First knockout round, second leg (First leg: Inter 0-0 Manchester United)
Jose Mourinho brings his Internazionale team to Old Trafford hoping to emulate the conquest of Manchester United that he achieved on his first visit as coach of Porto five years ago this week.
“At that time they didn’t know who was this crazy manager running down the touchline,” said Mourinho, recalling his unforgettable goal celebration during the 1-1 draw that carried eventual winners Porto past United at this stage of the 2003-04 Champions League.
Mourinho faces a United side unbeaten in 18 European home games, but Mourinho has an impressive record of his own against the European champions, having lost just one of ten subsequent encounters with United during his three years in charge at Chelsea.
“Zero-zero away from home is not a very good result. It is a result that leaves lots of question marks,” said the Portuguese.
Mourinho must reorganise his back line after Nicolás Burdisso and Marco Materazzi suffered injuries in Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Genoa.
With Cristian Chivu also absent, Inter’s coach will recall Walter Samuel after a three-match injury lay-off, and could also hand Patrick Vieira a first start in the competition since Matchday 1.
He admitted stopping the hosts’ “incredible strikers” will not be easy. “[Sir Alex] has lots of ammunition and is clever in the way he uses it. They are never predictable. You have to read the game and adapt to what they bring.”
Inter fell at this stage in 2007 and 2008 but the ‘Special One’ thinks end that sequence.
“The press have been talking for three weeks about the drama of Inter going out always in the last 16. I prefer to think in a different way, of the possibility of Inter knocking out the world champions. Not even my flu can affect my pleasure.”
United counterpart, Sir Alex Ferguson, admitted: “With a 0-0 draw you are never overconfident because an away goal can be a severe setback to you.
“Inter have every right to go into the match thinking they can win.
“They are seven points clear at the top of their league and have a lot of experience. We expect a tough game but they should expect one as well.”
Yet United will draw confidence from having beaten Barcelona from this position in last term’s semi-finals.
“That was the situation when we played Barcelona and what was required was magnificent concentration and focus,” said Ferguson, who played down the significance of his record against Mourinho.
“It proves I am not infallible. I am vulnerable, just like anyone else in football,” said Ferguson.
“It is strange just to have one win but the personal record doesn’t bother me.”
“I look at my football club and what it has achieved over the time I have been here. That is more important to me than my record against him.”
Ferguson is confident United have undergone a “massive improvement” since their last defeat in the competition, 21 games ago in the 2007 semi-final with Milan.
“We have far more maturity and understanding of the Champions League,” said the Scot,