    The sequel at Old Trafford on March 5 cannot come quickly enough following this latest installment in the fascinating duel between the master and his apprentice.

    Mourinho will remember all too well how he danced down the Old Trafford touchline when Porto shocked United back in 2004 on the way to winning the competition. This tie is not over.

    "They defended well and the result is open," Mourinho told Sky Sports. "If you ask me percentages, I don't change one single number -- 50/50.

    "We can score more than one goal there. They had two big chances in the second half, but chances out of context because we were chasing the game and they were just defending.

    "This is the Champions League and there are two matches, home and away. They did their match and they did it well."

    United, unbeaten in the past 16 matches and 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League, will now hope to make home advantage count n the second leg.

    "There were a lot of incidents in the game," Ferguson told Sky Sports.

    "We had lots of chances in the match and played some good attacking football at times but we did not get the possession we should have had.

    "Real won possession without question, but it takes us back to Old Trafford with a great chance.

    "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."

    Deaths reported in Ukraine plane crash

    In the night's other last-16 game, Borussia Dortmund had to twice come from behind to secure a 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.

    A minute's silence was held following reports that four people died when a plane made an emergency crash-landing in Ukraine according to the Russian news outlet, state-run RIA Novosti.

    The Donetsk-bound charter flight was reported to be carrying football fans from Odessa to Donetsk for the contest.

    Once the game did get under way, Shakhtar took the lead through Croatia captain Darijo Srna before Poland striker Robert Lewandowski brought the German visitors level.

    Young Brazilian midfielder Douglas Costa restored the home side's lead only for Germany center-back Mats Hummels to level late on.

    "It is important that we are going into the second leg level and a 0-0 would see us through," Hummels told reporters.

    "Certainly there were a few dangerous moments in defense, but against such an attack-minded team you can never avoid this."

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