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Since 1st March, 1999
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Raul world’s best: Alex Ferguson

Madrid: Real Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque gave a cautious verdict on his side’s classy 3-1 home win over Manchester United saying the Champions League quarter final tie was far from over.

“I think we had a good result but the tie is still wide open,” Del Bosque said later.

“We need to remember the way United played at Old Trafford last time we met. We led 3-0, but they fought back hard and ended up scoring twice.”

But the soft-spoken Real coach was prepared to admit that his side had played some outstanding football against the English side. “We had a brilliant first half and just as importantly we knew how to control the game in the second against some very strong opponents.

“I think we showed that there were two teams out there with some great players and both with an attacking style. That came through in tonight’s game.”

Del Bosque admitted that Real could have won even more conclusively than 3-1, but appeared satisfied by the final scoreline. “It is true we could have won more easily, but United are a very dangerous team and had their own chances, although perhaps we deserved more out of the game.”

Unlike opposite number Alex Ferguson, Del Bosque was reluctant to single out Raul as the star of the game, but he did admit that the Spanish international had been been one of the game’s outstanding players.

“Raul was one of a number of great players in a brilliant game,” he said.

Like his coach Raul was anxious to stress that the tie was not yet over. “It was marvellous game with lots of goals, plenty of excitement and everything,” he said. “We played a good game, but the tie is still wide open.”

Faint hope for United

United manager Ferguson hailed Raul as the world’s best player after the Spanish striker’s two goals at the Bernabeu Tuesday.

Real had Ronaldo in attack and Figo and Zinedine Zidane in midfield, three of the most expensive players in the world, but Ferguson was most impressed with home-grown Raul.

“I hope he doesn’t like travelling,” said Ferguson with the second leg at Old Trafford in mind. “Failing that we will stop him entering the country.

“Real buy these big players like Figo, Zidane and Ronaldo but I think the best player in the world is Raul.

“The way they took up positions in midfield was very difficult to handle. We know about Zidane, but Raul was just too much.”

Ferguson has every reason to be wary of Raul for the return leg in a fortnight after the Spaniard’s match-winning display the last time the two sides met at Old Trafford three years ago.

Then, United managed to come away from the Bernabeu with a goalless draw only to lose 2-3 at home, with Raul getting two of the goals.

Ferguson was full of praise for Real but clearly unhappy with his side's defending on the first two goals. “They mesmerise you at times with their controlled passing,” Ferguson said.

“The way they control the midfield is very difficult to handle, with Figo and Zidane opening up the game and Raul dropping into space, but having said that I thought the two goals we gave away were very soft.”

The United boss believes that Nistelrooy’s second-half goal, plus the prospect of a packed Old Trafford for the return, will give his side at least a faint chance of making it through, however.

“Away goals are important and it is one of the hopes that we still have,” Ferguson said.

“I think Real Madrid can play as well away from home. They are a very good team, but I think that we can play better than this at Old Trafford.

“For the second leg we have a very hard game, but our one ray of hope is the away goal and if we score early on it could be very interesting.

“This is now a massive challenge for us to turn this one around but there is always a great atmosphere at Old Trafford.”

However, Manchester United right back Gary Neville said Real Madrid reminded him of exhibition basketball team the Harlem Globetrotters.

“It was breathtaking in the first half. People will say we paid them too much respect and we were nervous, but sometimes it's not about that.

“It wasn’t anything to do with those things. Sometimes you have to admire it. They are capable of wonderful football. They were like the Harlem Globetrotters in the first half and it looked like we were getting a bit of a doing.

“We just didn’t get near them in the first half and it was a big problem for us and very disappointing. We were too defensive and were better when we went at them in the second half,” Neville said.

United will be without Neville and Paul Scholes for the second leg after the players picked up yellow cards.

“I think we can cover the Gary Neville situation with John O’Shea, but Scholes is a definite loss,” Ferguson said. “We hope Juan Sebastian Veron will be fit for return leg.”

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