sport

Jose: Return to England is next

Jose Mourinho has confirmed he expects to return to England when he leaves Real Madrid - but not to join Manchester United.

Ahead of Real's mouth-watering Champions League encounter with United at the Bernabeu on Wednesday, Mourinho restated his love for the Premier League.

And he confirmed when the time comes for him to leave Madrid, it will be to renew his love affair with the English game.

"After Real Madrid, England will be my next step," he said. "I love everything about it."

But on the subject of when, the former Chelsea boss was coy.

"We will see," he said.

The uncertainty stems from a contradiction between Mourinho's utter certainty in the job he is doing at the Bernabeu, and the low regard in which he is held by the people paid to cover them in the media.

"Are you worried about my crisis?" he said. "I am not.

"It is easy for you to let this press conference end and then speak to the people who write the stories. They will tell you stories they like to write."

Mourinho has been heavily linked with Manchester City and a return to Stamford Bridge recently as speculation over his future in Spain rumbled on.

It has also been felt he would be of interest to United, even though club ambassador Peter Schmeichel has said the former Porto coach is not under consideration.

Mourinho does not see himself being installed at Old Trafford either, mainly because he expects Ferguson to continue for a good while yet.

"No," he said, when asked if he could replace the Scot. "I don't believe so.

"I think we have to end our career at the same time. Him at 90 and me at 70."

The mischievous grin that accompanied the words underlined the playful nature of Mourinho's character that still exists, despite the simmering unease with which he dealt with so many questions that came from the Spanish press.

"'Daddy' is smiling," said midfielder Michael Essien, who clearly holds Mourinho in great affection, having followed him to Spain from Chelsea.

"He is always happy. I have never seen him sad."

Nevertheless, Mourinho is under immense pressure to win this tie, which he believes "the whole world is watching".

For, with the La Liga title on its way to Barcelona, it is hard to see Mourinho surviving much longer if he fails in the quest to land a record 10th Champions League crown for Real.

"There are great clubs in the world who have never won this competition," he said.

"Real Madrid have won nine, I have won two. Real Madrid wants to win its tenth. I want my third.

"If it comes this year good. If not, I will try again next year.

"I don't think I will end my career with only two titles."

Even Mourinho accepts the championship he fought so hard to wrest from Barcelona's control is heading back to the Nou Camp this season.

Yet he insists that does not mean beating United is beyond his Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired team.

"It is easy to play against big opponents and big teams," he said.

"We are finding it harder to play against smaller opponents, against whom we have lost so many points.

"We were in a very difficult Champions League group, with Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund, and we knew from day one we could be out. We had to play at top level to finish first or second.

"This is the history of our team and tomorrow is the biggest opponent."

However, there is no escaping his fractious relationship with those who follow Madrid's fortunes so closely, and the lack of understanding for his plight, as he pointed out when asked to comment on the Spanish newspaper depiction of Wayne Rooney as a "hooligan" on Tuesday morning.

"I didn't read it," said Mourinho.

" I don't know if it was written in that context, calling him a hooligan, or completely different.

"But if I can say one thing on behalf of Rooney, I was called worse than that, week by week."