The Portuguese showed plenty of spirit in Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea but his Real Madrid counterpart looks like a beaten man
As the ball nestled in the bottom right corner of the Chelsea net, goalscorer Anthony Martial wheeled away in delight, Juan Mata jumped for joy and an ecstatic Romelu Lukaku sunk to his knees to celebrate Manchester United’s second goal at Stamford Bridge.
As for manager Jose Mourinho, he allowed himself a muted shake of his fists while seated on the bench, before calmly rising to pass on instructions to substitute Ander Herrera.
True to his word, the Portuguese had resisted the urge to “celebrate like crazy” if United triumphed at the home of his former employers.
He was not afforded the same respect when Chelsea equalised in the dying seconds of injury time to earn the most dramatic of 2-2 draws, with a member of Maurizio Sarri’s backroom staff, Marco Ianni, electing to celebrate in the face of the former Blues boss.
Mourinho, understandably, reacted furiously to such a dreadful lack of sportsmanship, sparking a touchline kerfuffle.
He had insisted beforehand that despite all of his history with Chelsea – three titles over two tenures in west London – that Saturday’s fixture was “just another game”.
It wasn’t, though. Not for Chelsea, who had an early opportunity to pull clear of Liverpool and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, and certainly not for Mourinho.
The two-time Champions League winner had admitted in his pre-game press conference that he was not happy with all the flak he was receiving from the media and he knew full well that the calls for him to be sacked would only intensify if United were beaten at Chelsea.
A loss would have left them a whopping 10 points behind Maurizio Sarri’s side after just nine games of the 2018-19 campaign and defeat looked like an inevitability after a dire opening 45 minutes for the visitors.
United were abysmal in the first half and lucky to only be trailing by a goal at the break.
Mourinho had gone against character and picked an attacking line-up but United managed just one shot before the interval, while their propensity for switching off at the back manifested itself again, with Paul Pogba completely losing Anthony Rudiger at the corner from which the defender broke the deadlock in the 21st minute.
The goal meant that United have kept just one clean sheet after nine matches; they had seven by the same point last season.
As United trudged off at the interval, with Pogba still remonstrating with himself for his lack of focus, United looked there for the taking.
Chelsea failed to put them away, though, with Alvaro Morata, typically, squandering a great chance to make it 2-0 before Martial turned the game on its head by exploiting a fortunate bounce of the ball – and an injury to Marcos Alonso – to convert what was just United’s second shot on target.
Suddenly reinvigorated – just as they had been in the second half of their crucial win over Newcastle last time out – Martial then put United ahead with a measured finish from the edge of the area, sparking wild celebrations among the United players.
Mourinho didn’t join in, though. He only “lost control” when provoked right at the end of the game.
Ross Barkley’s late equaliser will hurt, of course. United had done enough in the second half to win the game.
But the game at least showed that neither he nor his team are done yet. He is still fighting – almost literally – to save his job.
By complete contrast, Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui looks like a dead man walking, utterly resigned to his fate after a demoralising 2-1 loss at home to Levante on the same afternoon.
The former Spain boss had been expected to be given until the Clasico to convince the powers that be at the Santiago Bernabeu that he deserved a stay of execution.
However, Lopetegui might not see out the week after presiding over the worst goal drought in Real Madrid’s history.
It was eventually ended – at a barely believable 480 minutes – by Marcelo’s second-half goal against Levante but the Brazilian’s strike was not enough to rescue a point.
It is unlikely to be enough to rescue Lopetegui either, with Real now having gone five games without a win in all competitions, losing four of those and now lying fifth in La Liga.
Nacho stated earlier this week that Madrid’s players were ready to “fight to the death” for their beleaguered coach but the end is nigh.
Even if Real see off Viktoria Plzen during the week, it would merely be a stay of execution and one can be sure that Barcelona would delight in delivering the killer blow at Camp Nou next weekend.
As he left the field at the Bernabeu on Saturday, Lopetegui looked a beaten man. Unlike Mourinho, he appears to have little fight left in him.