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Manchester United star Juan Mata reacts to winning major UEFA award

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Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata has outlined his pride at winning the UEFA Equal Game award.

The 33-year-old Spaniard has been chosen as one of three recipients for the accolade that celebrates outstanding work in promoting inclusion and diversity within the sport.

Mata and the other winners – Khalida Popal and the German Football Association (DFB) – are set to be honoured at the same time as UEFA hold the Nations League draw.

That ceremony will be streamed by the governing body from 6pm tomorrow evening.

An official statement from UEFA outlines that Mata, and his contemporaries have demonstrated ‘outstanding leadership qualities in creating a more open, diverse and accessible game’ while each of them has also ‘provided a powerful example to follow’ with their respective acts.

Capped 41 times by Spain, the United midfielder has only played 151 minutes this season, but continues to shine off the pitch with his work for Common Goal; a charity he co-founded in 2017.

Common Goal makes positive change in socially challenged communities – using football’s power and popularity to tackle gender inequality, promote inclusion and provide more opportunities for underprivileged children.

Mata said: “I was proud of the work that our organisations are doing there and proud of the stories of people that have overcome difficult problems. This is what we want to do through Common Goal, give people choice to decide their futures.”

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin added: “Each of the three Equal Game Award winners is a fine example of how football can be used as a catalyst for positive change. They can and should be very proud of their achievements and I would like to personally thank them for their exemplary leadership that will, hopefully, inspire many others.”

 

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Champions League

Ronaldo’s crazy record against Atletico

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The Portugal international has taken to the field against Atleti more times than any other opponent in his club career, 35, scoring a remarkable 25 goals against a team that was a derby opponent during his trophy-laden stay at Real Madrid.
He has also registered nine assists against them and picked up 11 yellow cards, perhaps illustrating there is understandably no love lost with the Rojiblanco.

🇵🇹 Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 25 goals in 35 games against Atlético, including two hat-tricks in the knockouts 🔥@Cristiano | #UCLdraw | #UCL pic.twitter.com/S4wUeLMgs2

— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 14, 2021

The next most frequent opponents for Ronaldo are Barcelona, and he has managed 20 goals in 34 games against the Catalan giants.

However, his history with Atletico is worth examining in more detail. As has been pointed out, every knockout tie in the Champions League that the capital club lost between 2014 and 2019 was at the hands of a side containing Cristiano.

He was influential in their downfall in both the 2014 and 2016 finals of the competition.

In Lisbon, he provided the icing on the cake with a 120th-minute penalty to make it 4-1 in Real’s favour, after Diego Godin’s goal looked to be earning Atletico the trophy for the first time in their history.

Sergio Ramos popped up with a dramatic late leveller, with Gareth Bale and Marcelo also going on to score in extra-time.

Two years later, in Milan, Ronaldo struck the decisive penalty in the shoot-out after a 1-1 draw.

Cristiano continued to be the scourge of Atleti after moving to Juventus. In March 2019, the Madrid side held a commanding 2-0 lead from the first leg heading to Turin but were undone by a hat-trick from their nemesis.

Ronaldo netted two fine headers before completing the turnaround with a penalty, four minutes from time.

This came after another treble against them in the 2017 Champions League semi-finals.

He never faced Atletico while with United but will now get that opportunity after the two clubs were drawn together in European competition for the first time since 1991.

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Champions League

Champions League exit ‘confirmed’ as Man United fans fear the worst with Atletico Madrid draw

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Manchester United will lock horns with Spanish giants Atletico Madrid in the last-16 of the UEFA Champions League.

Following UEFA’s decision to void this morning’s draw, which saw United pitted up against French outfit Paris Saint-Germain, the draw was this afternoon conducted for a second time in Nyon.

United, who were part of the issue that saw the original draw re-done, will now face Atletico over two legs in a bid to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2019.

United’s supporters were furious when the original draw was made, with the mistake committed by those making the draw, after their ball being put back into the incorrect bowl.

However, the draw ran much more smoothly at the second time of asking and United were pitted against different opponents, although it promises to be a stern challenge against Diego Simeone’s side.

Below, MEN Sport has taken a close look to see what they have had to say.

Although United’s supporters wanted the ties to be redrawn, some of them are not happy about the fact that they are now going to have to face Atletico.

They fear that with the way the Spanish side set-up, using their low block and defensive-minded tactics, that it could be a problem for United to get the better of.

PSG would have, most likely, attacked United a lot more than what Atletico may do, leaving gaps for United to catch them on the counter-attack.

However, Atletico are a side renowned for soaking up pressure and making life awkward for opponents.

 

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Champions League

Furious Real Madrid opposed UEFA decision to redo Champions League draw after Man Utd error

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Real Madrid have hit out at the decision to redo the Champions League last 16 draw, after an error saw the governing body void the initial selection of ties.

The Spanish club had been drawn against Benfica, but a mistake saw Manchester United drawn with Villarreal, followed by further issues as those in charge of the draw attempted to right the issue.

United faced Villarreal in their group so were not eligible to play them again at this stage of the competition, but their ball was subsequently not taken from their pot as a potential opponent for Atletico Madrid either.

United were duly drawn against Paris Saint-Germain, with Villarreal being given Manchester City following the initial error.

When the draw was redone, however, Real Madrid found themselves paired with Paris Saint-Germain.

As United chiefs held talks with UEFA, Atletico launched a complaint after being drawn against Bayern Munich following the error, with the English-language account of the Spanish champions tweeting: “We are in talks with UEFA to ask for explanations and a solution after the mistakes made in the Champions League round of 16 draw.”

But Uefa duly announced a complete redraw would take place with the initial results voided, citing “a technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other”.

Real Madrid’s draw had taken place before the error however, and individuals associated with the club have reportedly described the decision to void the draw as a “scandal”.

According to Deportes Cuatro, the leaders of La Liga approached Uefa to claim it was “inadmissible” to redo the draw in full.

According to Goal, Madrid were “opposed at all times to the repetition of the draw”, emphasising that their draw against Benfica was confirmed before any of the aforementioned errors.

The Portuguese side, who finished behind Bayern Munich in their group, knocked Madrid’s rivals Barcelona out in the group stage.

The latest development comes after relations between Real Madrid and Uefa were already strained in the light of the European Super League drama.

The Spaniards, along with Barcelona and Juventus, were part of a trio of clubs who continued to advocate for a breakaway competition during the 2021-22 season.

Madrid topped their Champions League group this term, ahead of Inter Milan, after reaching the semi-finals of last season’s competition.

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