Belfast Telegraph

Mour of the same spirit will see Manchester United progress

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has urged his players to call upon the spirit of last year’s Champions League semi-final against Barcelona as they prepare to welcome Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan to Old Trafford for the second leg of their last-16 clash.

The tie is delicately poised following a goalless draw at the San Siro, but United were in the same situation in their last two-legged knockout affair, where they won through thanks to a Paul Scholes goal, and Ferguson is expecting a similar result on Wednesday.

"In the build-up to a match against Jose I have to expect everything from him," he said last night.

"But we are preparing in the same way as after the 0-0 in the Nou Camp.

"An intense and efficient preparation, which worked very well.

"We controlled them well in Milan — Inter only had a couple of half-chances in the second half. My players played with an incredible level of concentration. They have to do the same in the return leg."

United surprised Mourinho (below), who had said he did not expect much attacking threat from them, in the first leg where they tore Inter apart but could not find that all-important away goal.

Ferguson is expecting Inter to come to Old Trafford and defend and, having won both last year’s Champions League final and this month’s Carling Cup on penalties, the United boss is not overly concerned.

"Could he really have believed that we wouldn’t attack at the San Siro?" he continued.

"Well, I’ll tell you that at Old Trafford Inter will play for penalties.

"There is always that Italian mentality. Even with Argentinians and other foreigners, that remains the idea.

"They will look to suffocate the game for 120 minutes of goalless football.

"But I’m not worried about anything. My players have shown they have what it takes when it comes to penalties. I hope it continues like that."

Inter have not been looking their usual imperious selves in Serie A of late but Ferguson believes that is because they have had one eye on Wednesday’s crunch clash.

"Inter are in command in Serie A and after they came back against Roma, they have the Scudetto in their pocket," he added. "He must also believe it, judging from the players he’s been putting out since the first leg.

"He’s obviously thinking of us."

Mourinho was a controversial figure during his time at Chelsea, and he is doing much the same in Italy where he has enjoyed high-profile spats with Roma and Juventus counterparts Luciano Spalletti and Claudio Ranieri among others.

Ferguson, who has been involved in a host of mind games with the Portuguese coach in the past, is not surprised by the reaction to him by his fellow coaches.

"We are used to Jose," he said. "Mourinho has a magnetic power over the media, everyone wants him because he goes from the amusing to the spirited to the offensive. He’s a great media tactician.

"But he also know that when the game begins it will only be the nerazzuri against the reds, he can’t do anything more.

"Personally I trust in those I send out on the pitch."

Captain Rio Ferdinand has earmarked Mourinho as a possible successor to Ferguson, when the long-serving United boss eventually leaves Old Trafford, but the man himself has laughed off the suggestion.

"Who’s talking about stopping?" he said. "You would have to take me out of here by force. I’m really not thinking about it at all. And even less so is Mourinho thinking about coming to United."

Ferguson also turned his eye to the other Champions League ties between English and Italian sides.

Chelsea and Arsenal travel to Juventus and Roma respectively, both with a 1-0 advantage, and the Scotsman is confident all three English sides will progress.

"Chelsea have put themselves in a good position, I see it as being harder for Arsenal," he said.

"Roma are not bad, but it also depends on what injuries they have on the night.

"However, I expect the English to advance."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph