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United Simply Outplayed Mourinho's Inter

I was pessimistic ahead of yesterday's Champions League clash with Inter Milan at the San Siro. Our defence looked less than confident against Blackburn Rovers and the potential absence of O'Shea and Evans gave all of us a nasty headache.

The two defenders were deemed fit enough to start but fielding two half-fit defenders at the San Siro was not exactly encouraging. A repeat of Milan 2007 still seemed entirely imaginable.

But the European champions had some different ideas: they went on to show why exactly they are the holders of this competition. United, with a back four protected by Carrick and Fletcher and a Park, Giggs, Ronaldo trio interchanging behind the lone frontman Berbatov, simply took the game to the hosts, perhaps out of spite over Mourinho's insistence that we would play defensive, a view which I had shared.

On the contrary though, Inter were forced back as United dominated the first half. Carrick - who was, once again, magnificent throughout, shielding the back four superbly - provided neat passing and vital interceptions while Fletcher harassed everyone and won plenty of tackles against Inter's somewhat slow midfield four of Muntari, Stankovic, Zanetti and Cambiasso.

This midfield dominance was the backbone of our first-half excellence and mention must go to Ryan Giggs as well who was clearly enjoying his role in the hole, revelling in the selfless work of Dimitar Berbatov (who's been unfairly criticised after the game) and could have scored on two occasions if he was the type of clinical finisher which sadly he never was.

Park was working tirelessly on one flank, aided by the absolutely incredibly magnificent Patrice Evra, while on the other wing Ronaldo provided a constant threat. He was taking on defenders, cutting inside, creating opportunities. Two dangerous free-kicks, a header saved by Julio César and another that went inches wide: Ronaldo had ample opportunities to give United a richly deserved lead.

But we failed to capitalise on our dominance and the question at half-time was: should Rooney be sent on? Fergie said no, he kept faith in his team while Mourinho quickly brought off Nelson Rivas who was clearly out of his depth and replaced him with Ivan Córdoba.

The game changed, in the first 10-15 minutes Inter finally managed to exert some pressure on United's somewhat unfamiliar back four and the otherwise ineffective Adriano could have snatched a goal had he properly hit Cambiasso's low cross.

But their threat soon fizzed out and United were comfortable once again. Ibrahimovic frequently drifted wide left, no doubt instructed by Mourinho to try and make the most of the perceived limitations of John O'Shea who was skinned once by the Swede but overall he kept him at bay. The Irishman's aerial prowess served him well against his foe as he could deal with long balls launched forward.

United's dominance disappeared, the game was even but it was the away side who threatened to score as our counterattacks were dangerous. Giggs came closest, beating two defenders in the box after cutting in from the right but then managed to smash the ball into Cordoba who made a desperate last-ditch block to deny what looked like a certain goal.

It was a huge let-off for Inter but they could have scored themselves after a corner found Cambiasso in front of goal. Fortunately, the ball hit him in the chest and bounced in front of the line thus Van der Sar managed to scoop it up.

Heart in the mouth stuff but United could have had the final word. First Berbatov chipped a ball brilliantly into Rooney's (he replaced Park in the 83rd minute) way and the English striker got behind Cordoba but Julio César raced out of his goal and cleared the ball away in the very last minute. Had he delayed his run with just a moment, Rooney would have had an unmissable chance.

And then there was absolute drama material as United won a free-kick near the edge of the Inter box in the 93rd minute. Ronaldo stepped up, of course, and lifted the ball over the wall but Julio César who saw very little of it managed to keep it out with the aid of a little fortune.

Mourinho will argue that at least his team haven't conceded at home and thus a score draw at Old Trafford would put them through. The reality is, though, that United outplayed Inter, producing an almost perfect European away display (I think the performance level was better than at Roma last season and on a par with Deportivo 2002) and comfortably snuffed out the threat of Inter's attacking play. With Vidic returning to the side for the second leg, scoring against the red machine will become an even more difficult task. Even without an away goal, United are the favourites now.




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The Journalist

Writer: Zae Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Wednesday February 25 2009

Time: 1:31PM

Your Comments

I have to say I have never ever been so frustrated with a 0-0 draw - but the way we played, we have a fantastic chance even so. Despite my disappointment, I guess I must remember that before the game, with all our defensive worries, and the way Inter had been built up, I was expecting a Milan away 2007, and would have been amazed with a 0-0. However, after the way we dominated the game, particularly in the first half, when we played Inter off the park, it's impossible not to be slightly disappointed with the result. We can win at Old Trafford, sure, but we deserved at least one away goal. But it was by far a much improveed and more mature performance than our previous visit to the San Siro. And don't forget - Fergie said before the game that an away goal for United could kill the tie off - worryingly seeming to suggest that he'd have sat back for a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, which rarely works, as a defensive game doesn't suit our play (despite our league records it's not our natural game). Now he may be forced to go for the juggular almost, and we'll hopefully play the same as we did in the first half in Milan, just with Wayne Rooney from the start, and we'll hopefully be better in the final third. I was shocked Fergie left Rooney out - but Rooney always plays like he has a point to prove when he comes on. Ferguson's tactics were spot-on, particularly in the first half but we HAD to score, and ultimately, we failed to do that. Berbatov struggled to get into the game, and Rooney should have been brought on long before he was - after an hour at the latest. He didn't get enough time to make an impact. But, keeping it in context, before the game, without Vidic and Rooney, this would have been viewed as a good result, and still is, though on the game itself, it's unquestionably disappointing. I just hope, hope, hope, that that first-half wasn't our chance in the tie and we MISSED IT.
Man utd champions
I have to say I have never ever been so frustrated with a 0-0 draw - but the way we played, we have a fantastic chance even so. Despite my disappointment, I guess I must remember that before the game, with all our defensive worries, and the way Inter had been built up, I was expecting a Milan away 2007, and would have been amazed with a 0-0. However, after the way we dominated the game, particularly in the first half, when we played Inter off the park, it's impossible not to be slightly disappointed with the result. We can win at Old Trafford, sure, but we deserved at least one away goal. But it was by far a much improveed and more mature performance than our previous visit to the San Siro. And don't forget - Fergie said before the game that an away goal for United could kill the tie off - worryingly seeming to suggest that he'd have sat back for a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, which rarely works, as a defensive game doesn't suit our play (despite our league records it's not our natural game). Now he may be forced to go for the juggular almost, and we'll hopefully play the same as we did in the first half in Milan, just with Wayne Rooney from the start, and we'll hopefully be better in the final third. I was shocked Fergie left Rooney out - but Rooney always plays like he has a point to prove when he comes on. Ferguson's tactics were spot-on, particularly in the first half but we HAD to score, and ultimately, we failed to do that. Berbatov struggled to get into the game, and Rooney should have been brought on long before he was - after an hour at the latest. He didn't get enough time to make an impact. But, keeping it in context, before the game, without Vidic and Rooney, this would have been viewed as a good result, and still is, though on the game itself, it's unquestionably disappointing. I just hope, hope, hope, that that first-half wasn't our chance in the tie and we MISSED IT.
Man utd champions
We always have a chance to win at Old Trafford, against anyone. Judged on the first leg, we are the better team, we only have to convert our chances.
Zae
We always have a chance to win at Old Trafford, against anyone. Judged on the first leg, we are the better team, we only have to convert our chances.
Zae
Yes, Zae, and when I think about it in some ways, we played fantastically, and we could well go through. I just worry that if Inter score, we'll struggle to get 2 (which we'll need to get through) i'm hoping though
Man utd champions
Yes, Zae, and when I think about it in some ways, we played fantastically, and we could well go through. I just worry that if Inter score, we'll struggle to get 2 (which we'll need to get through) i'm hoping though
Man utd champions
don't go writing off Inter. I think they will try to score early then sit back and defend seeing as that would mean United will need to score 2.
Paulinho
don't go writing off Inter. I think they will try to score early then sit back and defend seeing as that would mean United will need to score 2.
Paulinho
 

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