The delicious mind-game between former Premier League rivals Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson didn’t disappoint yesterday afternoon. Whether making sure each player wore the correct shirt to the organizing their players in a way to enhance the scoring of goals, these two towering geniuses of the modern game proved beyond a doubt they are football managers.
Of course to the layman, yesterday’s Champions League match between EPL’s United’s of Manchester and Serie A’s Internationals of Milan appeared to be a routine game of eleven-a-side football, but for those with expert tactical knowledge, every detail—from the way Maicon threw in the ball after it went out to touch, to the way Ronaldo fell over several times—was calculated from the start, pieces in an intricate chess match played by two grandmasters of the game.
You could tell by the way former Chelsea boss Mourinho leaned against the glass wall of his enclosure that he knew exactly what he was doing, like asking the men who were best able to kick the ball in the opposing net to try and do just that, or making the guys really good at defending their own net form a line of some sort at the back. As for Ferguson, who sat and watched the whole game with his face reacting to the events taking place on the pitch, he made no mistakes at all, like making sure there were eleven men on the pitch instead of twelve, and not giving them hockey sticks or knives, which I believe UEFA no longer allows.
Yes, not since Kasparov met Karpov has the world seen such a pairing. I mean, look at how Ferguson used non-regular starters to replace players unavailable due to injury, or how Mourinho used the best players at his disposal to play in their regular positions. The intense extra-sensorial perspetival action was almost too hard to bear. Indeed, when sometimes-fit-but-sometimes-not-fit striker Wayne Rooney came on in the latter stages of the game to replace tiring Ji Sung Park, it seemed to be checkmate times a billion, until Mourinho had it clear he had other plans. Like having his defenders snuff out Manchester’s attempts on goal.
Now we can all look forward to the second leg in Manchester in two weeks time. Will Ferguson attempt a slightly different formation so that the players will better interact with one another to facilitate the scoring of goals? Will Mourinho give an inspiring team talk to try and improve or maintain his players’ performance in the second half? You’ll have to tune in to find out!