Shaun Wright-Phillips has lifted the lid on tactics Jose Mourinho gave him to deal with Cristiano Ronaldo in Chelsea’s FA Cup final victory in 2007.
The 2006/07 campaign saw Cristiano Ronaldo raise his game to new staggering heights for Manchester United.
After a 1-0 defeat to France in the 2006 World Cup semi-finals, Ronaldo returned more determined than ever. He was fitter and enhanced his skills to new levels. He also cut out the fancy tricks, enabling him to become more lethal in the final third.
The Portuguese superstar managed 23 goals and 21 assists in 53 appearances across all competitions, which was a career-best at the time. He also scored in all three of United’s FA Cup games to book a spot in the final.
So Jose Mourinho was naturally worried about the threat posed by his compatriot for Chelsea. Therefore, he gave Wright-Philips some bespoke tactics for the encounter.
The former Blues winger told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Through the week leading up to it, obviously, we did all the tactical work and build-up play towards it.
“But he [Mourinho] spoke to me and he pulled me aside and he said, ‘look, if you do start or you do play we need a different job from you in that game.’
“Because if I remember correctly, Ronaldo was still at United… so he had been on fire for a few years.
“And he [Mourinho] basically said, ‘we need you to focus more on defending and keep him quiet, and if you do that right, the chances are we win the game.'”
In this case, however, Mourinho’s tactics paid off beautifully. Wright-Phillips helped neutralize Ronaldo, with Didier Drogba’s goal in extra-time sealing Chelsea a 1-0 win.
“So I basically just attacked when I could get the chance but my main focus was on helping my full-back,” continued Wright-Phillips.
“And it was weird going into a game with a more defensive mind frame than attacking mind frame.
“But at the end of the day, sometimes you have to sacrifice what you do best for the good of the team and it benefited us and we came away with the win.
“So for me, sometimes you got to get on with it and dig deep.”