Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho billed his team's clash with Manchester United as the game the world is waiting for after making a personal check on his UEFA Champions League rivals today.
Mourinho, whose side warmed up for the United tie by beating Sevilla 4-1 on Saturday, flew into Manchester to see the Red Devils extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to 12 points with a 2-0 win over Everton at Old Trafford. Madrid and United now prepare for Wednesday's mouth-watering last 16 first leg clash at the Bernabeu and Mourinho did not under-sell the importance of the glamour showdown against Sir Alex Ferguson's club.
"It is the match the world is waiting for," said Mourinho, who met with Ferguson before United's kick-off. "The world is not waiting for other matches in the Champions League, so I hope we can give the world what they are waiting for."
Mourinho spoke in glowing terms about United's veteran manager and their long-standing friendship and rivalry, one that dates back to Mourinho's early years in management with Porto and his successful spell at Chelsea. "I feel privileged about that because he is such an important person in the world of football and, more importantly than that, he is good person," said Mourinho. "I have always had a fantastic relationship and I am proud of it. We have had so many matches between us which started with Porto. We had some with Chelsea, Inter and now Real. At all of my clubs I have met Manchester United and Sir Alex."
"Of course, I want to win and he wants to win, but I believe the loser will have a little bit of space to feel a little bit happy because of the friendship, but I want to win," Mourinho added. One crucial difference between the two managers, at least in the preparations for the midweek meeting, came in their respective team selections for their league fixtures.
Mourinho was able to rest key players, with an eye on Wednesday, while Ferguson admitted that the fact his team were presented with the opportunity to move 12 points clear at the top of the table tempted him to field his full-strength line-up against Everton. "We already know the position where we will finish (in the league)," said Mourinho.
"Of course I want to win matches and I feel the responsibility of that by managing a club like Real Madrid, but at the same I could think more about the match on Wednesday. I had some boys who played 90 minutes last Wednesday for their national teams and I could give them a rest, but it is such a big match on Wednesday that everyone wants to play, no one will be tired."