Manchester United again extended their lead in the Premiership at the weekend, with a composed 2-0 victory over Everton taking them 12 points clear of Manchester City. They also qualified with two games to spare in their Champions League group, and have a home tie against Reading between them and the quarter finals of the FA cup.
Whilst Real Madrid will be the toughest opposition they have faced this season, and capable of tearing any side in the world apart with their fantastic attack, it would be a mistake for Manchester United to abandon their attacking principles, as it could well play into Madrid's hands.
United are clearly stronger going forward than they are defensively. On the few occasions when they have had tried to defend leads they have looked shaky, with the 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur a good example of this. Spurs managed to equalise very late in the game, but put United under sustained pressure and created several good chances. Perhaps if United had not taken the lead, they would have continued to attack Spurs, and taken three points from the match.
Against Real Madrid, it's unlikely that United's defence would be able to stand up to 90 minutes on the back foot, with Cristiano Ronaldo in particular a difficult man to completely neutralise no matter how defensively you play. Instead United should play to their strength, which is their formidable attack.
This would also target Madrid's frequently porous defence, and there is another factor that makes it worthwhile for United to go on the front foot. Although they are at the Bernabeu, the nature of the away goals rule has made teams, and in particular Jose Mourinho, wary of conceding at home. As a result, there is a chance that Madrid might sit back a little themselves, giving United a chance to go on the front foot against them.
With United's attack there is every chance they could pinch an away goal to two, something that could be crucial in what will likely be a fairly high-scoring two legs. If they were to go defensive and even come away with a 0-0 draw, they would be a in a bad position given the high chance Madrid will score at Old Trafford.
Manchester City and Dortmund have already shown this season that it's possible to get goals at the Bernabeu, and if United were to replicate City's 3-2 loss, they would be in a decent position for the second leg. Ferguson should play to his team's strengths, and that means taking on Real Madrid with attacking football.