Football

‘I’ll never be Madrid’s Ferguson’ – Zidane

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane signalled his determination to lead his side through good times and bad after sealing qualification to the Champions League knockout stages in nerve-wracking circumstances on Wednesday. 

Madrid went into the last round of group matches in danger of missing out on the knockouts for the first time since the 1996-97 season, when they failed to qualify for the competition. 

Two defeats to Shakhtar Donetsk earlier in Group B meant that the Merengue had to beat Borussia Monchengladbach in order to be assured of their last-16 berth, while they were even in danger of finishing bottom of the pile if both the Germans and Inter won their matches. 

Ultimately, however, qualification proved a formality, with Karim Benzema netting twice in the first half to seal a 2-0 win that sent Madrid through in first place. 

The result should ease pressure on Zidane and Madrid, who lie fourth in La Liga; and the Frenchman was pleased to see his team fight their way out of a tight corner. 

“I am never going to be Madrid’s [Sir Alex] Ferguson, that’s for sure,” he told reporters, in reference to Manchester United’s legendary boss who spent more than 20 years at Old Trafford. 

“I don’t know how long I am going to stay here, I don’t think about it.

“I am very lucky to be at this club and I like being happy even in the most difficult times … I have lived in Spain, in Madrid for a long time and I want to carry on a while longer.

“Madrid come through under pressure, without pressure … well, that doesn’t exist here! We cannot play well all the time. 

“We read the game very well, because [Gladbach] are an opponent who can make you pay in the transition and we played spectacularly well. 

“I won’t tell you what I said to the players, but all of Madrid can be proud of what they did today on the field.”

Madrid face another huge test on Saturday, this time in La Liga, when they host city rivals Atletico. 

Diego Simeone’s men currently sit six points ahead of the Merengue at the top of the table, also enjoying a game in hand over their neighbours as they battle to wrest the title out of their hands.