Fergie on edge: United boss knows home pain can follow goalless awayday

26 February 2009 02:11
As Sir Alex Ferguson looks ahead to the return leg of Manchester United

's Champions League tie against Inter Milan, he should take heart from one of his team's most impressive European away performances for several years. But Ferguson distrusts 0-0 away draws. He feels vulnerable without a goal to act as a comfort blanket prior to a second game at Old Trafford.Nevertheless, some things matter more than statistics and the fact that his players embarrassed the Italian champions and league leaders at times at the San Siro should mean more to him than the fact that his team failed to take any of their chances.

On edge: Sir Alex Ferguson does not like 0-0 away draws

On the back of this performance, United are clear favourites to advance to the last 16 when Inter boss Jose Mourinho returns to Old Trafford for the first time in two seasons in 13 days. United must drop their levels significantly while Inter must raise theirs by the same measure if the English and European champions are to come unstuck. That, in itself, is a measure of United's progress in the last year. Not just that, the draw extends their unbeaten Champions League run to a record 20 games.  Martin Samuel: Ronaldo tricks and flicks show up Ibrahimovic

Wily Mourinho apologises to Inter fans for 'parking the bus' against United

Barcelona, Chelsea, Milan and more: United's unbeaten European record


As the dust settled on a surprisingly comfortable San Siro evening for United, comparisons were already being made with previous occasions when Ferguson's team had experienced scoreless first-leg draws in Europe. For example, against Monaco in 1998 and Real Madrid in 2000 United tripped up at home, while last season's semi-final against Barcelona saw them win 1-0 at Old Trafford to clinch the tie by a solitary goal.

In none of those first-leg games, though, did United play like they did on Tuesday. In Barcelona last April, for example, United spent the whole evening chasing the ball at the Nou Camp and felt understandably anxious ahead of the return against a team who had arguably shown themselves to be technically superior.

Home win: Paul Scholes fires home United's winner against Barcelona in last season's Champions League

Had Barcelona featured a fully functioning centre forward last season, they probably would have knocked United out. Even with Samuel Eto'o so out of form and Thierry Henry so low on confidence, Frank Rijkaard's team went perilously close to eclipsing United at Old Trafford. On March 11 against Inter, however, United need have no such fears. Mourinho's team could not match United's football at the San Siro. The speed and incisiveness of the visitors' play seemed alien to them at times. It unsettled them throughout — as was shown by the number of desperate fouls conceded (six in all) within Cristiano Ronaldo's free-kick range. Back in Manchester, United will have an opportunity to impose themselves once more. Ferguson will have been impressed by the likes of Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs, but it was the performances from players like Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Ji-sung Park which must have really shown him how far his team have come recently.

Mighty Michael: Carrick was the boss of the San Siro

It was this midfield base which allowed United to dominate in Milan and the uncomfortable truth for Mourinho was that his ponderous, predictable side had little answer. As some had predicted, Milan's forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic failed to produce his best football, while Mourinho's anchorman Esteban Cambiasso ran in sand at times as he desperately tried to deal with Ronaldo and the rejuvenated Giggs.

Frustrating night: Inter Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic

All that was left for Mourinho was to talk about the referee and to vow that his team will improve when they get to Old Trafford. His tactics were diversionary but also hollow. His team were second best to that of his old friend and rival — and he knew it. Certainly Inter have it in them to find a goal at Old Trafford. They surely cannot be as bad again. Ferguson will also know that his team have never scored more than once against a side managed by the former Chelsea and Porto coach. But on occasions such as this, statistics and history really do not matter. United have a psychological edge after Tuesday. They are at home. They have better players. They are clear, clear favourites. Since the Champions League was extended to four groups in the 1994-95 season there have been 20 goalless first-leg matches in the knockout stages. Thirteen of the second-leg matches were won by the home side.AWAY SIDE WON IN 2ND LEGGoteborg 2 B Munich 2 (1994-95)Man Utd 1 Monaco 1 (1997-98)Man Utd 2 Real Madrid 3 (1999-00)Inter Milan 1 AC Milan 1 (2002-03)Deportivo 0 Porto 1 (2003-04)Lyon 0 Roma 2 (2006-07)AC Milan 0 Arsenal 2 (2007-08) * UEFA will not take any action against Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho after his post-match allegations of refereeing bias during the first leg.

 Martin Samuel: Ronaldo tricks and flicks show up Ibrahimovic

Wily Mourinho apologises to Inter fans for 'parking the bus' against United

Barcelona, Chelsea, Milan and more: United's unbeaten European record



Source: Daily_Mail