Champions League Second Round First Leg Roundup: Inter Milan 0 Manchester United 0

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"I refuse to watch this any longer...end match please"

"I refuse to watch this any longer...end match please"

Summary

Billed as the re-acquaintance of Ferguson and Mourinho, the bragging rights for this leg swung firmly in favour of one man, and it wasn’t the smug Portuguese one. Jose will consider his Inter side lucky that they did not concede in this match with United creating several dangerous moments, the best of which resulted in good chances for Ryan Giggs and headers for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Red Devils’ speed, technique and superior passing contrasted markedly with Mourinho’s lumbering, predictable side which all too often relies on getting the ball up to the big boys, Adriano and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Inter looked just like the team that went out of the competition at the early stages in the past two seasons. Nevertheless, the Nerazzuri will head into the second leg in two weeks time guided by a manager that has already performed a smash-and-grab operation at Old Trafford.

Tactical Analysis

tactics

Inter Milan

Jose named the team that he seems to have settled with over the past ten games or so apart from the surprise inclusion of Colombian Nelson Rivas (no don’t worry, not the full back of Arsenal and later Inter legend) at centre half instead of Ivan Cordoba, who Mourinho somewhat unsurprisingly fell out with. What a bad decision that turned out to be, with Rivas being torn apart by Berbatov, Ronaldo and Park in the opening 45 minutes, culminating in his substitution for the aforementioned Cordoba at half time. The diminutive but pacy Colombian of Pro Evo legend made a crucial block in the second half, denying a Giggs opener.

Sulley Muntari had an absolute shocker, leading to calls in the Italian press the following day that Patrick Vieira’s return is a must should Inter progress. The workmanlike nature of Inter’s midfield bereft them of any creativity, leading to many high balls up to the top two. he likes of Figo and Jimenez seem to be permanently relegated to the bench, although perhaps they simply don’t get on with Jose.

On a positive note, young Davide Santon did extremely well (wow that sounds like something David Pleat would say). He was impressive defensively as Mourinho once again restricts the forward movements of his full backs in the Champions League.

Manchester United

Ferguson put out the solid side that has brought them much joy this season. They didn’t look like conceding and were more impressive going forward than they have in some games recently. Quite frankly, Inter’s midfield was out-run by the stalwart trio of Park, Fletcher and Carrick, the last of which seems to be a firm favourite with Italian media, naming him ‘un magnifico Carrick’ (no need for translation).

Ronaldo was his devastating self, although he himself would probably admit he should have scored. European opposition seem to be truly mesmerised when playing against the world’s best player.

Looking Ahead

crystal-ballMourinho will absolutely relish the second leg at Old Trafford and I am sure the mind games over the next two weeks will reflect just that. A first goal from Inter would make the tie extremely interesting. However, there is the small matter of Inter having to actually play well in a European away tie. The inclusion of Vieira may be effective, if only in bringing back memories of his domineering performances when at Arsenal.

The European Champions will be confident on home soil following the superior showing in Milan. An early goal for United would set them up nicely for a counter-attacking game. Should the match remain goalless until the last 30 minutes or so, then perhaps nerves will start to undo United’s game and a repeat of Mourinho’s Porto antics may be on the cards.

I never like to see United win but they will on 10 March and Mourinho will have to admit that he hasn’t had much of a positive effect on an Inter side that was already dominant in Serie A and whose real test was in Europe.

P.

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