MADRID (AP) — If Jose Mourinho was auditioning for the Manchester United manager job, he put forth a worthy performance.
The Real Madrid coach led his team to a 2-1 victory over United at Old Trafford on Tuesday and into the Champions League quarterfinals. But before the final whistle even blew, Mourinho was putting the spotlight on himself.
He walked over to United manager Alex Ferguson and whispered a few words into the 71-year-old coach's ear. Mourinho then made his way down the tunnel and out of sight as his team played out the final few seconds. And once the match actually ended, it was Mourinho who said that United was the better team.
"I try to be honest and in my opinion, the best team lost," said Mourinho, a former Chelsea manager who has said he would like to someday return to the Premier League. It may all have been an act, but it was a good one.
Mourinho won the Champions League with FC Porto in 2004, and then came to England to coach Chelsea as the self-anointed "Special One." Although he never won Europe's top club trophy while with the London club, he did win back-to-back Premier League titles in 2005-06 — Chelsea's first league titles since their only other championship in 1955.
If coming back to England really is in Mourinho's future, then a spot on the United bench when Ferguson finally retires would be a prime position. And it seems he's already trying to win over the fans.
"Sir Alex, he's the best. He's the top. I am nobody to put a question mark against him," Mourinho said after the match. "His team was very well organized, his team was fantastic." Tuesday's match changed dramatically after Nani was sent off in the 56th minute for a dangerous play. Trailing 1-0 at the time, Madrid soon scored a pair of goals to win 2-1 and advance 3-2 on aggregate.
Mourinho said there was "quite heavy contact" between Nani and Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa, but he stopped short of agreeing with the decision. "The referee decided on a red card, it could have been a yellow," said Mourinho, who has also won the Champions League with Inter Milan and has twice taken Madrid to the competition's semifinals.
It may have been all calculated, but it may all add up to a job at Manchester United if Ferguson ever does decide to call it quits.