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Mourinho: England my next step

Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has said his next coaching job will be in the Premier League, although not at Wednesday's Champions League opponents Manchester United.

• Blog: Madrid eyes turn to United
• Blog: Los Blancos await

Mourinho was speaking at his press conference ahead of the first leg of Real's Champions League last 16 tie against United at the Bernabeu amid conjecture over where his future lies.

The Portuguese has endured a disappointing defence of his side's Liga title, with the Madrid giants trailing rivals Barcelona by 16 points.

Former Chelsea boss Mourinho has been linked with a return to England and he was quizzed on the matter by the press, while also laughing off questions about whether the club was in crisis or whether his players were behind him.

"I do not believe I can be Ferguson's replacement," he said. "I think we will finish our careers around the same time. Him at 90, me at 70. I love everything about England. We will see when that is. Normally, after Real Madrid, that would be my next step."

With so much talk about Mourinho's emotional state and future career plans, there was little time left to actually discuss the game. All 22 available first team players have been included in Madrid's provisional squad for the match, with just injured goalkeeper and club captain Iker Casillas missing after Michael Essien, Luka Modric, Raphael Varane and Xabi Alonso all took part in training at the club's Valdebebas facility on Tuesday morning.

Alonso will start in midfield despite not having fully recovered from the groin problem which saw him miss Spain's friendly last week and Saturday's 4-1 Primera Division win over Sevilla at the Bernabeu.

With Fabio Coentrao likely to play at left-back given Marcelo's continuing fitness issues, Mourinho's only real defensive selection decision is at centre-half. Pepe made his first appearance since an ankle operation on January 2 as a substitute against Sevilla, while Varane - so impressive against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey recently - has recovered from the hamstring knock which kept him out of France's friendly with Germany last week.

"Pepe is in the squad, so he is in condition to play," Mourinho said. "He has been out for a long time, but he has worked hard to come back. He played 25 minutes in the last game, in a position [midfield] where he needs to run more. That was good to get his rhythm back. He is called up, he can play."

Karim Benzema is favoured to get the nod over Gonzalo Higuain in attack, with Luka Modric, who missed training on Monday, and Angel Di Maria, dropped for the weekend win over Sevilla, competing for a place in the line of three behind the front man.

One player sure to start is Cristiano Ronaldo, who Mourinho said was the best player he had ever coached.

"None of the enormous players I have had in my career would take it badly if I said that Cristiano was the most fantastic player I have had," he said.

"I have had the luck to have many great players, who gave their life for me. He does not have a better place in my heart than them, but he is the most elevated player, from another world. But all the players have my respect."

Mourinho said he was not surprised at how well Robin Van Persie was playing this season after his summer move to United from Arsenal – as he had stayed within the same league but joined a team with a greater winning attitude.

"Robin Van Persie is a very good player, it is no surprise what he is doing," Mourinho said. "It was easy for him to make that move, footballistically to leave Arsenal for United. It is the same culture, same environment, but now he plays for a team with different ambitions.

"He is now like a fish in water. We have to respect him as well as the others. He can also make the difference and we have to look after him."

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