Real Madrid v. Manchester City Press Review: "Team's DNA Has Returned"

Jasper Juinen - Getty Images

The most high-profile encounter of Match Day 1 of the Champions League also provided the most entertaining game. The manager, press and players had plenty to say.

THE MANAGER

Post Match Interview

Post match, Mourinho said the following on ITV (my translation):

Interviewer: It's not often we see you celebrating on your knees. Is that one of the best results of your career, in terms of the nature of this game?

Mourinho: It's a good one because - how do you say it? - DNA...

Interviewer: DNA...

Mourinho: ...my team's DNA is back. Real Madrid can lose matches. Mourinho can lose matches. My players can lose matches. But we can lose matches like today, like tonight. We could lose and I will be proud. I cannot lose matches like in Sevilla, like in Getafe; and my happiness is not just about the three points but [that] the DNA of my team is back...

The Press Conference

Mourinho expanded on his satisfaction with how well his team fought to win the game until the very last minute in the press-conference. He said a great deal, which I am quoting at length (because it was so interesting).

This team has Real Madrid DNA. What it means is that it shows pride. To die on the field is not something easy to ask. Today the players have gone home tired...In Seville we had players who did not win a ball in ninety minutes. We did not win a rebound as a team and we just ended up tired after the match. Today was the opposite. The team was solid, compact, recovered balls and were committed as a team to play aggressively. We dominated and we won. City did not get a shot on goal in the first 45 minutes.

The team suffered. Conceding a goal and keeping going. Scoring and keeping going ... that is Real Madrid. That's honourable. I am nobody in the history of Real Madrid. I have just arrived, but as a coach I have the right to say that the Real Madrid wants to see this commitment. They want more quality and so do I. We had it in the past and we will have it again. It is difficult to play better than we played today. There was a tremendous commitment from the team and everyone is happy. Not only to rediscover last year’s DNA but also to win a big match. We have three points and we have taken an important step towards qualifying from a tough group.

On Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo:

Ramos did not play because the coach thought it best that he did not to play. We're talking about a player in the starting eleven, a great, but I want to make clear that I have no problems with him whatsoever. It's a purely football decision. I thought that Varane and Pepe were better together to play today.

[Cristiano Ronaldo's] celebration doesn’t matter, the match matters. People who love football enjoyed the match all over the world.

THE OPPOSITION

From As comes the following amusing anecdote: after the game Sergio Aguero spoke in the mixed zone and was asked by a group of journalists if there had ever been a chance that he'd come to Real Madrid. The answer was no. Aguero (formerly of Madrid's arch-rivals Atletico) stated that had Madrid come calling "I would be there now" but he had "no choice" but to go to City.

There have, of course, been fewer transfers between Atleti and Real Madrid than there have been between Barcelona and Madrid--such is the nature of cross-town rivalry. Aguero's father-in-law, of course, is Diego Maradona.

Another Manchester City player is reportedly in hot-water with Roberto Mancini after speaking candidly to the press. Joe Hart, the keeper, informed his interviewer that "it's just not on, to lose in the final 5 minutes after being 2-1 up..."

Roberto Mancini, asked to comment by ITV about Hart's criticism a few moments later remarked acidly: "I'd like him [Hart] to do his job" - a reference, perhaps to Hart possibly having been able to do more about the second and third goals.

THE PRESS

The Spanish press is ecstatic by an exciting game - words like "epic" and "electrifying" are being tossed around in match reports.

Marca, as is their wont, is splendidly dismissive of City's efforts - the team having been offended by the newspaper's preference for attack-minded play:

Real Madrid regained its smile thanks to an epic win over a timid Manchester City, for whom only Yaya Touré shined. City went ahead on two occasions, more by will of the ball itself than through any effective game-play.

As for Madrid's somewhat conservative line-up (a formation not entirely dissimilar to City's as it happens): a win is a win as far as Marca is concerned. Mourinho's defensive formation is referred to approvingly as a "midfield trident" by the paper that "dominated possession more than ever" and "let City off the hook."

Other stories are pure locker-room, rumor speculation. There is a story circulating about Sergio Ramos's surprise exclusion from the line-up, and another claiming that the players "blame Mourinho" for a "useless and exhausting" preseason tour.

In the English papers there is some considerable sympathy for the manner in which Manchester City lost, but people are willing to admit to Real Madrid's superior performance over 90 minutes.

THE PLAYERS

Cristiano Ronaldo:

The second half was perfect, with both teams playing very well. I celebrate everything that there is to celebrate. The match was very important and I'm happy for the win. It was a crazy game, the team played well and we deserved to win.

What you have to work harder for you can later enjoy more. We suffered, but the team always believed that we could win and that's what happened. We had a completely different attitude.

Raphaël Varane, meanwhile, informed a journalist he'd known "since Sunday" he'd be starting the game. The young Frenchman spoke in Spanish, and seemed delighted to have played so well.

FURTHER READING

Tactical analysis of the game by a pleasantly surprised (by the number of goals) Michael Cox of zonalmarking.net is provided in The Guardian HERE.

And Jonathan Wilson, author of Inverting The Pyramid, the definitive book on football tactics, has written up the game HERE for Sports Illustrated, with a focus on City's narrow midfield and defensive set-up.

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