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05 December 2023

Jose's special way

Mourinho's methods are questionable, but they might make the difference on Wednesday. (AP)

By John McAuley

He may call Sir Alex the 'Boss', but Jose Mourinho plans to rock Manchester United's Champions League aspirations at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

It would come as no surprise if the Portuguese puppeteer garners more attention than the two sides battling it out for a place in the quarter-finals.

Even in the first leg, when some of football's finest exponents – Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo and Dimitar Berbatov for United; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Adriano and Esteban Cambiasso for Inter Milan – were battling it out at a freezing San Siro, Mourinho made the headlines in typical fashion.

He consistently, and cunningly, berated Luis Medina Cantalejo, the Spanish referee, because of an apparent Manchester bias during the 90 minutes and then insisted after the match "maybe in the second game we will have a referee that is on our side".

The pressure is now on Cantalejo to officiate with the kind of objectivity that Mourinho rarely conveys. The Inter coach will seize upon the sense of injustice to guarantee his side emerge from the away dressing room intent on revenge.

He has done it many times before at Porto and Chelsea, but the wily Ferguson is astute enough to recognise his old sparring partner's mischievous methods.

A 0-0 draw isn't always regarded as the most desirable result to take back to your own patch, yet United seemed so superior 10 days ago that you would expect them to continue the defence of their trophy.

Ibrahimovic is the main threat to notch a precious away goal, but the reliable Rio Ferdinand and the returning Nemanja Vidic – the Serb missed the first leg through suspension – can negate the attacking instincts of the one of Italy's most feared marksmen.

However, with Wayne Rooney pushing for a starting role alongside Berbatov, Cristian Chievu and Nelson Rivas could be the busiest centre-backs on the night.

Other defenders with their work cut out are Chelsea's back four, as the Stamford Bridge side aim for the clean sheet that will secure their place in the last eight.

Guus Hiddink's charges were fortunate to escape from a tense first leg against Juventus with a slender advantage – Didier Drogba sealed a 1-0 victory – and John Terry and Alex will need to pay particular attention to the experienced duo Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved. Both excelled in west London.

A similar tie awaits Arsenal, who couldn't convert chances into goals against Roma at the Emirates last week. A Robin van Persie penalty gives Arsene Wenger's side hope, but a Francesco Totti-led Roma are a difficult proposition in the capital. Just ask Chelsea.

Liverpool seem to have the easiest task of the English clubs, after Yossi Benayoun's 82nd minute header sealed a famous win for the Reds at the Bernabeu last week.

Rafa Benitez will be as cautious as ever at Anfield on Tuesday night, but should prove that he's much more adept on the European stage, than in those tournaments a bit closer to home.

Champions League Fixtures:


Bayern Munich (5) v S Lisbon(0)

Juventus (0) v Chelsea (1)

Liverpool (1) v Real Madrid (0)

Panathinaikos (1) v Villarreal (1)


Barcelona (1) v Lyon (1)

FC Porto (2) v Atletico Madrid (2)

Man. Utd (0) v Inter Milan (0)

Roma (0) v Arsenal (1)