Cristiano Ronaldo scored the decisive goal as Real Madrid controversially came from behind to win 2-1 at Manchester United on Tuesday and reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
In a breathless game, Nani forced Sergio Ramos to put through his own goal in the 48th minute to give United a 2-1 aggregate lead in the round-of-16 tie, only for the Portuguese winger to then be sent off for a foul on Alvaro Arbeloa.
Real Madrid immediately seized the initiative, equalizing through substitute Luka Modric in the 66th minute and then earning victory through United old boy Ronaldo on his return to Old Trafford.
Madrid manager Jose Mourinho conceded his side had been fortunate to go through, telling ITV: “Independent of the [Nani] decision, the best team lost. We didn’t deserve to win, but football is like this.”
The Spanish champions can now dream of a 10th European title after reinvigorating their season in recent weeks, but United’s defeat meant that Ryan Giggs’ 1,000th appearance in senior soccer ended in disappointment.
United assistant manager Mike Phelan attended the post-game press conference in place of manager Alex Ferguson, who he said had been left “very distraught” by Nani’s dismissal.
“To play Real Madrid on such a magnificent occasion, with Ryan Giggs reaching 1,000 games and a massive audience around the world, everyone now will be sitting there wondering what happened,” Phelan said. “It was a great performance marred by the wrong decision.”
Ferguson had sprung a major surprise by naming Wayne Rooney on the substitutes’ bench, but Giggs was included in the starting 11 as he became only the third British outfield player to play in 1,000 games.
A wave of applause for Ronaldo rippled around the ground at kickoff and the Real Madrid No. 7 unexpectedly found himself in direct opposition to Giggs, who started the match in an unfamiliar role on the right flank.
Giggs roused the home fans with a determined run down the wing in the 20th minute and from the corner he won United came within a hair’s breadth of taking the lead.
Nemanja Vidic met Giggs’ inswinging corner with a typically emphatic header that came back off the right-hand post and goalkeeper Diego Lopez reacted well to smother Danny Welbeck’s instinctive follow-up.
Madrid then enjoyed a brief spell in the ascendancy, with Rio Ferdinand blocking from Ronaldo and goalkeeper David de Gea thwarting Gonzalo Higuain, before Ramos had a goal ruled out for a foul on Robin van Persie.
The action soon swang the other way, though, with Lopez doing brilliantly to divert a shot from Welbeck over the bar after he had allowed a stinging effort from Van Persie to get away from him.
Despite shading the first half in terms of opportunities, United had nothing to show for their efforts, but that changed within three minutes of the second period.
After Welbeck and Van Persie had both seen shots blocked, Nani picked up the ball wide on the left and played a low cross into the Madrid six-yard box that Ramos inadvertently poked into his own net.
The Portuguese celebrated the goal as if he had scored it himself, but moments later his night was over.
In attempting to control a high ball, he caught Arbeloa in the chest with his studs and was shown a straight red card by referee Cuneyt Cakir, much to Ferguson’s evident displeasure.