Devils re­turn

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

Old Traf­ford, I think is fan­tas­tic.”

The Old Traf­ford crowd’s first en­counter with their cur­rent man­ager in March 2004 ex­posed them to the full force of Mour­inho the provo­ca­teur.

He raced down the touch­line, coat­tails flap­ping be­hind him, when Costinha’s late goal took Porto through at United’s ex­pense, be­fore with­er­ingly pro­claim­ing that Fer­gu­son’s side “should be do­ing a lot bet­ter”.

Nine years later, the Mour­inho who took his seat in the dugout was an al­to­gether more con­cil­ia­tory fig­ure.

He later claimed he al­ready knew about Fer­gu­son’s im­pend­ing retirement at that point and his un­usu­ally diplo­matic com­ments be­fore and af­ter the game sug­gested a de­sire to in­gra­ti­ate him­self with United’s fans and board.

“The best team lost,” Mour­inho said af­ter a 2-1 win for Real Madrid in the last 16 that hinged on a con­tentious red card shown to United winger Nani for catch­ing Al­varo Ar­be­loa with a high boot.

But rather than Mour­inho lead­ing United into the next cam­paign, it was the hap­less David Moyes, who man­aged to steer the club to the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter­fi­nals even as the wheels fell off do­mes­ti­cally.

United’s toils un­der Moyes and then Louis van Gaal mean Old Traf­ford has not staged a Cham­pi­ons League knock­out game since April 2014.

They re­dis­cov­ered the win­ning feel­ing in Europe un­der Mour­inho last sea­son by tri­umph­ing in the Europa League, but it is the Cham­pi­ons League where both he and United feel they be­long.

Mour­inho, 54, dreams of be­com­ing only the third man­ager to win three Euro­pean Cups, af­ter Bob Pais­ley and Carlo Ancelotti, and the first to do so with three dif­fer­ent clubs.

But his stock in the com­pe­ti­tion has dipped since his sec­ond suc­cess with In­ter Mi­lan in 2010, the Por­tuguese hav­ing failed to go be­yond the semi­fi­nals in his three years at Madrid and two-and-a-half-year sec­ond stint at Chelsea.

Both he and United also have rea­son to be wary of their first Group A op­po­nents Basel, who visit Old Traf­ford to­day.

Four years ago, the first Cham­pi­ons League game of Mour­inho’s sec­ond Chelsea ten­ure cul­mi­nated in a sur­prise 2-1 home de­feat by the Swiss club.

Chelsea, like United now, were the de­fend­ing Europa League cham­pi­ons.

Two years pre­vi­ously, United crashed out of the Cham­pi­ons League in the group phase af­ter a 2-1 de­feat at Basel’s St Jakob-Park sta­dium that was com­pounded by a grue­some knee in­jury sus­tained by cap­tain Ne­manja Vidic.

With Basel hav­ing avoided de­feat on their two pre­vi­ous vis­its to Old Traf­ford in 2003 and 2011, Mour­inho al­ready has a score to set­tle. – AFP

Rafael Nadal holds the US Open tro­phy af­ter de­feat­ing Kevin Anderson (right) of South Africa in their US Open men’s sin­gles fi­nal match yes­ter­day at the Bil­lie Jean King Sta­dium Na­tional Ten­nis Cen­tre in New York. – AFPPIX

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