As he would have desired, everything centred on José Mourinho. From the start, when his name was greeted by a deafening mélange of cheers and boos, to the end when he departed with a stroll onto the pitch and a wave to those who had so vociferously backed him, he was the focus of attention.
When his name was read out moments before the game started, there was plenty of audible praise and even more loud-pitched grumbling. The Real Madrid Fondo Sur Ultras voiced their approval for the departing Portuguese, starting what would be an oft-repeated rendition of "José Mourinho", only for the cacophony of whistles from the rest of the stadium to drown them out. It aptly captured his time in the Spanish capital; there were those who feted him and those who despised him, and there weren't many in the middle.
53 seconds was all it took for the situation to boil over. As Mourinho stood in his technical area, a bubbling huddle of cameraman jostled for position on the touchline just feet away from him. Seemingly oblivious to the match having started, they decided against sitting down and surrounded the manager who was riled by their overbearing presence. The referee was called over, the tension defused and that was the last we saw of Mourinho during the game.
The Ultras continued, vocally supporting the manager in the opening stages. A succession of songs in praise of, and thanks to, the soon-to-be-Chelsea boss were memorable but their singing was merely a catalyst for the rest of the home fans to voice their displeasure. Any attempt by the Ultras to demonstrate their gratification to the outgoing manager was greeted by heavy boos from the vast majority of the stadium. It was an interesting scene; the Ultras, known for their absolute dedication to Real Madrid, were favouring a manager who has been so critical and arguably such a disappointment since taking over.
Sadly, on-field matters early on failed to excite as much the crowd battle, a general lethargy evident which was only to be expected as the campaign petered out with nothing to play for. Osasuna looked relatively lively on the counter-attack, but Real Madrid dominated possession yet lacked the guile on the edge of the box or the conviction in front of goal to pose anything more than a sterile threat.
That was, until, Gonzalo Higuain, handed the captain's armband on what was possibly his last appearance for Real Madrid, slotted home with composure after a mesmeric Angel Di Maria throughball. And moments later, the scoreline was doubled, Mesut Ozil swinging over a corner and Michael Essien rising powerfully to head home. His support, unlike many of the other players, has been unwavering to Mourinho and the Ghanaian celebrated by running over to the home side's bench and embracing with his manager.
Had Osasuna's finishing matched their sprightly approach play, Real Madrid would certainly not have been enjoying a lead at half-time. The visitors weren't afraid to attack in numbers, showing admirable courage in taking the game to the home side but they were profligate in the extreme and Jesus Fernandez, making only his second appearance for Real Madrid in goal, had a comfortable first 45 minutes.
As the baking sun continued to blaze down, making viewing for those in the press box rather difficult, Osasuna deservedly reduced the deficit. The tricky Roberto Torres, operating from the left wing, cut inside onto his favoured right foot and bent a delicious shot into the far corner. It was just reward for their effervescence on the counter-attack. What they lacked in quality and end product, they more than made up for with their heart and spirit, and it was refreshing to see them commit so many men forward so frequently.
And then came the thoroughly merited equaliser, Cejudo readjusting his body position terrifically to head home after Nano's cross was deflected. Osasuna's enterprise was rewarded and Real Madrid's lackadaisical defending punished. It was very atypical from a Mourinho side, although with a second-choice back four and a third-choice goalkeeper, the lack of cohesion and understanding could perhaps be explained.
Fortunately for the home team, they were more comfortable going forward and Karim Benzema restored their lead with a sublime goal with twenty minutes remaining. Shunted out to the left wing in the first half, he was more central after the break and his balance, poise and close control before finishing clinically were breathtaking.
The Ultras, not to be outdone by Benzema's brilliance, proceeded to unveil a banner thanking Mourinho for his fight against the tide. Their continued support of him was commendable and, in contrast to the utter disdain shown by many, highlighted the split opinions that seem to follow Mourinho everywhere.
The final whistle was blown moments after Jose Callejon rounded off the scoring late on with a neat finish to a delightful move involving Higuain and Benzema. Yet on and on the Ultras ploughed, fervently bouncing and repeating Mourinho songs long after full time, a defiant show of support to the end.
And that was that. A wave to the indefatigable Fondo Sur Ultras and José Mourinho was gone. The end of an emotional and controversial era. He may not have been universally liked but he certainly won't be forgotten.Suggest a correction