Champions League - Paper Round: The world will stop

With Manchester United looking all set to win the Premier League at a canter and Real Madrid out of the race to defend their Liga title, tonight's Champions League match at Old Trafford has become the centre of attention for both teams.

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Champions League - Paper Round: The world will stop
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Daily Telegraph back page March 5 2013

But even the most causal of football fans are interested in this clash and a number of the papers go with Jose Mourinho's "The world will stop" line to lead their backpages.

But what are the country's top football writers saying about the match? Here is a round-up of what they feel Manchester United need to do to beat the Spanish champions.

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The Times: Better than ever? Manchester United must show they are the special ones

Oliver Kay: If United are to prevail this evening, they will need to perform with a sense of control and tactical discipline that has ceased to come so naturally over the past few seasons. Their display in the Bernabéu, where they earned a 1-1 draw, will increase confidence, but it remains to be seen how they will handle the mercurial Mesut Özil, whom they allowed a little too much time on the ball in Madrid, let alone Ronaldo, who, as they know well, can be lethal if left one-on-one against a full back or even with space to shoot from 30 yards… Tonight will require the focus and resilience that United showed in overcoming Barcelona in a tense semi-final, second leg in 2008. But that was a United side for whom focus and assurance came more naturally: Edwin van der Sar in goal, Ferdinand and Patrice Evra at the peak of their powers, Ronaldo up front, even Park Ji Sung exhibiting the prosaic qualities that used to serve United extremely well in the biggest, most demanding matches.

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The Guardian: Real Madrid present Manchester United with a formidable challenge

Daniel Taylor: The secret for United will be finding the correct balance between adventure and trying to negate Madrid's considerable threat on the counterattack. Nobody could accuse Ferguson of conservatism after the first leg but there were tactical nuances behind playing such a bold lineup. Wayne Rooney's deployment on the right meant he could involve himself in what was at times a three-on-one operation on Ronaldo. Danny Welbeck was under instructions to chase back on the other side and, at all times, there was a clear instruction that they should have at least six players behind the ball. Real, as Ferguson has said several times now, will pick you off otherwise – "one of the best counterattacking teams in Europe"…More than anything, one suspects United need to do something that was beyond them in the first leg. That towering leap and expertly despatched header gave Ronaldo his seventh goal in this season's competition. He has had 31 attempts on target, another 15 off range. He has also scored 16 times in his past 14 Champions League appearances and, in total, has 185 in 183 for Real in all competitions. "What do you expect if you play against him?" Ferguson asked. "You expect problems. You try to prepare for it as best you can but it won't be easy because he does it every week."

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The Telegraph: Jose Mourinho eyes chance to seal his immortality

Paul Hayward: There is an upswing in Mourinho’s fortunes, and this is his chance to regain control. By beating United he could unite the dressing room behind him again for one last push. Who cares if a lot of the players hate him when he leaves in May? A 10th European Cup for Real would render him immortal. Huge obstacles still stand between Madrid and Wembley in May but Mourinho will feel back in control of his own fate if he can add United to Barcelona on his list of recent victims. No one ever imagined him as a Ferguson type, a one-club institution. He would blow from club to club, dazzling first, then alienating. He would always know when to get out. So he was merely being cute when expressing a wish to go on as long as Ferguson.

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The Independent: Peter Schmeichel the Great is talking fairy tales when he claims this United is better than '99

James Lawton: The reality is, of course, that it is something of a push to claim that United can field one team of great players. Good ones, fighting, match in and match out, in the best Ferguson tradition, no doubt, but 11 great ones? No, it can't be claimed seriously and doing so can only be to mistake the nature of Ferguson's astonishing achievement in leading the Premier League by such a distance and reaching the last 16 of the Champions League and the sixth round of the FA Cup.It is an incredible performance even by his extravagant winning standards. He may not be doing it entirely with smoke and mirrors but what we are witnessing, surely, is one of Ferguson's most extraordinary feats of motivation. If he made a superb move into the market when signing Robin van Persie, his changed financial possibilities made further significant team-strengthening impossible.So Ferguson has eked out his thinnest resources since he first returned United to the front rank of English and European football. He has mocked the efforts of his better-heeled rivals Manchester City and Chelsea. He has reconjured the philosophy of a team who have simply rejected the concept of defeat.

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The Sun: I won't go running

Steven Howard: Jose Mourinho returns to the stadium tonight where he first came swaggering into the spotlight nine years ago. On March 9, 2004, a late Francisco Costinha equaliser gave Mourinho’s Porto the draw that knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League at the round of 16. As the goal went in, Mourinho was off and running. And he hasn’t stopped since. Two European Cups, league titles in four different countries, 20 trophies in all, three world manager of the year awards and enough controversy to last several lifetimes.

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Daily Mirror: The world will stop

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Martin Lipton: where the past nine years appear to have invigorated Fergie, Mourinho has aged. There was no goading. He didn’t bother to throw a barb at old rival Roberto Mancini, not even a joke about the Etihad Stadium getting the chance to see a Champions League team training. Mourinho might have claimed the “world will stop” to watch the latest clash of the giants but the message, initially at least, was clear: Not, this time, to see me.

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Daily Mail: United get ready for Special One

Ian Ladyman: Often lost amid all that is said and written about Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson is the fact that their friendship started with a row. The United manager refused to shake his young opponent’s hand after feeling his Porto players fell over too easily in winning 2-1 in the last-16 first-leg game that first threw the men together. All that has passed between them in the years that have followed, however, serves only to intensify the sense of anticipation ahead of tonight’s reunion in Manchester. Despite the relatively early stage of the competition, United against Real Madrid does - as Mourinho said last night - feel a little like a final. The world will indeed be watching and there is no shortage of sub-plots.

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Daily Star: Revenge – Giggs out to right a Ron

Jeremy Cross: The Champions League blockbuster is the game the whole world will be watching – and it could prove to be a dream night for Giggs in particular. Giggs, 39, has seen and done it all. But he knows dumping Jose Mourinho’s men out of Europe in front of another full house would be memorable, even by his amazing standards. Not least because the last time the Spanish giants came to town a certain Ronaldo scored a hat-trick to help them go through 6-5 on aggregate – even though United won the tie 4-3 on the night. On that occasion, back in 2003, it was former Brazilian superstar Ronaldo that turned United’s European dream into a nightmare. Ronaldo will be back in town tonight but this time it is Cristiano, the former United legend and team-mate of Giggs, who is in top form and represents the main stumbling block between Sir Alex Ferguson’s men and a place in the quarter-finals.

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