News24

Mature United please Fergie

2009-02-25 13:21

Milan  - Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson praised his team's growing maturity after they dominated Serie A leaders Inter Milan in a 0-0 Champions League draw.

The only down side of United's performance in the San Siro on Tuesday night was the failure to convert one of their numerous chances, particularly in a first half in which there seemed to be a gulf in class between the two teams.

It left Ferguson disappointed to be going back to Old Trafford in two weeks time with the tie still finely in the balance.

But the 67-year-old boss said the game did at least show that United have come a long way in the last two years since they were given a footballing lesson by Inter's San Siro housemates AC Milan.

"I'm disappointed we didn't win the match but it's only half time in a way and we're going to Old Trafford," said Ferguson.

"We came here two years ago and you can see the development of the team. In our immaturity we were swamped by AC Milan that night but you saw the maturity (against Inter), the team is improving."

Two years ago United had won a thrilling semi-final first-leg clash 3-2 at Old Trafford but were simply swept away in the return as a Kaka-inspired Milan cantered to a 3-0 victory.

That result came only a couple of years after United had also gone out to Milan in the second round having lost 1-0 both home and away.

However, he admitted that a 0-0 draw away from home in the first leg always presented a risk in the return.

The last time United were champions of Europe they fell at the first knock-out round the following year having drawn 0-0 away to Real Madrid.

That was followed by a dreadful defensive display in the home leg which saw United fall 3-0 behind at Old Trafford before fighting back to eventually lose 3-2 on the night and on aggregate.

But Ferguson pointed to last season's semi-final against Barcelona for a more contemporary example of United's response to a 0-0 first leg draw away from home.

"What you're seeing in the team is maturity. There's always a threat at home that you can lose a goal and that's a threat if you don't score away," he said.

"We didn't score against Barcelona either and we were playing a fantastic Barcelona team at Old Trafford."

But a single goal from Paul Scholes was enough to see United through to the final, which they won dramatically on penalties against Chelsea.

"Our concentration in that game (against Barca) was fantastic and that's what we will need to be (against Inter), concentrated and focused. I think we'll be ok with that.

"I think they will play more condensed, tighter. They will go back to their penalty box."

And while Ferguson praised his team he also seemed to be enjoying another battle with Mourinho.

Ferguson smirked when reminded about Mourinho's pre-match assertion that United would come to defend, and his claim after the match that Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo had favoured the visitors.

"I thought it was a marvellous performance from the referee, he wasn't intimidated and that's what Jose was hoping for but the referee wasn't intimidated, I thought he was first class," said Ferguson.

"I think Jose new full well what we were going to do. He tells you (the press) one thing and his players another.

"He knew full well we were going to attack, he knows our club and our philosophy."

AFP