NEW YORK — Real Madrid manager José Mourinho recognized the magnitude of the moment.
It may have been a preseason exhibition, but Wednesday night's sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium for the Herbalife World Football Challenge match between Real Madrid and AC Milan wanted a show. And they wanted one from world superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
Mourinho was more than happy to oblige.
"I understood that the stadium was also demanding that [that Ronaldo plays more minutes]," Mourinho said in his postgame press conference after a resounding 5-1 win. "A historical stadium. A historical opponent. Full stadium. Great support."
Ronaldo went on to play a preseason-high 80 minutes before coming out to a standing ovation.
"The best way to promote the game is to play like we did tonight," Mourinho continued. "And I think Cristiano was part of the show. He’s a part of what the people want to see."
Ronaldo wowed the crowd with his trickery on the ball, but more importantly with two second-half goals. His first tally was a stunning strike that beamed into the top left corner of the goal, leaving AC Milan's goalkeeper frozen on the spot.
Earlier this week, Mourinho suggested that his Portuguese compatriot should be in pole position to win the prestigious FIFA Balon d'Or as the best player in the world. He didn't disappoint the pro-Real Madrid crowd on Wednesday night.
"There was lots of magic here, and I think we did what the stadium deserved and what Yankee history deserved and what the people deserved because it was magnificent," Mourinho said. "If I have this kind of crowd, so enthusiastic crowd in the Bernabéu, I don’t lose a match in the Bernabéu. The people are fantastic, enjoying, supporting and reacting to the great [plays]. And so I just love it."
The Spanish La Liga champions clearly relished the moment and rode the wave of enthusiasm from the crowd with every passing minute of the game, thoroughly dominating AC Milan in every respect.
“The experience was really great," forward Gonzalo Higuaín said after the match. "The people here support to the maximum and give a special color to the game and this is why we keep coming three straight years here.“
Added Mourinho: "I was here once with my kid, but just to see a historical place. But today, we played here. Amazing place to come. Amazing place to come."