It was one of the shortest post-match interviews given by the enigmatic Real Madrid manager, but in admitting that his side was second best against Manchester United, Jose Mourinho revealed more than many managers do in the majority of post-match conversations.
On the face of it, the confession that the "best team lost" is nothing more than a humble acceptance that the Spanish champions had been bested by the Premier League leaders, and there are few that would argue that point upon witnessing the first 50 minutes of the game, when both sides possessed a full complement of players.
Indeed, Sir Alex Ferguson's side bossed the proceedings for the most part, effectively dealing with Real's counter-attacking style whilst creating the game's better chances and eventually taking the lead in the early stages of the second half.
The game turned in Madrid's favor with the controversial dismissal of United winger Nani; however, Mourinho's refusal to discuss the impact of the ejection and praise his opponents for their performance was a startling declaration of Ferguson's tactical superiority on the night.
Many had questioned the Manchester United manager's decision to start with Danny Welbeck in place of Wayne Rooney in the name of defensive solidity, but the selection had the desired impact, with Xabi Alonso stifled in the midfield and England international Welbeck making a positive impact further forward with his drive and positive link-up play.
Ferguson's tactical masterstroke will now be seen as little more than a footnote in a pulsating and dramatic encounter, but after eluding to the importance of the move in the immediate aftermath of the game with his scathing and markedly honest platitude, Mourinho went on to fully acknowledge Welbeck's contribution once some of the dust had been allowed to settle, praising United's stout defensive setup (per France24.com).
Still, while Mourinho's comments may elicit respect and provide the English champions-elect with a modicum of comfort, the Portuguese's cutting and curt opening response can also be seen as an archetypal motivational tool that could well inspire Los Blancos to up their game in the latter rounds of the competition.
Madrid have been the subject of much praise recently after overcoming Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey and in La Liga in the last seven days; however, the 50-year-old's ruthless postmortem of his side's display will act as a reminder of their need to perform to the highest possible standard as Real sets about ending their 11-year wait for a 10th European title.
Mourinho remains a fascinating figure who is undoubtedly one of the more perplexing and entertaining characters in world football, but his unerring and graceful praise of Manchester United should be recognized as an act of great humility for a man known by many for displays of petulance.
The best team may have been knocked out at Old Trafford, but if Real do go on to lift the Champions League trophy, then Mourinho's willingness to criticize and motivate his players to strive for better will have played an integral part in their success.
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