internazionale v manchester united

Zanetti undaunted by United test

February 24, 2009

Inter Milan captain Javier Zanetti believes Manchester United are "one of the strongest teams in Europe", but insists the Italians will be able to compete with them on Tuesday night.

The two sides clash at the San Siro in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie which promises to be a true clash of the titans between the defending Italian and English champions, and Zanetti claims United will meet their match.

"I think we are up against a big team which is doing very well in the Premier League and in the Champions League, but I am confident that we can do it," he said.

"We are a very competitive team and this is a clash between two big teams who want to continue in the Champions League.

"We are up against one of the strongest teams in Europe. We respect Manchester a lot, but we are in condition to be able to do very well."

Zanetti is the only member of the Inter side who was present when the two teams met a decade ago.

United got the better of that game on their way to victory over Bayern Munich in the Barcelona final, but Zanetti does not expect history to repeat itself.

"We have to think of the present and not the past and, as I said before, we have a good chance of doing well," he added.

"Sadly, the result from that game is a bad memory. We are a team who look to aim high and want to improve always and this is a big chance for us."

Coach Jose Mourinho agreed Inter must look to the present and the future rather than the past.

They lead Serie A by nine points from Juventus and 11 from their city rivals AC Milan who, despite having a more illustrious record in the Champions League to date, are failing to compete with the Nerazzurri today.

And that is what Mourinho feels is the most important gauge of success.

"Inter are winning the league and Milan are not doing that," he said. "Inter are playing in the Champions League now and Milan are in the UEFA Cup.

"Inter is leading (Serie A) by 11 points. AC Milan's past is brilliant and they have many reasons to be proud of what they did in the past.

"But the present looks like it belongs to us and possibly the future could be ours too.

"I am not concerned with what Inter have done in the past in the Champions League."

The Portuguese coach was not too concerned about anything yesterday. He looked relaxed on the eve of the most important game since he replaced Roberto Mancini in charge of the Italian champions in the summer.

He claimed preparing for on Tuesday night's game, as important as it is, is the easiest thing he has done since arriving.

"It is the game everybody wants to play in and a lot of players will be sad, even angry with me because I don't choose them," he said.

"Psychologically I don't need to motivate them and worry about concentration levels.

"The smell of the game is in the air, the adrenaline is pumping and my job is very easy."