• Champions League

Mourinho hails 'unique' Ferguson, rules out Casillas

ESPN staff
March 4, 2013

Jose Mourinho paid tribute to the "unique" Sir Alex Ferguson and ruled out the possibility of Iker Casillas making a return to the Real Madrid starting line-up, ahead of Tuesday's Champions League showdown with Manchester United.

The Madrid manager will lock horns with his United counterpart once again at Old Trafford and Mourinho declared "the world will stop" to see the last-16 second leg tie between the two teams.

Mourinho has been touted as a possible successor to his friend Ferguson at United and the normally eloquent Portuguese said he struggles to do justice to Ferguson's longevity and achievements.

"Sir Alex is unique and I don't have any words that can add to what everybody thinks about him and the respect he deserves from everybody," Mourinho said.

Mourinho recently celebrated his 50th birthday and hopes he has at least another couple of decades ahead of him in management.

"It is the kind of job the older you are the better you are. The experiences we live and the thoughts we give to our experiences makes you better. I would love that God gives me health so that I can do it."

Mourinho admitted he does not know where the tie, which is level at 1-1 after the first leg, will be won and lost. "That is the $1 million question, what will make the difference?" he said. "Nobody knows and the world will stop to watch this tie. It doesn't look a tie. It looks a final. I doubt the expectation can be bigger than this one."

The Portuguese has an excellent record against Ferguson but downplayed suggestions he has the better of the Scot. "It is the kind of match where everything can happen. I know football and big matches well enough to know tomorrow we can go through or we can go out."

Mourinho first came to Old Trafford in 2004 when his Porto team eliminated United and he celebrated their decisive goal by sprinting along the touchline to join his players. But he promised there will not be a repeat.

"Now I have more than 100 [Champions League] matches and I think I can control my emotions a different way. I lose, I don't cry and if I win I don't run 100 metres."

The injured Casillas is absent but apart from that, Mourinho reported a clean bill of health. Casillas has not played since fracturing his left hand in Madrid's 5-0 win over Valencia in January, but returned to training on Thursday and was named in the squad for the trip to Old Trafford.

Mourinho, though, revealed: "Everyone is fit and ready to play and be considered, with the exception of Iker Casillas."

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