Jose Mourinho declared that Manchester United are by no means defensively invincible at Old Trafford and that his own Real Madrid side believe that they can score there next month to win their Champions League tie.
"We can score at old Trafford. Many teams have done so at Old Traffiord and no team with our attacking quality has played there," said Mourinho, after the 1-1 first leg draw here. "They had chances to win [tonight] and they will go home happy," added the Portuguese, who heads to Manchester with the memory of his knockout triumph at the same stage with Porto nine years ago. "But they know Real Madrid can do it there. As I was thinking [before], it will go to the final minute."
Mourinho initially accused United of lacking ambition and playing only for a draw: "I don't think, with the British culture, that United will play with all their defenders in their half, as they did here," he said. And then he backtracked. "I won't criticise what they did, they got the result they wanted. We had the initiative all the game and we played against a team with lots of players covering their own area."
Cristiano Ronaldo also said that his own side's greater ambition meant they were entitled to have won the match. "We played better and deserved to score more goals," he said.
The prevailing feeling among Ferguson's players as they processed through the media mixed zone was that they had left the second leg on 5 March on more of a knife-edge than it might have been, having failed to seize upon Real's defensive failings. The look on the players' faces was one of disappointment.
But Ferguson could reflect on his tactics – flooding Ronaldo's operating space – working excellently after a concerning first half, in which Rafael da Silva, especially, was overwhelmed.
Ferguson dismissed Mourinho's suggestion that United had not tried to win the game. "Of course we tried to win it. We had four attacking players in the team. But we sat a bit too deep in the first half and allowed them space. But counter-attack is part of the game in Europe. Jose is right in that we weren't as good in possession as we normally are, but that is a credit to Real, too. I think it is [50-50]. It could go either way now. It really depends on who scores first goal. The team that scores first will have a good chance."
Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Phil Jones were all instrumental in shutting off the multiple attacking threats of Mourinho's side, though David de Gea's four top-class saves delivered a sense that he can yet flourish at United, after a difficult 18 months. "He has been improving all season," said Ferguson. "There was one save in first half that was incredible. He will be pleased particularly coming here as an Atletico [Madrid] player. I'm pleased for him. He made three or four magnificent saves.
"Real's home record is outstanding," he added. "I was a bit disappointed with how deep we defended which gave Real a lot of opportunities for crosses and shots.
Ferguson also paid rich tribute to Ronaldo and the header which equalled out Danny Welbeck's opener. "Cristiano had great years with us. I spoke to him. He is sitting in our dressing room, talking to the lads." Of his equaliser, Ferguson said: "I blamed [Patrice] Evra for not challenging him but then I saw the goal and I was wrong. His kneecap is almost at the same height as Evra's head. His goal in Rome [for United in the 2008 Champions League quarter-final] was very similar. There is not another player who can do that. I know that [Lionel] Messi can't."
Ferguson said there would be more ambition from his side at Old Trafford next month, against a Real side who have won only one of their last five games in England – the Champions League tie at Tottenham in 2011. "They are a fantastic counter-attacking team so we will have to be wary of that but we will obviously be more positive in terms of selection playing at home. But we have got goals in our team.
Mourinho is the one who will arrive in Manchester under most pressure, with defeat rendering his season over. "I don't feel any pressure. I work hard, am very serious and am happy with what I do. I have peace of mind and my head is high, but there is no pressure really," he said. Asked if defeat in Manchester would effectively end his Madrid career, he replied: "I have no idea and I am not worried about it."Reuse content