inter 0-0 Man Utd

Ferguson shrugs off missed chances in Milan

February 24, 2009

Sir Alex Ferguson predicted Manchester United will overcome Inter Milan in the return leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Rio Ferdinand, Adriano
GettyImages / ShaunBotterillRio Ferdinand tussles with Adriano

The Red Devils were forced to settle for a goalless draw despite dominating the Serie A leaders for large spells.

Cristiano Ronaldo had four good chances - including a last-minute free-kick that was saved by Julio Cesar - Ryan Giggs had another, while the visitors also went close on numerous occasions.

But the precious goal that would have set United up for a smooth passage into the last eight would not come, leaving Ferguson to hope his side can keep Inter out at Old Trafford and get a goal that would allow him to overcome old adversary Jose Mourinho.

"I am disappointed we have not won the game,'' admitted Ferguson. "But it is only half-time in the tie. We still have another match to play at Old Trafford where we have a great record.

"I realise the tie is not finished but we have given ourselves a great chance.''

It is exactly the same scenario United faced following their semi-final with Barcelona last season.

On that occasion, a Paul Scholes effort was enough to squeeze them into a final they eventually won against Chelsea.

"You can see the maturity in our team now,'' said Ferguson. "There is always a threat of losing a goal when you do not score. But Barcelona were a fantastic team and we beat them.

"On that night we needed focus and concentration. It was outstanding then and it will have to be the same again.''

Ferguson was otherwise content with how the match went, reserving particular praise for Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo, who, despite Mourinho's claims to the contrary, Ferguson felt had an exceptional game.

"The referee was first class,'' said Ferguson. "He wasn't intimidated, which is probably what Jose wanted.''

After predicting that United would adopt a cautious approach Mourinho found his team outgunned from the first whistle even though Ferguson had dropped a pre-match bombshell by leaving out Wayne Rooney.

The United manager's reasoning was that his side would probably need the extra height of record signing Dimitar Berbatov at set-pieces, as Jonny Evans was expected to miss the game with an ankle injury.

Yet Evans made it, along with fellow injury victim John O'Shea, although Ferguson had gone too far with his plans to accommodate Rooney.

"I made the decision on Sunday because I thought Jonny would not be fit,'' said Ferguson. "I had already prepared Ryan Giggs to play in this particular match and so Dimitar played on his own upfront. I thought he was fantastic.''

And Ferguson feels Mourinho will not expect a change in attitude at the Theatre of Dreams.

"Jose knows fine well how we are going to play,'' added the United boss. "He knows the history and philosophy of our club. What he tells the press and what he tells his players is probably two different things.''

Ferguson's attention will now switch to Sunday's Carling Cup Final with Tottenham at Wembley, when a huge number of changes are expected.

"I can think about Inter in two weeks' time,'' he said. "Now I can look at Wembley and I would imagine there will be seven changes from tonight.''

Mourinho, meanwhile, revealed he was relieved not to be behind at the midway stage of the tie after seeing United dominate the opening 45 minutes.

"We know that 0-0 is a result, it is a real result,'' he said. "For example, when I won the Champions League, we drew 0-0 and then won 1-0 away with Deportivo La Coruna in the semi-final.

"It's a result which the side who plays the second leg at home is delighted with because they know that if they win, they are in the quarters, but it is an important result for us too.

"We did not want to go to Manchester behind because they have an intensity and speed that we cannot match. I feel even more now that there is a 50% chance for both sides.''

The former Chelsea boss added that he felt United had been aided by referee Cantalejo, and admitted he hoped the favour would be returned at Old Trafford.

"If we go there and if we have a referee who gives so much protection to the away team, then we go to the quarter-final,'' he said. "The referee did not please me in the slightest, but I don't want to talk about details.

"But if we can have a referee like this at Old Trafford, it would be fantastic.''