Stalemate at the San Siro
Manchester United will rue missed chances in a dominant first half at the San Siro as they drew with Inter Milan.
Last Updated: 24/02/09 10:24pm
A controlled and patient display from Manchester United only lacked a goal at the San Siro, as Inter Milan owed more than a little to their visitor's wastefulness in front of goal to escape with a 0-0 draw.
Pre-match and all the talk had been about the 'Special One' but on this showing Jose Mourinho's current crop in Italy are little better than mediocre.
While the odd eyebrow was raised by Sir Alex Ferguson's selection of Dimitar Berbatov as a lone striker, the only real surprise was that Inter were not dead and buried by the break.
United's supremacy was such Cristiano Ronaldo will feel he could have had a hat-trick, as two free-kicks and a pair of headers had Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar scrambling across his goal.
The Brazilian's best save though was reserved to thwart Ryan Giggs, who after outmuscling Nelson Rivas from the excellent Michael Carrick's pass could only find the Inter keeper's sprawling legs.
After the interval Inter awoke from their slumber to finally add hunger to a display that looked malnourished in the opening 45 minutes, but other than an Adriano miscue in front of goal and a scramble late on, Edwin van der Sar was a virtual bystander.
So while Ferguson's men will be confident of getting a goal in the second leg at Old Trafford, they remain vulnerable to Mourinho's guile.
It was expected a meeting between the undisputed kings of Italy and England would be a keenly-fought affair with little give on either side.
In fact the first half turned out to be a landslide in every respect but the scoreboard.
The sheer speed of United's movement caught Inter napping almost as much as Ferguson's decision to leave Wayne Rooney on the bench.
Their swift snappy passing, allied to movement off the ball gave Inter a problem they struggled to solve. Indeed, they would not have managed it without an outstanding individual performance from Cesar.
Ronaldo was the first to be denied with a smart near post header, before a succession of free-kicks called Inter's overworked keeper into action.
Ronaldo did beat him once with a point-blank header but it flashed wide.
The major worry, especially with a coach as wily as Mourinho in the opposing dug-out, must be United's failure to score.
It was not as though they lacked the opportunity. Lone front-man Berbatov surged clear in the box at one point, only to look up and see no-one in support as he prepared to cross.
Inter's frustrations were summed up just before the break when Cesar's deputy, Francesco Toldo, was booked for protesting on the touchline at another decision that had gone against his team.
Ferguson must have sensed Inter would finally flex their muscles after the break, and so it proved.
Adriano had already flashed one shot wide when he crashed to the turf under Rio Ferdinand's challenge as Javier Zanetti crossed.
The Brazilian screamed for a penalty but TV replays suggested Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo was right to say no.
But Inter tails were up and Dejan Stankovic was narrowly wide with another shot before attempting to release Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had strayed narrowly offside when otherwise he would have been clear.
United were not quite clinging on as their opponents had been earlier. However, they were being tested and it took them some time to regain their earlier composure.
Their goal threat had become sporadic with Zanetti's far-post clearance to prevent Giggs reaching Ronaldo's low cross the summit of United's danger until the veteran Welshman was allowed to gallop into the Inter box, where his shot was blocked by Ivan Cordoba and Carrick fired the rebound over.
After seeing Cordoba fail to make the most of a Mario Balotelli corner, Ferguson gave Rooney seven minutes to make a difference, and was no doubt not meaning for his striker to pick up a booking for a foul on Stankovic.
However, it was a peripheral moment, with Ronaldo taking centre stage one last time to unleash another 20-yard thunderbolt. Cesar remained defiant and saved with his chest.
|Internazionale||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|0||Shots on Target||5|
|8||Shots off Target||6|