By Jeff Stelling
Jose Mourinho might rate Real Madrid’s chances of beating Manchester United over two legs as 50-50 but after Wednesday’s 1-1 draw I reckon it’s more like 70-30 in United’s favour.
While Madrid have been near invincible at the Bernabeu this season, their away record has been well below par, while United have been outstanding at home.
A score draw was a great result for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in the Champions League first leg but the fact is it could have been even better because both Robin van Persie and Ryan Giggs had great chances – Van Persie three of them.
United exposed Real’s defensive vulnerability, particularly in the second half, and I’d back Wayne Rooney, Van Persie and Danny Welbeck to give Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane another difficult night at Old Trafford.
As good a game as David de Gea had for United, all of the saves that he made – with the possible exception of two at most – were saves he should have made and Diego Lopez(who is no Iker Casillas, by the way) was by far the busier goalkeeper in the second half.
The body language of the two managers spoke volumes as the week unfolded.
Jose Mourinho said on Tuesday that he is happy at Madrid but he looked anything but. When he came out early at the start of the second half and stood in the shadows of the dug-out absolutely alone I thought ‘this is a man who is not long for this club’.
You have to wonder, if that is the case, what message that transfers to the players.
By contrast, Sir Alex was in an effervescent mood the night before the match.
Peter Schmeichel, a guest on our coverage, told us that’s Sir Alex to a tee on the big occasion – in fact, he said, the bigger the game, the better his mood.
Peter said when he played he’d often be the first player to finish his warm-up and get back in the dressing room and there he’d find Sir Alex showing friends around and having a laugh and a chat.
He’s so relaxed and that transmits itself to the players.
I think there is still an element of ‘Master and apprentice’ when it comes to analysing Ferguson and Mourinho as managers, even if Mourinho has got a good record against him.
I just feel that Ferguson got most things right on Wednesday – including his attitude and approach – whereas Mourinho fell short in those areas.
If that match was Mourinho’s interview for the Manchester United job whenever it becomes vacant, I’m not sure he would have made the shortlist.
Given the worldwide brand that United is as a club, they require a figurehead rather than a manager who will poke a rival coach in the eye.
Moreover, I’m not sure that Mourinho plays the brand of football that United would want even if they do have fabulous players who break like lightning.
Schmeichel made an excellent point when he said that Mourinho tends to stay at a club for two or three seasons and then move on, which is not what Manchester United want.
They want a manager for the long-term who will provide them with the stability and success they’ve enjoyed under Ferguson, not someone who a few years down the line might decide it’s not for him.So there are lots of reasons why I feel Mourinho won’t get the Manchester United job when Sir Alex does call it a day.
However, that’s not to say I don’t think he’ll be working in England next season. I’m told he’s got a passion for London, which would push him in a different direction.
Wednesday was a night when Sir Alex showed that, if he wants them, he can have many more years of management.
His decision to pick Johnny Evans ahead of Nemanja Vidic raised a few eyebrows but Evans has had an outstanding season and Sir Alex got that one spot on.
The one person who wasn’t too happy with what he was asked to do was Rooney. I know he’s a team player who will play wherever you ask him but I don’t think that wider position plays to his strengths at all.
He’s not the quickest out there and sometimes he ends up playing as more of a right-back. Ideally, he’d slot into that role that Shinji Kagawa was meant to be filling – the No 10 role behind Van Persie.
But the question then, of course, is ‘could Kagawa do the job that Rooney was doing?’ and the answer is probably ‘no’.
Rooney did a job and I’m sure he’s pleased with the outcome but he won’t want to play the same role in the second leg, I’m pretty sure of that.
From Madrid’s point of view, Ronaldo proved once again what a talent he is and showed just how much mutual affection exists between him and United by not celebrating his equaliser.
He arrived at Old Trafford in 2003 as a scrawny young kid but United helped to grow him into a global superstar – and they benefitted from that on the field and financially when they sold him.
By all accounts Ronaldo was a model pro during his time at the club and it’s no secret that United were good for Ronaldo and vice versa.
I thought Ronaldo was quiet in the second half when United got to grips with him but in the first half he showed what he’s all about.
He’s got more tricks than Paul Daniels and his header was magnificent; you’d go a long way to see a better header than that.