Christiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford in February will be the big story of the last 16 clash between Real Madrid and Manchester United. However his appearance will only be a bit part of a story that has been over 50 years in the making.
The European Cup or Champions League is integral to both Clubs history. Real Madrid were the first winners and are the most successful club of the competition. This success was built on winning the first five finals. A Manchester United team that arguably might of challenged them perished on a runway in Munich forever etching the competition in to it’s history.
It was a year before this disaster when the already dominant Real crossed paths with United for the first time in the European Cup. United having dispatched Spanish Champions Bilboa in the quarter final travelled to the Spanish capital for the semi final first leg.
The English champions held out for an hour in front of the 135,000 strong crowd before a Gento cross was headed home by Rial to open the scoring for the hosts. Fifteen minutes later it was the great Di Stefano’s turn as he slotted home Madrid’s second. However this seemed to spur United in to action and with eight minutes to go Tommy Taylor got his head to a ball to make it 2-1 and leave the reds very much in the tie. Then in the final moments Kopa flicked a ball through which Mateos got on the end of to shoot past Woods for Madrid’s third and vital goal.
The return leg two weeks later was played partly under Old Trafford’s newly installed floodlights in front of 65,000 fans. After early exchanges Madrid took the lead when Di Stefano set up Kopa to slot home Reals first. Five minutes later Gento crossed for Rial to put the Spaniards two up. Although that effectively sealed the tie a characteristic that United teams would become famous for surfaced again and they fought back with goals from Whelan and Charlton. The first coming after a strike from Pegg rebounded off Taylor and the post before being tapped in. Bobby Charltons strike
The game ended 5-3 on aggregate to Madrid who went on to win the final against Fiorentina while United headed to that faithful event at Munich airport which would mean their next meeting would have to wait for over ten more years.