Manchester United v Real Madrid: Can Jose Mourinho match Vicente del Bosque feat in the Champions League?
Last coach to guide Real to European glory was very different to the mercurial Portuguese, writes Pete Jenson
Tuesday 05 March 2013
As role models go Vicente del Bosque will not have featured too prominently for Jose Mourinho. The manic charges across the pitch in celebration, the exhaustive study of the opposition, and the carefully choreographed mind games are not the terrain of the Spain coach.
But for all the differences, if Mourinho's final months at Madrid are to play out as he will have dreamed – lifting the European Cup in his last game in charge – he will have to emulate the club's last all-conquering coach.
Del Bosque was the last man to win the competition with Real, in 2002. It was the second time he had brought home the biggest club prize having first won the Champions League in 2000. And twice he took his team to Old Trafford and came away having knocked Manchester United out of the tournament.
After the club sacked him in 2003 they had to hire and fire another nine managers across nine years before they got to Mourinho. He has taken them to two semi-finals, breaking a six-year run of falling at the last-16 stage, but tonight he needs to do as Del Bosque did in 2000 and 2003 and get the better of Sir Alex Ferguson.
"This team has Mourinho's personality," said Ivan Campo comparing the two managers this week. He played at Old Trafford in 2000 when Real Madrid won 3-2 after a goalless draw in the first leg. "We were much calmer back then under Del Bosque. He generated that calm. Now there is too much noise. With Del Bosque, five kind words were enough to leave everything clear; he wasn't into rollicking us from the touchline."
Del Bosque was the players' friend; Mourinho has managed to upset almost everybody this season. But the fire and brimstone in the dressing room has helped bond the squad, shaking off that early season slump that saw them fall so far behind in the league. Of this evening's starters Sergio Ramos, Fabio Coentrao, Mesut Ozil, Angel di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain have all been direct or indirect targets for the manager's wrath.
Campo said this week of Del Bosque's team-talks: "They were comical sometimes he would just tell you what the opponents' strengths and weaknesses were and what was the best way to deal with them."
Mourinho's messages over these last few days will have been more detailed. There has been an intensity of preparation with the side practising penalties no sooner had the dust settled on the first leg. Ricardo Carvalho, one of the manager's old generals who will watch from the bench tonight, has spoken before of the notes passed to players on the eve of a big game to focus the mind.
But the idea that Del Bosque let his players do as they saw fit with little instruction does him an injustice. The former Real captain Fernando Hierro says of the game at Old Trafford in 2000: "He decided to change the system, fielding what looked like a five-man defence but was really nothing of the sort."
Del Bosque's plan was to smother Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole with three central defenders and push full-backs Roberto Carlos and Michel Salgado so high up the pitch that Ryan Giggs and David Beckham would spend more time defending than attacking.
"We pinned down Beckham and Giggs and that helped us control their centre-forwards," said Del Bosque. Beckham and Paul Scholes – the man Del Bosque called "The Milkman" because of his pale complexion – scored for United, but Real went through 3-2.
Mourinho has already said that a first goal for United tonight will not be the end of the world. "If they score then we will need a goal, but we will need a goal anyway," he said after the first leg.
As with Del Bosque in 2000 there is the option of a tactical change. Pepe could join Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira in midfield giving Real – who have conceded 13 goals from set-pieces this season – another head in the penalty area, but a repeat of the XI that beat Barcelona in the cup a week ago looks most likely.
Del Bosque's second game against United which ended 4-3 to the home side in 2003 also saw Real progress. Steve McManaman came in for the injured Raul, and Fernando Morientes remembered: "He played an incredible game that night."
"Steve wasn't just a great player," said Del Bosque. "He was a leader in his own way. He was disciplined but full of life and positive and he had the respect of all his team-mates." The "other, fatter" Ronaldo as Ferguson referred to him yesterday, stole the show in the second leg scoring a hat-trick. Tonight Mourinho will be relying on his Ronaldo to carry his side over the line.
After beating United in 2000 Real went on to win their eighth European Cup. Del Bosque bagged No 9 in 2002 in Glasgow but was sacked a year later. Asked about Ferguson this week, he said: "His 26 years in charge is something that could never happen in Spain. We were knocked out of the Champions League by Juventus in the semi-finals and despite having won it twice they got rid of us."
Mourinho will not hang around long enough to be disposed of should he win the club's 10th European Cup. After winning with Internazionale in 2010 he gave television interviews all but admitting he had joined Madrid before even reaching the post-match press conference. Walking off into the sunset with the trophy under his arm is how the film is supposed to end this time, too.
There will be no hard feelings from Real president Florentino Perez. At last the man he sacked a decade ago will no longer haunt him as the last coach to make Madrid European Champions.
Commentating on the last European Championship, Mourinho criticised Del Bosque's Spain side and called their striker-less team "sterile". Likewise when Del Bosque collected coach of the year award at Fifa's Ballon d'Or gala his comment that there was an obligation to: "always display the best personal conduct", was interpreted as a criticism of Mourinho.
The two men have strikingly different styles but Mourinho will hope to emulate his prestigious predecessor tonight. He says he has mellowed with age and promises neither tears nor a victory charge along the touchline tonight. Del Bosque would approve of such restraint.
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