There is barely a soccer pundit in the world who hasn't already dealt with Nani's red card in Manchester United's encounter against Real Madrid. No doubt that it was a harsh decision, especially since the Portuguese winger was not aware that a player was approaching him and it did change the game completely. It enraged United fans, who aren't exactly used to dramatic decisions going against them.
But we must remember that the Turkish referee did not award a penalty or allow a goal that didn't cross the line. The score at that stage was still in Manchester's favor, and even if a player is red-carded more than half an hour before the final whistle, teams can still cope with the situation. Recently in the French league, tiny Sochaux and Reims beat the mighty Paris St. Germain when one man down. It is possible.
Sir Alex Ferguson simply failed to react to the new situation, while Mourinho was quick to make changes to his offense (Modric on for Arbeloa). He sensed, and rightly so, that this is the time to strike. When Ferguson reacted it was after United had lost control of the game and the result. It might be that he remembered how his quick changes backfired in the Manchester City massacre last season. In any case, the referee damaged United's chances, but Fergie and his players are also at fault.
Still, the habitual chatter "Fergie is finished" – a sentiment heard on the rare occasions his club loses out – is way off the mark.
This great manager is about to capture yet another Premier League title with a less talented squad than Chelsea or Manchester City, and by a far cry. United always manages to make the most of its potential, and losing to Real Madrid and Mourinho after a referee's mistake is something that can happen even to Ferguson, but cannot alter the fact that he is one of the greatest managers in the game's history.
Mourinho is also a great manager. He is not only impulsive and cynical, but also a seasoned politician. His reaction after the game that "the better team lost" would not have been uttered in the San Siro stadium after a game against Milan or Inter, nor in the Camp Nou after playing Barcelona. In fact, he wouldn't dream of saying such a thing in almost any other venue. But this was Old Trafford and his rival was Alex Ferguson, and the remark must be taken in the context of his dream of succeeding the Scott in the Theater of Dreams when he finally calls it a day. Still, the Special One will have to wait, because Fergie is staying put.
One individual who may be on the move is Wayne Rooney, despite his huge contribution to the club. Ferguson's decision to bench Rooney and start with Giggs and Nani almost paid off. The fact that Rooney wasn't included in the starting 11 in the most important game of the season, and was introduced only 16 minutes before the final whistle, might be cause to believe that Ferguson has already made up his mind about the striker. Whether the reason is professional (not very probable), or financial – taking into consideration PSG's offer – this might be the end of an era.