Tuesday, February 24, 2009

United need away goals to end Mourinho hoodoo...

The winner of the Inter Milan vs. United tie will more than likely go on to win the Champions League. To coin a phrase, it is a massive game - the biggest in Europe so far this season. It will be an intriguing contest for many reasons, but for United, apart from wanting to progress, there's other business to take care of, it will hopefully turn out to be pay-back time for Jose Mourinho.

Jose Mourinho's name was catapulted into the limelight following Porto's win over United in the Champions League in 2004. Looking back at that tie, Fergie opted for caution going into both legs when leaving Cristiano Ronaldo out of the starting eleven; for their part the Porto players used every trick in the book which including diving and conning the referee. United eventually lost the tie on the away-goals rule after Costinha's last minute-strike ensured that the second-leg at Old Trafford ended all square, this after Paul Scholes had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside.

Memories of Mourinho dancing down the Old Trafford touchline celebrating that fortuitous victory still rankle many Reds', because like on so many other ocassions during Fergie's reign it should have been United's year.

Since 2004 Mourinho has gone on to cement his reputation as one of Europe's top coaches, but he has so far failed to reach the final of Europe's Premier Club competition despite having the backing of one of the richest men in the world while at Chelsea. Somewhat predictably (according to some), Mourinho's stay in West London ended in tears; old sages will have it that the firebrand Portuguese manager will never stay with any one club for too long, hence the move to Inter Milan.

Tonight in the San Siro Fergie has the opportunity to pay Mourinho back for that 2004 exit; the United manager says that he is unconcerned about the champions poor record against Jose's teams'. It is of course a lie, because we all know that Mourinho has got underneath Fergie's skin. Article continues below...

In many ways Fergie and Mourinho are the exact opposite of each other, but both are winners and here they share common ground. Despite being a winner, or a "champion" as Jose would have it, many United fans abhor everything about Mourinho; they do not like his tactics and they do not like the man. There is talk that Jose could eventually replace Fergie, that debate is for another time...

United are set to take on Inter Milan, with what could be a patched-up central defensive partnership, if as expected Jonny Evans fails to recover from an injury picked up at the weekend. John O'Shea is likely to play along Rio Ferdinand. Going into the game Mourinho has suggested that United will not attack Inter - to a certain extent this could turn out to be true, because there is likely to be more emphasis on the likes of Carrick stationing himself just in front of the back-four to mop-up any poor clearances.

Fergie has predictably responded to Mourinho's pre-match baiting by saying that United rarely go out not to win - the truth is that the United manager isn't the best at the tactics, it is also true that United are at their collective best when going forward. Playing cagey football is not, and hopefully never will be, the United way.

Going into the tie, Mourinho will no doubt have been concerned at the number of times the Champions have won by the narrow margin of 1-0 - has Fergie been reading the Jose Mourinho book of tactics? Inter's manager could be forgiven taking that view from afar, but he would be wrong of course.

Clearly, this United team and in particular the defence has been playing on the mind of Mourinho who has been doing his usual level best to psyche-out Fergie. Mourinho, tried and failed to not only extend Vidic's one match-ban, but he also tried his best to get Rooney banned too when complaining about the United's striker's kick-out at an Aalborg player. Fergie likes to share a bottle of wine with opposing managers following the white-hot heat of battle, on this occasion he could be forgiven if his parting gift was a "Glasgow kiss".

As far as tactics go, there has been too much talk surrounding the make-up of the United defence, which is perhaps understandable given United's injury problems, but in all probability it will be mistakes that prove to be costly if the Champions of Europe fold in the San Siro.

IF United are to avoid defeat in the San Siro they must not give possession away cheaply, the last Fergie thing will want to see is an already weakened defence being over-worked due to sloppy forward play. Park and Ronaldo cannot allow Inter's fullbacks to press forward and supply crosses. United need a ninety minute performance from Berbatov. Discipline will also be an important factor, do not rule out Inter's players trying to get Rooney or Ronaldo sent-off.

On too many previous occasions Mourinho's Chelsea hit United on the counter attack, but if United can hold out without conceding an early goal, the visitors could give Mourinho a taste of his own medicine. Carlos Tevez could have a vital role to play when coming off the bench if United go in search of those vital away goals. Ronaldo has been showing signs of coming to the boil over recent games and you do wonder if the World Player of the Year will live up to his star billing. Going into the game, Wayne Rooney looks fighting fit and razor sharp, if I was going to back anyone from United score it would have to be the former Everton star.

Score prediction: 2-2.

1 comment:

  1. This may sound stupid, but for I was talking to my wife and telling her about the injuries problems and she asked, "Do we have Rooney? Ronaldo? Berbatov? Giggsy? Scholes? Tevez?" And ended it with, "what are you complaining about?"

    Very simplistic and unsophisticated view of the game, but at the same time, we have the attacking talent to give them hell so Inter too has much to worry about.

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