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Angry Jose Mourinho cries foul but Sir Alex Ferguson backs referee

24 February 2009 11:25
The Inter Milan coach claimed that Medina Cantalejo awarded United far too many free-kicks for what Mourinho saw as fair challenges on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo. "If we go to Old Trafford and have a referee who gives so much protection to the away team then we will go through to the quarter-final," Mourinho insisted.

"Seriously?" asked Ferguson when informed of Mourinho's comments. "I think we saw a referee who wasn't intimidated. That was what Jose was meaning. He wanted a referee to come here and be intimidated. I thought the referee was first-class, fantastic."

United were surprised that Mourinho did not emerge from the dugout to acknowledge Ferguson at the final whistle. No insult was intended, Mourinho stressed.

"My dugout is a special dugout," Inter's coach said. "It has a door which gives me the chance to leave it directly. I left in his hotel a £300 bottle of wine, saying we see each other at Old Trafford. I am always close to him. I am always his friend."

Ferguson made light of Mourinho's pre-match prediction that United would play defensively.

"What he tells the press and what he tells his players are two different things," Ferguson observed. "He knew we were going to attack. He knows the essence of our club, the philosophy."

Mourinho conceded that the European champions "played with great intensity, great speed" but added pointedly, "they didn't score".

Ferguson took heart from the performance. "We came here two years ago and were swamped by AC Milan," he said. "We have matured. The team is improving."

Aware of the dangers of not picking up an away goal, Ferguson still sounded confident.

"There is always a threat we could lose a goal [at home]," he said. "But with concentration and focus hopefully we will be alright. It is a disappointment we haven't won. But with our record at Old Trafford, we must have a good chance."

He predicted that Inter would be even more cautious in the second leg, sitting deep. "They will play tighter and go back to their penalty box," said Ferguson, who promised "seven changes" for Sunday's Carling Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.

Source: Telegraph