Red mist descends as United go out of Champions League

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

MANCHESTER UNITED 1 vs REAL MADRID 2

(2-3 ON AGGREGATE)

MANCHESTER UNITED assistant manager Mike Phelan seethed at Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir for the contentious decision to send off Nani, which he believed cost his side a place in the Champions League quarter-finals at Old Trafford last night.

With United 1-0 up, courtesy of an own goal from Sergio Ramos, and leading 2-1 on aggregate, Portuguese winger Nani was shown a straight red card for a clash with former Liverpool defender Alvaro Arbeloa.

The shell-shocked hosts then conceded twice in four minutes when substitute Luka Modric’s goal was followed by the winner from former United star Cristiano Ronaldo.

And Phelan insisted the outcome of the last 16 tie was decided by Nani’s dismissal.

“A great performance was marred by one decision,” said Phelan.

“We felt we had the tactics right and we were comfortable but the decision was amazing.

“We have a distraught dressing room and distraught manager. It was a disappointing decision and I think it spoilt the game.”

Triumphant Madrid boss Jose Mourinho felt his team were second best and fortunate to progress.

“Independent of the decision the best team lost,” he said.

“We didn’t play well and we didn’t deserve to win. At 2-1, against 10 men, we never had the ball. We had a keeper who saved everything. Man United have the mentality of lions.”

United boss Alex Ferguson sprung a pre-match surprise when naming forward Wayne Rooney on the bench.

Yet there was a high-octane start from the home side and defender Nemanja Vidic headed a corner from Ryan Giggs, making his 1000th career appearance and 145th in the Champions League, onto the near post and Danny Welbeck could only scuff the rebound straight at goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

United made the breakthrough on 48 minutes when Welbeck deflected Nani’s cross onto the outstretched leg of defender Ramos, who inadvertently put through his own net.

But Nani soon went from hero to villain, when he was shown a contentious red card for catching Arbeloa in his midriff in an attempt to control a high ball.

Madrid levelled the tie on 66 minutes when former Tottenham midfielder Modric skipped past a challenge from Michael Carrick and fired a spectacular right-foot drive in off the near post from 25 yards.

And the home side were stunned three minutes later when Ronaldo slid in to finish Gonzalo Higuain’s cross at the far post.

United piled on the pressure as they searched for a way back into the match, but Carrick, Robin van Persie and Vidic were all denied by the brilliant Lopez in the final 10 minutes.