Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has sought to turn up the pressure on Jose Mourinho, ahead of the Red Devils' Champions League match against Real Madrid. The Scot claimed he has never consciously engaged in mind games. He also stressed that the ex-Chelsea boss is brilliant in that respect.
The Premier League leaders travel to Spain to face the La Liga champions in the first leg of the first knock-out round. The high-profile two-legged tie is the first time Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo will have faced his former club since his world record transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu.
"That mind games thing is definitely overrated. It's a bit of a myth," Ferguson said, adding, "I think he [Mourinho] plays games, too, and enjoys that part. He is brilliant at it. There is that mischievous part about him. You are never quite sure what he is up to."
Despite the irony of Ferguson making these comments to the media, the Scot insists he refrains from mind games, especially when against Jose, saying: "As long as he keeps bringing me a decent bottle of wine, I'll let him off."
One can sense a fondness in the way Ferguson speaks about Mourinho... a begrudging respect that goes back many years. Ferguson v Mourinho is one of many sub-plots that makes this tie fascinating, much like Cristiano Ronaldo and Robin van Persie. Their history is long, going back to Mourinho's days at Porto. The Portuguese manager announced himself on the European stage with a famous victory at Old Trafford in 2004. Mourinho's Porto went on to win the competition that year. The game ended 1-1, with Costinha's 90th minute equaliser sending the Portuguese side through 3-2 on aggregate. In celebration of the goal, Mourinho sprinted from the dugout to the corner flag to join his players, as they huddled around the midfielder.
Ferguson, however, seems to be relishing the tie, accepting its difficulty but revelling in the occasion.
"I've got to make sure I pick the right team," said Ferguson,"That's the biggest challenge. We know their obvious strengths. The atmosphere will be absolutely fantastic. They don't lose many games at the Bernabeu."
Before traveling to Madrid, United host Everton in the Premier League. His side will be hoping for a victory to exorcise the ghosts of last season, when a 4-4 draw helped neighbours Manchester City catch United in the title race.