There have been times this season when Jose Mourinho has seemed like a lame duck president, unable to inspire or lead in the manner he would want as he drifts towards the end of his term, critics assailing him from all sides. Last night was emphatically not one of those times.
Nothing says you still mean business like a 3-1 win at Camp Nou, a stadium that is virtually impregnable, to take you through to a Copa del Rey final.
After the tantrums, the disputes with the press, the falling out with senior players and the wholly horrible league campaign that has seen him attacked repeatedly, Mourinho last night served notice that he will end the season with silverware, if he has anything to do with it. A victory against either Atletico Madrid or Sevilla should be achievable in the final of this competition, but Mourinho will have his sights set on something bigger too: the Champions League.
After turning in a near-perfect away performance (please take note, Brendan) attention now turns to next week's second leg at Old Trafford, once the matter of another Clasico, this time in La Liga, is out of the way at the weekend.
At this point Mourinho cares for La Liga about as much as he cares for his popularity ratings in Catalunya. It's gone, and he will probably treat the clash as such. What he does care about, a lot, is becoming the only man to win the European Cup with three different teams, and winning Madrid's 10th.
And if his team play anything like they did last night, then Manchester United will be in big trouble as they look to build on an impressive 1-1 draw in the first leg.
Sir Alex Ferguson was sat up in the stands but may have wished he had spent the evening necking a few cañas on Las Ramblas instead as he watched Madrid perfectly nullify Barca's tiki-taka and demonstrate again why they are the most fearsome counter-attacking team on the planet.
Fergie probably had big red stars and exclamation marks next to the name 'Ronaldo' in his note book, but equally as challenging, on last night's evidence, will be stopping the rampant Angel Di Maria, who was going through Barca quicker than a dodgy horse bolognese.
The way he left Carles Puyol performing the splits - not advisable for a man of his advancing years - when turning away from the defender in the box before Ronaldo's second goal was quite breathtaking. Later, an outrageous first-time pass set Madrid free again.
Give this Madrid side half a chance on the break and they'll punish you with all the sadistic glee of a particularly loony sergeant major. United have been warned.
Lionel Messi even had a second poor match in a week following Barcelona's defeat in Milan as an attentive Madrid defence kept him and his team-mates at bay, aided by Jordi Roura's faulty decision to start Cesc Fabregas instead of David Villa. Raphael Varane in particular was outstanding. The fact he is still just 19 is frankly frightening.
It all looks a bit, well, ominous for United. You always got the feeling the away leg might serve Madrid better due to their lightning-quick counters and if they do to United what they did to Barcelona last night, then the Premier League leaders will rightly be fearful.
Ronaldo even admitted yesterday that Madrid relish the chance to take on sides away from the Bernabeu.
"We were very serious, and showed a great attitude," he said. "We played better and scored three goals away from home. We are very happy that we've played terrifically. We've played better here than we did at home, that's true. We are confident and we are still here. We all like to play here.
"We have to focus in the league and the Champions [League], we'll try to win everything as usual. All players have been perfect, this gives us confidence for the Champions [League].”
If established football narratives have taught us anything, beyond the fact that foreigners don't like it up 'em, it's that as a player returning to his former club, Ronaldo will score at Old Trafford. Might we have a moment that enters the Madrid-Manchester history books like Fernando Redondo's outrageous piece of skill or the original Ronaldo's seminal hat-trick at Old Trafford?
Maybe. If such a moment happens early in the game, then United will have to attack, leaving them vulnerable to the swift breaks of Madrid.
Last night demonstrated once again that Los Merengues are at their most dangerous when under attack. Much like a certain Portuguese coach.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It is fantastic. I have no problem. This was a normal meeting between players and technical staff, which happens after every game, it was normal talk, nothing else. You show your disappointment, that is normal. I can understand the frustrations of Terry, he is an important player for us and has been injured with his knee. It was very brief exchange of ideas, and that is it, nothing else. It is just a team talk after a defeat." - Rafa Benitez fends off suggestions he is the latest boss to fall foul of the Stamford Bridge dressing room after reports of a bust-up with captain John Terry.
FOREIGN VIEW: The Asian Football Confederation's disciplinary committee are investigating a report of match-fixing in Lebanon. It is reported that two national team players have been suspended for life after matches including at least one World Cup qualifier were manipulated. Find the latest here.
COMING UP: We have action from the fifth round of the FA Cup as Chelsea take on Middlesbrough with a quarter-final contest with Manchester United at stake. Prior to that, both Jim White and Andy Mitten file their latest blogs.