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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Running scared: United will not be able to look us in the eye, goads Jose

Jose Mourinho renewed his rivalry with Sir Alex Ferguson by declaring that Manchester United will not have the nerve to go ‘eye to eye’ and attack Inter Milan in the San Siro tonight.

Mourinho and Ferguson come face to face for the 13th time with the United manager having won just two of the pair’s previous 12 meetings — one of those on penalties.

And former Chelsea and Porto boss Mourinho lit the touch paper ahead of what should be a titanic Champions League last 16 tie by predicting United will change their attacking style to try and avoid first-leg defeat.

Mourinho, nine points clear in Serie A and confident enough to name his Inter team in front of the English media, said: ‘I don’t think they are coming here to play eye to eye, to try to win the game here.

Warming to the task: Rio Ferdinand (centre) and the rest of Manchester United's stars looked anything but frightened as they jogged around the San Siro Stadium in training ahead of tonight's clash with Jose Mourinho's men

Warming to the task: Rio Ferdinand (centre) and the rest of Manchester United's stars looked anything but frightened as they jogged around the San Siro Stadium in training ahead of tonight's clash with Jose Mourinho's men

‘I have paid great attention to every match in the previous year in the Champions League. Man United changed. They will go to this game with a different approach to normal.

‘I know Sir Alex doesn’t like the word — and a team like Man United doesn’t like the word — so I’m not saying they are afraid of us. But they respect us. They know they can lose.’

Confident: Mourinho is convinced his Inter Milan side can knock out Champions League holders United

Confident: Mourinho is convinced his Inter Milan side can knock out Champions League holders United

Ferguson laughed and smiled through his own press conference, amused by Mourinho’s familiar display of bullishness. He admitted that the Portuguese coach was right in one way, confirming that he will meddle with United’s usual formation.

It is expected that Wayne Rooney will play on the left of a five-man midfield, with Dimitar Berbatov operating as a lone striker. But the United manager was also happy to hit back at the Inter coach and predicted an away goal for United that will ensure they go through when the teams reconvene at Old Trafford next month.

Ferguson said: ‘I am sure that Jose has seen us enough to know that we will try to win the game. That won’t change.

‘There could possibly be one positional change, but other than that we will play the same way as we do in the Premier League. I am basing my tactics on the way they will play and I am hopeful and confident that we will be able to impose ourselves on them. I’m told that Jose thinks the game will go to extra-time when we get to Old Trafford, but I don’t.’

Attacking intent: Ferguson claims his side will aim to win in th San Siro

Attacking intent: Ferguson claims his side will aim for victory in the San Siro

United arrived in Milan yesterday beset with injury problems in defence, a situation reminiscent of the time they came to this stadium to face AC Milan without key men two years ago and were hammered 3-0.

With Nemanja Vidic suspended and Gary Neville, Wes Brown and Rafael Da Silva injured, United also have doubts over Jonny Evans and John O’Shea.

Injury doubt: Ferguson hopes O'Shea (left) will be fit, while Rooney (right) may play in midfield

Injury doubt: Ferguson hopes O'Shea (left) will be fit, while Rooney (right) may play in midfield

Last night, O’Shea trained with his team-mates while Evans looked on from the sidelines, suggesting that the former will partner Rio Ferdinand in the centre of defence while Darren Fletcher will fill in at right-back.

However, it is understood that Evans has a much better chance than Ferguson has suggested of shrugging off his ankle injury. Inter are missing Argentina defender Walter Samuel, the only key player unavailable.

Ferguson added: ‘We do have some major problems and if neither O’Shea nor Evans make it then it will be time to panic.

‘They are both big concerns for me but we have to accept that one or both might be missing and get on with it. The crowd and the atmosphere will help our players, I am sure of that and we have come a long way since a couple of years ago.’

Mourinho has always been more than comfortable facing Ferguson since the day in 2004 when his Porto team shocked United at Old Trafford by knocking them out at this stage, 3-2 on aggregate, after a late goal.

Ferguson, for his part, claimed not to be bothered about his record against Mourinho.

‘He came to England saying he was the Special One and it galvanised Chelsea,’ he reflected. ‘They caught us on the hop at the time. But I don’t worry about the record. If I had lost them all, maybe I would worry.’

The United players were watched last night by their former club-mate David Beckham as they trained and the current AC Milan star may even be in the visiting end with his father, Ted.

Possible Line-Up

INTER MILAN (4-4-2): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Cordoba, Chivu, Santon; Zanetti, Cambiasso, Stankovic, Muntari; Adriano, Ibrahimovic.

MAN UTD (4-3-2-1): Van der Sar; O’Shea, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Ronaldo, Carrick, Scholes; Giggs, Rooney; Berbatov.

Ref: Luis Medina Cantalejo (Sp).

The winner takes all? Mourinho and Ferguson prepare to lock horns again in Europe

Such is his respect and admiration for Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho stopped short of naming Manchester United's team yesterday. It was a tactic he so memorably employed when he arrived at Barcelona as Chelsea manager, predicting Frank Rijkaard's starting line-up as well as revealing his own in what amounted to a wonderful piece of theatre.

But there is a mutual appreciation between the Special One and the knighted one and Mourinho resisted the temptation to be quite that provocative on this occasion.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho

Tonight, however, is a game Mourinho desperately wants to win. He spoke at Inter Milan's picturesque training ground of his desire to 'celebrate a victory against the European champions in 15 days' but it is so much more than that. It is the chance to conquer the club that conquered the club that kicked him out of English football 18 months ago. The opportunity to remind Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich exactly what he is missing. 'It's nothing special,' said Mourinho. Oh yes it is.

It was why he went as close as he was going to get to taunting Ferguson and his players, declaring that United undergo something of a transformation when visiting the bigger European sides. He said they are cautious rather than cavalier and while he made a point of saying they were not 'afraid' of such ties, he as good as said they were. In English, Italian and Portuguese. Ferguson would no doubt agree that Mourinho can be a cunning linguist.

He is a performer. He once referred to his encounters with the media as 'the salt and pepper of his day' and he was eager to entertain his audience yesterday. First came the looks of utter boredom during the press conference Javier Zanetti gave prior to his, then the histrionics when the interpreter misquoted him.

In his carefully prepared words, though, came the real magic. 'I have paid great attention to every match in the previous year in the Champions League,' said Mourinho. 'Man United changed.

Jose Mourinho

Same old Jose: Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho was in good form during his media conference ahead of the Champions League clash against Manchester United on Tuesday night.

'Remember the way they played against Barcelona, for example. They go to this game with a different approach. I know Sir Alex doesn't like the word and a team like Man United doesn't like the word, so I'm not saying they are afraid of us, but they respect us.

'They know they can lose. Because of that, I don't believe they will come here with the same approach they have in the Premiership. I know that. They will change more than us. We will play the same way we do in our championship. We will play 4-4-2. We will play with Adriano and Ibrahimovic up front, with four at the back and a diamond in midfield. We have no fear to say that in midfield we will play Muntari, Stankovic, Cambiasso and Zanetti. At left back we will play the 18-year-old, Davide Santon.

'We have no fear to admit this is how we will play. Man United will not play like they do in the Premier League with Ronaldo, Tevez, Berbatov and Rooney. They will go with Scholes, Carrick, Giggs, Park, more defensive. I don't think they are coming here to play eye to eye, to try to win the game here.'

Ferguson responded as Mourinho suspected he would. With a smile, a knowing laugh and a warning. So Mourinho thinks the tie could take '210 minutes'. Ferguson replied by suggesting it would be all but over after 90 minutes of enthralling battle at the San Siro this evening. 'We'll just have to wait and see,' he said.

Mourinho does have a point about last season's game at the Nou Camp and even Ferguson admitted he had 'one slight modification' in mind for this contest. A move away, one would assume, from 4-4-2 to a 4-3-2-1 formation that sees Berbatov deployed as a lone striker with Wayne Rooney to his left and Cristiano Ronaldo to his right. Not a bad team, but not as aggressive as it could be.

Not that anyone should be surprised. Mourinho is the only manager in world football whose record against Ferguson reflects so badly on the Scot. Six wins and just two defeats in his 12 meetings, first with Porto and then Chelsea.

Ferguson acknowledged as much at the San Siro, again out of respect for his opponent. But there was a quiet confidence about Ferguson, perhaps because he knows he has the better team.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Relaxed mood: United boss Sir Alex Ferguson could also afford a smile as he faced the press in Milan.

While Inter Milan are nine points clear at the summit of Serie A, it is not the league it used to be. It lacks the quality of England and Spain and cannot claim to have the world's finest player, whatever Mourinho thinks. Mourinho declared Zlatan Ibrahimovic would soon follow Ronaldo in winning the Ballon d'Or and FIFA's World Player of the Year award. Let's just say you have to admire Mourinho for trying to inspire confidence.

To the suggestion that Italian football is now inferior to a league which has occupied three of the four semi-final spots in the Champions League for the last two seasons, Mourinho went on the defensive.

'Different competition,' he said. 'You can't say one is better than the other. The game in England is more emotional. It is beautiful and open, with an incredible atmosphere. But from a technical point of view, here it is stronger.

'We were happy with the draw and for me it is very easy to prepare for the game from a psychological point of view. I don't need to motivate the players. Everything is there. The smell of the game is in the air, the adrenaline is in the air. The job for me is easy in that respect. We know they are a tough opponent but I'm 100 per cent sure that they know they have a tough job.

'They are the champions. We respect that but we will see if they are the best. I'm not speaking in a negative way about them. Never, never. I'm speaking positively about them and they are really top, with a top manager. But I am calm in my mind. I'm confident and ready.

'You know the way I am. I started with a small team and worked my way up. I have my way of managing. I live very closely with my players. I believe 100 per cent in them. I know for many years that Inter did not win the big cups in Europe. Milan and Juventus have had a lot of success. But tomorrow is what counts. The past is a museum. It might be a beautiful museum, but it is no more than that.

'Ferguson has had great glories in the past, won so much, but what is important is what you do today and what is coming up.'

And then, a final word of warning. 'Anything can happen in these games,' he said. 'In 2004 Man United went out to a young Porto team and nobody would have bet a euro on that.'

Now what made him think of that?

Mourinho v Manchester United

Ronaldo insists Manchester United must 'kill or be killed' against Inter Milan

Ronaldo said: 'They are a team we have to respect. They are a very good side who lead the Italian league by a lot of points so we must be very careful.

'It's time to kill - or be killed.'

Ronaldo hopes to repeat last year's Champions League success

Unique feeling: Ronaldo hopes to repeat last year's Champions League success

No team have ever retained the Champions League but Ronaldo aims to help United create history after the shootout victory over Chelsea in last year's final.

The World Player of the Year said: 'The feeling of the Champions League is unique.

'When you hear the music and you come out onto the pitch it's a completely different game and atmosphere to the others.

'The emotion of winning my first Champions League medal was spectacular. When [Edwin] van der Sar stopped [Nicolas] Anelka's penalty it was like the earth stood still.

'I hope to repeat that feeling very soon.'

Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo emphasised the importance of tomorrow's Champions League tie against Inter Milan - 'it's kill or be killed.'

The knockout stage begins this week with the holders and Barclays Premier League leaders United up against a team on course to win their fourth consecutive Serie A title.

The mind games between Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho will provide a fascinating sideshow to what many see as the tie of the round.

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo

Ready to rumble: Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo hopes to take his goal-scoring form into this week's Champions League clash against Inter Milan at the San Siro

Remember me? I knocked United out in 2004 and I'll do it again with Inter, goads mischievous Mourinho

Jose Mourinho today warned that he is ready to inspire the underdogs to another shock Champions League triumph over Manchester United.

The Portuguese boss was in charge of Porto when they sent United crashing out in 2004 and he is now ready to inspire Inter Milan to a place in the quarter-finals at the expense of the holders.

United face a testing first leg at the San Siro tomorrow night before the return clash at Old Trafford in a fortnight.

Jose Mourinho

Confident: Inter boss Jose Mourinho

And former Chelsea boss Mourinho has now turned up the heat before his latest showdown with United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson.

Jose Mourinho

Party time: Mourinho celebrates at Old Trafford after Porto's win in 2004

Fergie was left reeling five years ago when Porto grabbed a late winner at Old Trafford to seal a spot in the last eight.

A suited Mourinho famously celebrated by sprinting down the touchline and sliding on his knees.

'This competition is different to the league where there are normally three or four teams who can win the competition,' said Mourinho.

'In the Champions League I think there are a minimum of 10 to 12 teams with the ambition, quality and capacity to do it.

'Inter in the past went out in the last 16 to teams like Valencia or Villarreal who they should normally be beating, but that's football.

'In 2004, Manchester United went out to a young Porto that nobody would have even bet a euro on winning and that's football.'

Mourinho went on to make a tongue-in-cheek remark over his upcoming reunion with Ferguson by claiming it will be an equal privilege for both men.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Rivalry: Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to face Mourinho

The pair tussled for the Barclays Premier League during Mourinho's time in England but Fergie's trophy haul puts his younger rival in the shade.

'From what I know of him as a coach, he has a lot of faith in himself and his
team, and rightly too,' he added.

'If I am relaxed here now, he will certainly be the same, if not more relaxed than me.

'It will be a great pleasure to meet him again and it will be the same for him. We have had a great relationship from the start built on great respect and I hope it goes on like this to the end.'

Mourinho believes the clash with United will be settled at Old Trafford next month.

Jose Mourinho

Focus: Mourinho in training today

'I have told the players that they have got to go into this tie and not be afraid of the possibility of, in 15 days, Inter being out of Champions League,' he said.

'We have got to go into this tie thinking that in 15 days probably we can celebrate that we have beaten the European champions.

'Nothing will be decided tomorrow. After the game, we will all have the feeling that there is going to be another great game at Old Trafford.

'Probably come the last minute at Old Trafford, nobody knows who is going to go through.

'I am not expecting a result tomorrow that you can say it is done, that Manchester United or Inter have done it.'

Mourinho went on to suggest United will be negative at the San Siro in an attempt to avoid defeat, while also claiming that they will not miss suspended centre-back Nemanja Vidic.

'I think United is of course a great team technically, but I watch with great attention every match in the previous season in the Champions League,' Mourinho added.

'Man Utd changed to play away from home. They are not going to come here to have fun.

'I am not saying they are afraid of us, no, but they respect us and they know that they can lose.

'They are only strong in defence because their opponents have been poor. There are teams who go to Old Trafford and do not play with much ambition. It then becomes easier for them to control the game.

'Obviously Vidic is a great player, but they have John O'Shea and Jonny Evans, who is
playing really well.

'Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick give them a lot of stability so the fact Vidic is not playing will not be a big advantage for us.'

Source - DailyMail

Beckham 'Can't Wait' For Manchester United - Inter Clash

David Beckham has spoken about his excitement ahead of his former club's Champions League tie with Inter this week.

David Beckham attended Manchester United's training session in Milan the San Siro earlier, ahead of their Champions League match-up with Inter tomorrow night, and spoke about the massive sense of anticipation he is feeling prior to the tie, even though he is not playing.

"I can't wait," the England midfielder told Manchester United's official website. "I haven't been to many United games since I left so as soon as this match was announced I looked to see if I was still going to be in Milan when it would be played.

"I'm so excited about it, but it's also a great opportunity to see the likes of Rio [Ferdinand], Wazza [Wayne Rooney] and, of course, Giggsy [Ryan Giggs] and Scholesy [Paul Scholes] who I haven't seen for a while.

It's a match between two of the biggest clubs in the world and two great teams who are both in top form, so it's got the makings of a fantastic game. Both managers are so experienced so technically and tactically I'm sure it'll be a very tight contest."

The iconic midfielder went on to reiterate his undying loyalty as a supporter of Manchester United, and expressed hopes that they could go on and capture a historic 'quadruple' of trophies.

"Oh yes, I've been a United fan all and always will be," he continued. "I've still got friends in the team who I played with at Old Trafford and still play with for England. So I always follow how they're doing.

"I really hope they'll win every one of them. It would be amazing if they could. It was a fantastic achievement when we won the Treble in '99 and for them to be involved in four competitions this season is brilliant - as a player there's nothing better than that. Hopefully they can do it."

As for the key to beating Inter, Beckham felt that it might well be to stop their deadly front two of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Adriano from performing at their best.

"Inter have got top players throughout their team, but, yes, the two forwards are the players who can cause the most problems," Beckham explained.

"But United have got great defenders and don't forget, Inter will also be worried about the players United have got in attack."

With all the talk of 'quadruples' and 'domestic clean sweeps' that's currently doing the rounds, Beckham also felt that the current United team was every beat as good as the one with which he won a famous 'treble' in 1999.

"Yes definitely," he affirmed. "It's so strong all the way through from the goalkeeper to the strikers. It's an amazing squad of players and I'm sure they'll go on to achieve great things."

Marco Materazzi And Patrick Vieira Left Out Of Inter Squad To Face Manchester United

The number 23 has not been picked by coach Jose Mourinho as a result of an ongoing problem with his thigh according to reports...

Inter defender Marco Materazzi and French midfielder Patrick Vieira will not line up against European champions Manchester United tomorrow night after being left out of the squad.

The Italian was at Appiano Gentile with the rest of the squad today, but he has failed to shake of a niggling problem to one of his thigh muscles. Vieira who came on against Bologna on Saturday has not been passed fit enough by Mourinho and he will not be risked.

Sky Sport Italia claim the Italian was sent home early as the rest of the team stayed behind to continue preparations into the afternoon. It is believed 18-year-old Davide Santon, who has been outstanding this season, will take 'Matrix's' place in defence.

Inter have released the list of 19 players who have received the nod and the wink from Mourinho.

The squad to play Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday night is as follows:

Goalkeepers: 1 Francesco Toldo, 12 Julio Cesar, 22 Paolo Orlandoni.

Defenders: 2 Ivan Ramiro Cordoba, 6 Maxwell, 13 Maicon, 16 Nicolas Burdisso, 24 Nelson Rivas, 26 Cristian Chivu, 39 Davide Santon.

Midfielders: 4 Javier Zanetti, 5 Dejan Stankovic, 7 Luis Figo, 19 Esteban Cambiasso, 20 Sulley Muntari.

Strikers: 8 Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 9 Julio Cruz, 10 Adriano, 45 Mario Balotelli.

The news of both absences will be welcomed by Sir Alex Ferguson's side. The Red Devils will be hoping to come away from their trip to Milan with the right result.

Champions League Preview: Inter - Manchester United

Inter are all set to lock horns with Manchester United in what promises to be an enthralling affair at the Giuseppe Meazza on Tuesday evening...

Time For The Special One To Deliver

When Jose Mourinho entered the San Siro last summer, the Portuguese tactician was under no illusion that Champions League success was pivotal to Inter patron Massimo Moratti’s decision to hire him.

‘The Special One’ is not a man inclined to feel pressure, but the ghost of ex-head coach Roberto Mancini will hang in the Milan air as Manchester United swing into town for the first leg of this second round clash of the titans.

Mancini was famously jettisoned by Moratti after gifting the Nerazzurri three Serie A titles in a row, but it was his failure to make a splash in Europe's premier club competition that sealed his fate.

Mourinho has upheld Mancini’s fortunes in Serie A, with last weekend’s 2-1 win over Bologna sending La Beneamata nine points clear of Juventus at the top of the division.

Worryingly for the Champions League winner from his days at Porto, he seems to have inherited his predecessor's luck in the Champions League.

Inter stumbled through an elementary group in the first round, drawing 3-3 with Cypriot minnows Anorthosis, and registering defeats to outsiders Werder Bremen and Panathinaikos.

A repeat of these wretched performances will blow apart Moratti’s master plan for Il Biscione to be proclaimed as the continent's finest and place an intense spotlight on the latest incumbent of his clubs hot seat.

Defensive Nightmare

Manchester United have one hand on the Premier League crown after this weekend’s events, but their grip on the Champions League trophy has diminished after a defensive injury crisis took over Old Trafford.

Last season’s double winners charged to a seven point lead at the summit of the English top flight after Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Manchester City followed the Reds controversial 2-1 win against Blackburn Rovers.

Amidst the euphoria surrounding the Merseysiders slip up, the treatment room at United’s Carrington training base has dampened the sense of excitement.

From the moment that centre-back Jonny Evans felt a recurrence of the ankle injury that sidelined him for the majority of February, Sir Alex Ferguson knew he was in trouble for the trip to the San Siro.

Already missing the suspended Premier League’s defender of the moment Nemanja Vidic, plus the injured duo Wes Brown and Gary Neville, Ferguson was counting on the Ulsterman to contain the twin threats of Adriano and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Now, Evans and team-mate John O’Shea face a race against time to be declated match fit. Without them, the Scottish manager faces an examination of the depth of his squad as he struggles to conjure up a centre-back capable of keeping Inter’s strikers from breaking down the door.



Veteran centre-backs Walter Samuel (calf) and Marco Materazzi (knee) miss the visit of Manchester United, whilst midfielders Patrick Vieira and Luis Jimenez are also unavailable to Jose Mourinho.

Squad: Toldo, Julio Cesar, Orlandoni, Cordoba, Maxwell, Maicon, Burdisso, Rivas, Chivu, Santon, Zanetti, Stankovic, Figo, Cambiasso, Muntari, Ibrahimovic, Cruz, Adriano, Balotelli.

Possible starting XI: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Cordoba, Chivu, Santon, Zanetti, Cambiasso, Muntari, Maxwell, Ibrahimovic, Adriano.

Manchester United:

Sir Alex Ferguson is definitely without the suspended defender Nemanja Vidic, Gary Neville (illness) and Wes Brown (metatarsal). Jonny Evans (ankle) is a severe doubt, whilst John O’Shea (heel) faces a late fitness test.

Brazilian midfielder Anderson (ankle) has returned to training, whilst Owen Hargreaves (knee) is sidelined until next season.

Squad: Van der Sar, Foster, Kuszczak, Ferdinand, Evra, O'Shea, Evans, Fabio, Eckersley, Giggs, Park, Carrick, Nani, Scholes, Possebon, Gibson, Fletcher, Ronaldo, Rooney, Berbatov, Tevez, Welbeck

Possible starting XI: Van der Sar, Evra, Ferdinand, O’Shea, Rafael Da Silva, Ronaldo, Park, Fletcher, Carrick, Berbatov, Rooney.


A predator strikes when it senses weakness. For Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the prospect of facing a decimated Manchester United defence is an opportunity to be ruthlessly exploited. Ibrahimovic has been terrorising Serie A’s backlines this year in his charge to the upper regions of the scoring charts. The Swede should fill his boots again on Tuesday against the rag tag United rearguard.

Manchester United:
Never has there been a time in Rio Ferdinand’s career when he’s been more vital to his team than this Champions League second round meeting. The England international is Manchester United’s only fit centre-back. Ferdinand was flawless in his last visit to Italy against Roma last year. A repeat show will give the Red Devils a chance of progressing.


The attention of Europe will fall on the San Siro as the Italian emperors face the Premier League’s finest.

No matter the grandeur, Manchester United will take to the pitch as a wounded beast. This puts the ball firmly in Jose Mourinho’s court, a position the Portuguese is loath to abandon.

Damage limitation is the name of the game for Sir Alex Ferguson. If his charges can register an away goal, then this trip to the Italian peninsula will be considered a success.

Prediction: Inter 2-1 Manchester United

Source -