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Butler: Sorry Man United, Cakir is no pantomime villain

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Noel Butler
3/9/2013 12:10:11 PM
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"I feel well and I don't doubt my decisions. The red card to Nani was correct. People will see that is the case in time." – Cuneyt Cakir, March 5, 2013.

Having spoken with a Spanish media outlet on Thursday - the three sentences above are about all Sir Alex Ferguson can chew the fat on as the globally renowned 'Fergie Hairdryer' recovers from its latest outing.

A hairdryer, believe it or not, that's given more years of service to Old Trafford than even Ryan Giggs.

The hot air this time is directed foursquare at a 36-years-young insurance agent from Istanbul.

Better known as the referee - who some reports want to have you believe was Real Madrid's best player in that thoroughly absorbing second-leg round-of-16 encounter between two of world sport's greatest institutions.

Cakir wasn't even close to the reason why Real Madrid ran out of Old Trafford as worthy winners.

Whether or not everyone - from Sir Alex, his assistant Mike Phelan, a sarcastically clapping in the ref's face Rio Ferdinand or each and every one of the 75,000-plus in attendance - felt Cuneyt Cakir's decision to send off Nani was right or not is utterly irrelevant.

The fact of the matter is Cakir did send Nani off.

Manchester United Football Club has absolutely no one to blame for this latest defeat but themselves.

To a man they did not even come to dealing effectively in either the tactical or psychological sense with the new set of circumstances Nani's dismissal presented to both players and coaching staff.

On a night where truly they could have earned fully the grotesque sums they are paid, they failed miserably on all counts.

Jose Mourinho's tactical switch introducing Luka Modric and pushing Gonzalo Higuan out wide right was Real Madrid's almost immediate response to the stimuli that was the Nani red card.

Game over. Where was Manchester United's leadership?

Where was their Chelsea or Inter Milan 'batten-down the hatches'-type response?

Mourinho, of course, played a starring role as Inter went down a man early on during the second leg of their 2010 semi-final clash with Barcelona. The San Siro club overcame the deficit, going on to claim their first European club crown in well over four decades.

Last year, once more during a semifinal second-leg match at the Camp Nou, Chelsea went down a man when captain John Terry was sent off. Oh my, we see Cuneyt Cakir was the referee that night too.

Even ex-Manchester United captain Gary Neville remembers vividly and very verbally the outcome that night. With Chelsea - like Inter Milan before them - went on to be crowned Champions of Europe.

See the pattern, Fergie?

The legend of the English game knows full well that it's in adversity and how you react to it that ultimately defines you.

That long-held theory holds true for everyone, including a football club.

Fight or Flight is how they describe people's psychological response to any perceived terror they may face.

It is certainly correct, then, to state that Manchester United opted for flight Tuesday night.

Ferguson's so-termed 'too distraught to face the media post game' state of mind was likely brought upon realizing at the final whistle his club had let a glorious opportunity slip away and they had no one really to blame but themselves.

The runaway Barclays Premier League leaders had, up to the point of the early second half dismissal, controlled the most important aspects. None more so than with a 1-0 lead Manchester United, leaving United in control of the ultimate destiny of the tie.

When Mourinho revealed his tactical revisions it was at that point United should have focused all resources in the cause of pushing back the Madrid Marauders and not allow for even one moment the emotion and bitterness of how they felt about the referee affect their performances.

Cristiano Ronaldo does not need an open invitation. Neither did any of his teammates.

Whilst at the other end, Diego Lopez had his most defining 90 minutes to date in a Real Madrid shirt. No matter how awfully colour-hued his shorts were.

The Old Trafford crowd had their part to play too.

Yes, they got behind their club in a most vocal and passionate way but you could clearly see during breaks in action the unacceptable face of football as many in the crowd could clearly be seen venting their anger and animosity towards Cakir.

The Manchester United players would have both felt and observed it. In doing so the fans' fury clouded their on-pitch judgements.

Before the final whistle, Mourinho felt comfortable enough to begin the walk from the visitors' dugout towards the dressing rooms - coy and crafty enough along his walk not to display even the hint of triumphalism on his well chiselled features.

Mourinho chose instead to provide an abject lesson to United's players.

He completely ignored the animosity and rude finger gesturing that some in the most expensive hugging the touchline seats chose to direct his way.

Eye-contact avoided, he was likely rehearsing his well scripted post match bon mots.

Yet again beating Sir Alex at his own game - no manager in English or European football has a better head-to-head and or winning percentage record against Ferguson than Mourinho.

Yes, I'm talking to you Rafa.

El "Special One" may well have been auditioning in the role of becoming the Old Trafford legend's replacement as he set out the case for Ferguson's right to monopolize the fury and distraught stakes.

His coup-de-grace was stating that "the best team lost" on the night. This was as close as we'll ever get to Mourinho publically bowing down to the Ferguson Altar.

Job interview: over.

Now for Ferguson his immediate thoughts turn to a real pantomime villain, at least in the eyes of numerous Chelsea supporters and season ticket holders, Senor Benitez.

The European Champions who so meekly surrendered that crown without so much of one bead of sweat falling from El Nino's well blushed brow now put their FA Cup on the line Sunday lunch time at Old Trafford.

Ferguson is fully aware he will play no role at Wembley on May 25.

Instead, he will be more determined now to ensure Manchester United can at least compensate in some way for missing out on yet another Champions League Final by reaching the FA Cup summit on May 11.

Little compensation, we know, but at this point any Wembley date is better than no date at all.

Besides, Ferguson can help keep a Wembley bench seat warm for when his dear old, Portuguese, red wine-drinking friend likely brings his Madrid side to Wembley exactly two weeks later.

Cuneyt Cakir (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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