Defeat to Barcelona in the Bernabeu has almost certainly cost Jose Mourinho a place in the dugout at Wembley for the Champions League final in a month’s time.
His vitriolic rant about the dark forces at work on behalf of Pep Guardiola’s team may also cost him a Uefa fine.
But the manner of the defeat, the stunted, suffocating style the self-anointed Special One employed on Wednesday night may yet cost him his dream job at Manchester United.
Mourinho has made no secret of his desire to return to England after being ushered out of Stamford Bridge by Roman Abramovich nearly four years ago.
United would certainly offer the long-term project Mourinho craves.
Stability has been the cornerstone of the success enjoyed under Sir Alex Ferguson and, after numerous run-ins with Real president Florentino Perez, total control of a club the size of United would appeal to Mourinho’s ego. But while England may want you back Jose, United may not. He is considered by many to be the only candidate capable of taking United forward after a period of such unparalleled success.
His pedigree is certainly not in question. League titles in Portugal, England and Italy as well as two Champions League triumphs speak for themselves.
Only a 1-0 reverse against Sporting Gijon earlier this month ended a nine-year run without a home defeat.
But it’s not just the trophies that matter to United, it is the style in which they are won.
Indeed, those settling down in front of the television to watch the fourth of this season’s five El Clasicos would have done well not to turn off in disgust before Lionel Messi added the magic the occasion deserved.
The white shirts of Madrid stood like prison guards while they watched Barca pass the ball in front of them.
Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the most explosive players on the planet, was the picture of frustration as he threw his arms in the air while his team-mates followed their orders to the letter and refused to hunt the ball in Barca’s half.
“I don’t like playing that way,” he said afterwards. “But I have to adapt.”
Mourinho will say he was forced to a pick a centre-half, Pepe, in the centre of midfield after Sami Khedira was ruled out with a torn thigh muscle.
But the choice to turn some of the most creative players in the world into nothing more than an occupying force was his decision alone.
Despite Barcelona’s undoubted quality, it’s hard to imagine a United team fearful of crossing the halfway line without a chorus of ‘attack, attack, attack’ bellowing out from the Stretford End.
Former United midfielder Lou Macari, however, believes Mourinho is good enough to adapt to the pressure of playing attractive football should he get the chance to succeed Ferguson at Old Trafford.
“I don’t think it will happen any time soon, especially with the team doing so well, but if the manager did step down Mourinho would be one of the top candidates, he would have to be.
“His record is fantastic and I don’t buy into the belief that he is a defensive manager. He’s a clever coach who finds a way to win games.”
It’s a view shared by David Sadler, a member of the 1968 European Cup winning side – another team blessed with some the most outstanding attacking talent of its time – but he insists trophies may not be enough to win over every section of the Old Trafford crowd.
“It’s the coach who decides how to go out and play,” said Sadler.
“I think many people are of the view that to take on Barcelona in a pure football match is not the right thing to do and you have to play the hand you’re dealt.
“From what I’ve seen, they played the same way in the cup final but the Madrid fans were happy because they won a trophy.
“It was no surprise that Real Madrid played the way theydid, I think most people expected it.
“Mourinho is a candidate for the job whenever it comes up and I would like to see Mourinho at Old Trafford,” he added.
“He ticks all the boxes but if it happened, I don’t think the fans would be happy to watch them play like that, especially not at home.”
Sat in a press conference in the bowels of the Santiago Bernabeu after Barcelona had won a battle of beauty over brute force, Mourinho said his ‘career would end today’ if he said what he truly felt.
He will hope his career at Old Trafford has not ended before it has begun.