x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Primera Liga: Jose Mourinho riding high at Real Madrid

Two recent victories over Barcelona and another one against Manchester United has solidified a complete turnaround for Real Madrid, writes Andy Mitten.

Real Madrid's coach Jose Mourinho reacts during the Champions League soccer match against Manchester United at Old Trafford stadium on Tuesday. Phil Noble / Reuters
Real Madrid's coach Jose Mourinho reacts during the Champions League soccer match against Manchester United at Old Trafford stadium on Tuesday. Phil Noble / Reuters

Jose Mourinho tried to be humble in victory and Cristiano Ronaldo refused to celebrate when he found the net.

The "Special One" claimed that the best team lost at Manchester United while Ronaldo looked almost embarrassed to have scored the winning goal in Tuesday's last-16 Uefa Champions League tie against his former club.

Their actions at Old Trafford did not make the defeat any easier for United, they did little to defuse an incandescent Sir Alex Ferguson after Nani's controversial red card, not that too many at Real Madrid will care about that.

They are still on track in their bid to win a 10th European Cup and they have also the exciting prospect of a Copa del Rey final against their neighbours Atletico on the horizon after their semi-final win over Barcelona.

Written off at the start of the year, Mourinho has shown his resilience again, and the players who chafed under his command, and the Madrid fans who called for him to be dismissed, have gone quiet.

And the turnabout has come in just five weeks, during which Madrid have triumphed in their vital games.

Two of those victories have come against Barcelona, the first a convincing one away in the cup in which they raced into a 3-0 lead to stun their opponents.

They repeated that success against their Catalan opponents, with a weakened side, in the league as they won 2-1 on Saturday.

Then to complete a great week they eliminated one of their strongest rivals in the Champions League to reach the last eight.

Madrid are flying, Barcelona are not and United are out. Mourinho is using the good run to score points, and get even with or ahead of foes.

He equated Nani's sending off to Pepe's against Barcelona two years ago. He praised his goalkeeper Diego Lopez, further undermining the once unassailable power base of Iker Casillas as he prepares to return from injury. Madrid's great run has come without their captain.

And he praised Luca Modric – his expensive but much-maligned signing last August – after he came on at Old Trafford, scored and put in a sublime performance. Mourinho's message was clear: I know exactly what I'm doing; doubt me at your peril.

Madrid are almost injury free, confident and playing with the swagger their supporters love. Emerging talents such as Raphael Varane are turning into world-class performers.

Madrid have far to go before they can take possession of a 10th European trophy, but they are favourites for a reason.

And how Mourinho must be loving life, at the moment.

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