[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was so upset, he couldn't face the media after the game. But his counterpart, Jose Mourinho, was happy to, and he rubbed it in, sort of.
"In my opinion," the Real Madrid coach said, "the best team lost."
Manchester United's 2-1 loss to Real Madrid that knocked it out of the UEFA Champions League is a game they'll be talking about for a long time. Specifically, whether Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir should have red carded Nani for the Portuguese winger's challenge on Real defender Alvaro Arbeloa with United leading 1-0 in the second half ...
"I don't think the manager is in any fit state to talk to the referee about the decision," said United assistant Mike Phelan, whom Ferguson sent to the post-game press conference. "It speaks volumes that I am sat here and not the manager of this fantastic football club. We all witnessed a decision that seemed very harsh, possibly incredible at that moment in the game."
Phelan's remarks were actually measured in comparison to many of the British pundits who insisted there was no "intent" on the play -- when "intent" has nothing to do whether a dangerous play warrants a red card.
Perhaps the decision was harsh but it was not outside the realm of possibility. It meant United had to finish the game with 10 men -- and this was a game where the team playing down a man indeed paid the price.
Substitute Luka Modric came on and struck the equalizer with a well-placed shot off the post and three minutes later former United star Cristiano Ronaldo put the Blancos ahead on the evening and two goals ahead, effectively, in terms of the aggregate count.
With getting into the merits of the call, Mourinho said he knows what it's like to fell robbed on a red-card call.
"If somebody can cry [over a harsh red card] then I am the first one," said Mourinho, referring to Pepe's dismissal against Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League semifinal. "My history is not to play against 10, it is to play with 10, and not in the last 16 or quarterfinals but in semifinals. I want to be honest and to be honest is to say that in my opinion the best team lost. But that's football."
Mourinho said the game turned on 10 minutes in the second half.
"When we were against 10 men we played very well for 10 minutes," he said. "We created new problems, with Luka and Kaka behind [Gonzalo] Higuain. That was a new problem for United that they could not solve with 10 men. We deserve credit for that."
The hero for Real Madrid was goalie Diego Lopez, who was signed in the January window from Sevilla after captain Iker Casillas was hurt.
"In Madrid, David de Gea was man of the match," Mourinho said, "and today the man of the match was Diego Lopez."
On Ferguson's controversial decision to drop star Wayne Rooney, Phelan said the move to start Danny Welbeck in Rooney's place was tactical.
"Everybody was fit," he said. "Everybody wanted to play but big decisions have to be made and the manager made those calls. We had the balance just right. We got the tactics right. At 0-0, we were comfortable and where we wanted to be. Then we scored to put ourselves in a commanding position and were in control. Then the game totally changed. It is difficult enough to play a team like Real with 11 men. Now we have a distraught dressing room and a distraught manager. That is why I am sat here. It was a massive occasion, Ryan Giggs' 1,000th game and a worldwide audience. Like us, they are all probably wondering what has happened."
Man. United-Real Madrid highlights: