With all the hype building around the Inter Milan and Manchester United match at San Siro, it was supposedly a hit even before it had started. And with a packed arena of more than 70,000 screaming fans the stage was set for one of the best Champions League match of the season: English Champions and leader against Italian Champs and leaders.
As always expected from Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho, there were bitter words again from “the special one” when he remarked that Zlatan was a better footballer than Ronaldo; and reciprocating was Zlatan, who served his manager by claiming Jose was a better coach than Sir Alex Furguson.
Manchester United were marred by series of injuries and suspension to Vidic after his infamous spat in the world Dub Cup just meant that apart from Rio Ferdinand, Sir Alex didn’t have any fit defender in his starting 11.
Zlatan and Adriano would have sensed that their night would be easier in front of Johny Evans who was declared fit on the morning of the Match and John O Shea, who has had a terrible injury- prone season himself. Even the commentators and the ‘Pundits’ didn’t give these two young defenders a chance against the mighty force of Inter Milan’s striking dual.
And as everything was against the reigning Champions, every Manchester United fan just wanted that if they would loose this tie it should not be by more than one goal. Zlatan and Adriano seemed to be too hot a prospect for Johny Evans and John O Shea to handle.
But everyone was surprised with how the match turned out to be. I had certainly hoped that Mourinho and Zlatan would deliver on the pitch just as they had delivered their statements off the pitch. But I ended up being disappointed. Mourinho’s team was no match for Red Devils whose first attack came within 5 minutes; and if it wouldn’t have been for the goal keeper, the current ‘World Player of the Year’, Ronaldo, would have snubbed a goal and asked Mourinho to shut up. During the first 45 minutes, Inter could not get one shot on goal and this against an injured and depleted Red Devil’s defence.
Even for United’s veteran Ryan Giggs it was a night to remember. Playing on the left flank once again and running tirelessly up and down, Giggs proved that his playing days are still not over. United looked a better team than Inter in every department and if it wouldn’t have been for Inter’s goal keeper, United would have been ahead by at least a couple of goals by the half time.
Second half saw a revived Inter Milan. I guess the lecture from Jose must have revived them for a while, but their unsuccessful attack at United’s goal soon after proved otherwise.
Zlatan looked more attacking but still could not get past the youngster Johny Evans who was playing his first Champions League match. Adriano looked tired as always. No wonder he has been voted the ‘Worst Player of the Seria A’ four times this year. And it was no surprise when Jose substituted the feeble Brazilian. And yet there was no change in pace of the game. United continued to build pressure. Micheal Carrick was the outstanding player of the game running up and down the pitch, tackling and taking a few hits himself. The last chance of the game came to the man who created the first chance, Ronaldo himself. He got a free kick at 25 yards at the end of the game and by his standard he should have put that one right at the back of the goal. However he couldn’t and even though the goal keeper had trouble handling the speeding ball, it was kept safely outside the goal.
In the end it was 0-0 for both the teams with Jose blaming the referee for being biased towards United. How many times have we heard this accusation? Jose has not learned anything from his time at Stanford Bridge. Sir Alex Ferguson was naturally disappointed as his team had controlled the game for the most part. But I think Sir Alex would be relieved that they did not concede against such overrated opponents. And with Carling Cup finals due on Sunday, Ferguson did not want to risk Wayne Rooney. So it means that he would have his choice of players for the finals on Sunday.
What remains to be seen is the reverse leg of the tie at Old Trafford in 2 week’s time. With Manchester United winning all of their last 12 games in Premier league and Van Der Sar not conceding a single goal in the last 13 outings, Old Trafford still remains the fortress that is difficult for any team to conquer, let alone Inter Milan who could not score against the injured Manchester United team on their own ground. My money is on Manchester United to win the next match and reach the quarter finals. But this is football and anything is possible. We will have to wait for 15 days to see if ‘blabber mouth’ Jose reaches the next round or the experienced Sir Alex Ferguson drives his team to another Champion League quarter finals. Let’s wait and watch for the ultimate show down between the two giants in football.
Pradyuman Singh Rawat