Mourinho explains tactic he ‘did once’ but never repeated as Ferdinand bursts into laughter

Matt Stead
Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and ex-Spurs manager Jose Mourinho on punditry duty for TNT Sports
Jose Mourinho was in fine punditry form

Jose Mourinho discussed the tactic he ‘did once’ but never again repeated to explain a Real Madrid selection decision in the Champions League final.

Mourinho was on punditry duty for the Champions League final between Real and Borussia Dortmund at Wembley, when Laura Woods asked him about one aspect of the Spanish side’s team selection.

Thibaut Courtois was named as the starting keeper despite missing most of the season with a cruciate ligament injury, with this his first appearance in the competition since the 2022/23 campaign’s semi-final defeat to Manchester City.

Carlo Ancelotti had already been contemplating playing the Belgian ahead of Andriy Lunin before the 25-year-old back-up, who has proven an able stand-in this season, fell ill during the week.

Asked by TNT Sports host Laura Woods who he would pick for the game out of the two keepers, Mourinho simply replied: “The best.”

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The Portuguese was stony-faced as he offered his response; Rio Ferdinand burst out with sycophantic laughter because Rio Ferdinand.

“As a coach, in these moments you have to forget the emotion. You have to go with what it is. It’s the best,” Mourinho continued.

Mourinho was then asked whether he had faced a similar situation at any point in his career, to which he said: “I always go to the best.

“I did once, not for the best. It was the Portuguese cup final. I went with the goalkeeper that played the competition and I didn’t play Vitor Baia. I lost the final.”

The game in question was the Taca de Portugal final, which his Porto side lost 2-1 after extra-time to Benfica.

Defeat in that final prevented Mourinho from claiming a remarkable Quadruple in his final season with the club, as they stormed the Primeira Liga, won the Portuguese Super Cup and famously beat Monaco in the Champions League final; they were beaten in the final of the UEFA Super Cup by Milan.

Serial trophy winner Vitor Baia played 46 games that campaign but was rotated for the Taca de Portugal, with a 30-year-old Nuno Espirito Santo – replete with actual hair – deputising in that competition.

The future Wolves, Spurs and Nottingham Forest manager conceded just twice in five games up to the final, when Takis Fyssas and Simao cancelled out Derlei’s opener.

Mourinho, when Spurs head coach, once joked that Nuno, then at Wolves, was “a much better manager than a player”.

“I’m not saying he was a bad player,” he added. “I’m saying he is a much better coach than a player. I think he’ll be happy because he sees what he is now. And that’s the career he has now, he is not a player anymore.

“He is doing really, really amazing work. For me has one of the best teams from a tactical point of view. And when I say that, I’m not referring to the system they play, or it’s the best to play, or not the best to play.

“I’m saying that’s the way he wants to play and his team plays exactly the way he wants to play. His players are perfect for the puzzle.

“So the characteristics and qualities are perfectly adapted to the ideas he has for his team. So I think really, really fantastic work he is doing.”

Mourinho later criticised Spurs for sacking Nuno, who had actually replaced him as manager at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium upon his April 2021 sacking.

Mourinho, who was roundly booed by a largely Dortmund-dominated Wembley contingent when his face was shown on the big screen, is nearing a return to management with Fenerbahce.

Since his sacking by Roma in January, Mourinho has been linked with a handful of posts but has found himself in talks with the Turkish side, who confirmed on their website that: “Negotiations have started with Jose Mario Dos Santos Mourinho Felix for the position of coach.”

It would be the 11th different post of Mourinho’s stunning 24-year career in senior management, which has included 26 trophies – league titles in four countries among them – and a slew of individual honours.

Fenerbahce parted ways with head coach Ismail Kartal at the end of this season, after accruing 99 points in the Super Lig but still finishing three behind champions Galatasaray.

They also reached the Turkish Cup and Conference League quarter-finals – Mourinho was the first manager ever to win the latter competition when he lifted it with Roma in 2021 to complete his personal European collection.

Fenerbahce will enter next season’s revamped Champions League at the second qualifying round, with Mourinho bidding to manage in the tournament again for the first time since Spurs sacked him.

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