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Mar 5, 2013

Mourinho defends Rooney omission

Jose Mourinho backed Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to leave Wayne Rooney on the bench for Manchester United's Champions League clash with Real Madrid.

• Blog: 'Best team lost'
• Keane: Nani deserved red

In a decision which had echoes of David Beckham's omission from the starting line-up against Real in 2003, months before he left Old Trafford, Rooney was used only as a substitute.

He replaced Tom Cleverley in the 73rd minute of United's 2-1 defeat but Mourinho insists Ferguson's track record of getting major calls right means he should not be questioned.

"Sir Alex won the right over the years," the Real manager said. "Every decision is correct and should never had a question mark in front. He is the best and he creates an incredible history. You (reporters) are nobody, I am nobody to put a question mark."

United assistant manager Mike Phelan, who spoke to reporters after the match instead of Ferguson, confirmed Rooney's omission was a tactical move given the quality of replacements at Old Trafford.

"The decision was tactical," he said. "In that dressing room, everyone was fit. But big decisions have to be made. Tonight we had the balance just right."

Mourinho sympathised with Ferguson when United went down to 10 men after winger Nani was dismissed for a challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa.

"My history is not to play against 10, my history is to play with 10 [particularly] in semi-finals," he said, referring to red cards given to Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Asier del Horno, Inter's Thiago Motta and Real's Pepe in games against Barcelona.

Mourinho reserved praised for Luka Modric, who came off the bench to score the equaliser before Cristiano Ronaldo got the winner.

The Croatian has been criticised for his form for Real since his summer move from Tottenham but Mourinho said: "I have always been fully convinced he is a great player and today he brought something different."

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