When Cristiano Ronaldo scored his superb hat-trick against Sevilla anyone watching would think Madrid were their usual selves, destroying lesser teams as the Bernabeu roared its approval.
This isn’t a ‘usual’ Real Madrid season even by their often tumultuous standards. Out of the title race by December – at least according to Jose Mourinho- a captain who is at odds with the manager, in fact half a team seemingly at odds with the manager and the manager seemingly at odds with everyone at the club and the press.
Jose Mourinho has had very public fallings out with both Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos, which has seen both Spanish internationals taking somewhat surreptitious swipes at the ‘Special One’ in the press.
Ramos said in a recent interview ‘He [Spanish boss Vicente Del Bosque] communicates but he gives you space. He does not pressure you like Capello or Mourinho.’
Casillas – injured for the games against United- meanwhile has made his feelings clear about being dropped from the side earlier this season when he said in an interview: ‘Mourinho is the best coach in the world but this season he has turned mad.’
Mourinho who enjoys a somewhat prickly relationship with the Spanish press at the best of times now no longer conducts pre or post match interviews, he also refuses to even remotely look like celebrating Madrid goals most of the time.
The Mail notes:
Mourinho, for example, argued with Ronaldo in front of the whole team after a Spanish Cup win over Valencia last month.
‘I have given my life for you,’ countered Ronaldo. He has also criticised Pepe for having an ankle operation at the end – rather than the start – of the winter break and accused Di Maria of playing well only up until the signing of a new contract.
No longer, therefore, can Mourinho be accused of favouritism but whether his seemingly scatter-gun approach can guide his team past United and into the latter stages of the Champions League remains to be seen
In Spain they have become accustomed to the drama and the soap opera. What intrigues English observers, though, is that two of the things that sustained Mourinho at Chelsea – apart from results – would now appear to be lost to him, namely the knack of inspiring and motivating players and the ability to charm and manipulate the written media.
Certainly, the written press have been savage recently. One theory is that Real president Florentino Perez – irritated by his coach’s persistent talk of a return to England and his public declaration last December that the league title was lost – has signalled to journalists he trusts that it is time to unleash the dogs.
The failure of ‘marquee signing’ Luka Modric to even remotely live up to expectations can’t have helped matters at the club with the former Spurs man already being touted with a Summer move back to the Premiership with Chelsea.
Madrid face a possible headache going into Wednesday’s game over whether either Pepe or Raphael Varane – who’s impressed of late- will be fit enough to play in the first leg, from a United point of view both being out would be a huge boost.
Mourinho arguing with the media, or not even speaking to them, is hardly enough to make anyone think United hold an advantage. With reports however of so much disharmony in the dressing room and the knowledge that anything less than a win against the Reds on Wednesday will only increase the discord, even Mourinho may be struggling to hold it all together.