The Match The World Will Stop To Watch
Mourinho’s tenure at Real was earmarked as the one blot on his CV, despite last seasons record breaking La Liga title.
The first half of the 2012/13 season saw him unthinkably drop captain Iker Casillas, Madrid finished behind Dortmund in their Champions League group and the side appeared woeful in to league to the extent that they had almost conceded the title to Barcelona on the back of a 3-2 defeat to Malaga before Christmas.
The fans turned on him, 62% believed he’d damaged the clubs image and 42% wanted him gone at the end of the season according to Marca.
Yet, since the turn of the year, Madrid hold only one defeat to their name and are coming in to tonight’s clash on the back of consecutive El Clasico victories in the cup and league.
After being embroiled in turmoil during the opening half of the season, has Mourinho engineered the performance of his players to peak at a time when both his and the club’s Champions League ambitions come to fruition?
It all comes down to tonight.
Sir Alex Ferguson hasn’t been troubled with drama this season.
United sit 12 points clear, undefeated in the league since November, they cruised through their Champions League group in first position and await a home quarter-final in the FA Cup against Chelsea on Sunday.
However, the intensity of tonight’s game should ensure comfort levels in Manchester are breached.
Whilst their form has been consistent, United’s team sheet hasn’t and its testament to Ferguson’s astute management that all of United’s first team squad are eligible for a Premier League medal with over ten appearances each, minus Lindegaard with 8.
Their team selection tonight still remains a mystery. In the first leg he mixed an attack-minded starting XI with a very defensive approach.
Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Shinji Kagawa and Danny Welbeck were all named on the teamsheet, which led many to expect a gung-ho approach.
Instead, Welbeck and Rooney were disciplined in wide roles, preferred to the unpredictable Nani and out-of-form Antonio Valencia.
The return of Cristiano Ronaldo and Mourinho to Old Trafford has been the focus, but Madrid’s dangerous counter-acting style than has seen them thrive away from home recently will cause United most concern.
Angel Di Maria has notably returned to form and Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso all have the ability initiate a quick break.
Everyone is hoping for shades of the classic 4-3 encounter at Old Trafford between the sides ten years ago, but we’re backing 2-2 at 10/1 as Madrid appear to have found their form at just the right time.