13 February 2013

Ferguson v Mourinho: A Rivalry Renewed

Nine years ago Sir Alex and the 'Special One' met for the first time in a last sixteen clash in a spanking new Estádio do Dragão with the home side Porto coming out on top 2-1 thanks to two goals from the South African Benni McCarthy. 1-0 Mourinho. 

The victory was complete in the second leg as a second half equaliser and a dubious offside decision saw the Portistas win the tie 3-2 and spark memorable celebrations from their motivational coach. 

The next season saw Mourinho join the Abramovich revolution at Chelsea and he swept to successive titles, enjoying three wins, including a magnificent 3-1 victory at Old Trafford to set a Premier League record of 95 points in 2005. 

In the 2005/06 season Ferguson did notch up his first win over Mourinho, but still finished second best in the title race and had to wait until 2009 for his second triumph. That was the last time the two managers met as the Red devils won 2-0 over Inter Milan in the San Siro to cruise into the quarter-finals of the Champions League.  


Tonight they meet again in a clash of two of the three most valuable clubs in the world, not only in football, but in sport as a whole. 

Mourinho's Real Madrid got the better of the much-heralded Barcelona to win the La Liga title last campaign, but now sit 16 points off top and behind city rivals Atletico in third and in poor form.

Ferguson's United have dominated the Premier League this season and now sit 12 points clear of rivals Manchester City and on course to match their historic treble of 1998/99. The front two of Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie are likely to be Real's biggest threat, especially with the home side's centre back Pepe just returning from injury and full-back Marcelo dropped for being overweight. 

Mourinho will place his trust in former United star Cristiano Ronaldo, a man who swapped Manchester for Madrid in an £80 million move four years ago. Even Sir Alex himself has admitted that he did not expect him to score the amount of goals that he has in Spain and that he is now reaching his peak. 

There have been problems aplenty at the Bernabeu this season, with Mourinho slated for dropping legendary goalkeeper Iker Casillas and rumours of unrest in the boardroom surrounding the club. It seems likely that the great Portuguese will be on his way out sometime soon, probably at the end of the season and he has stated that he wants to return to England. 

But before these two great men can continue their rivalry on a more permanent basis, this pallet-wetting tie will decide which of these two huge clubs are still in with a chance of regaining the European title. 

Real hold the record of being champions of Europe nine times, while United have won just three. Ferguson himself has won two of those, but accepts that for a club of their size, they should have won more. At least the English team have been in the final three times in the last five years, the Galacticos haven't been there since 2002. 

The last time these two sides met was in an epic 2003 encounter when the defending champions saw off United 6-5 on aggregate, despite a 4-3 defeat in the second leg when future Galactico David Beckham scored twice off the bench. 

If tonight's match, and indeed the tie, even comes close to matching that night a decade ago then we will be in for a treat as two huge clubs and great managers go head to head. 

First leg prediction: Real Madrid 2-2 Manchester United

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