MILAN, February 25 – Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho said he was a happy man after his Serie A leaders held holders Manchester United to a 0-0 San Siro draw in the Champions League.
The result has left the second round tie finely in the balance ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford in a fortnight.
Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar made a string of excellent first half saves to keep Mourinho’s men in a match that could have been over by the break.
And Mourinho said he now feels confident his team can come up trumps in Manchester.
"Julio Cesar was fantastic, in the first half he made two or three great saves and that was important for the team," he said.
"When I won the Champions League (with Porto in 2004) we drew 0-0 at home in the semi-final and then won away to Deportivo (La Coruna).
"It’s a result that the team who plays at home in the second leg is happy with because they know if they win (at home) they are in the quarter-finals.
"But for us it was an important result, we didn’t want to go to United with a deficit because they had intensity and speed that we didn’t have."
Mourinho said United had missed a chance to put themselves in the driving seat and he criticised Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo.
"This was the ideal match for them (United) on the counter-attack to score but they didn’t because Julio Cesar had a fantastic first half and in the second half we played really well and managed the match well.
"I think it’s a result that gives us a 50 percent chance of going through.
"If we go there and have a referee that gives as much protection to the away team, we will qualify for the quarter-finals."
Having somewhat cheekily claimed before the game that United would not be trying to win the game, Mourinho admitted that he was surprised Ferguson picked veteran Ryan Giggs to play in the hole behind striker Dimitar Berbatov rather than playing Wayne Rooney alongside the Bulgarian.
"I was surprised because he (Rooney) is a fantastic player but I know he was injured for a few weeks and maybe the boss decided to give him a rest.
"I guessed that Park (Ji-sung) would play to defend against Maicon and I could understand Cristiano (Ronaldo) playing on the right because the new kid (Davide Santon) was playing (left-back) and he probably thought he could scare the kid.
"And after that it was between Giggs and Rooney but I have so many top players it wasn’t a problem for us."
It seemed to be a problem in the first half as United were in total control with Giggs in particular excellent.
Inter improved after the break, especially for the first 10-15 minutes but even thereafter it was still the English champions who looked the more threatening up front and the more comfortable at the back.
That’s not the way Mourinho saw things, though.
"If two big teams play each other it’s difficult for one team to be better than the other for 90 minutes," he said.
"It’s difficult when the two teams are of different levels but for two teams of the same level it’s almost impossible.
"In the first half United were the better team, they played well with a lot of quality but in the second half we were the best team.
"It was a high level match and it was just a shame for everyone that it finished 0-0. When you play against a top team you can’t criticise a team that was dominated. They dominated in the first half and we did in the second."