Sir Alex Ferguson last night promised Manchester United would finish the job at Old Trafford and eliminate Internazionale from the Champions League in the return leg after his team were denied victory at San Siro despite a thrilling first-half performance.
Ferguson invoked the memory of the victory over Barcelona in the semi-finals last year when his side secured a goalless draw in the first leg and then went on to win the game at Old Trafford with a goal from Paul Scholes. "It was a disappointment we haven't won the game that's for sure," Ferguson said. "But with the next game being at Old Trafford [on 11 March] with the record we have there we must have a great chance of winning the match. We need to win the match in front of our fans. The game is not finished but we have given ourselves a great chance.
"I'm disappointed we haven't won the match but it is only half-time. Now we are going to Old Trafford. You saw how we played two years ago [when they lost 3-0 to Milan in the semi-final] and you can see the development of the team, the maturity. We were swamped by Milan that night. You can see how we have improved.
"We didn't score against Barcelona [last season] at the Nou Camp and we played a really fantastic Barcelona team at Old Trafford. Our focus and concentration at Old Trafford was outstanding. That's what we will do this time. Focus and concentration and hopefully we will be all right with that."
They have improved to the extent that, even without Wayne Rooney for all but seven minutes of the game, Jose Mourinho was left blaming the referee Luis Medina Cantalejo for Inter's relatively poor showing. The Inter manager said: "If we get there [Old Trafford] where we won't have the same referee and we get another one who gives so much protection to the away team it will be us in the quarter-final."
Ferguson said that he had not picked Wayne Rooney from the start because he needed Dimitar Berbatov's height at set-pieces. He had planned on being without Nemanja Vidic, who was suspended, and Jonny Evans who was eventually passed fit to play. "Wayne had only played one full game in seven weeks. My mind was made up two days ago after the Blackburn game [on Saturday]. I didn't think Evans would be fit.
"Looking at the Inter team I felt there was a weakness in aerial ability in terms of defending set-pieces. I had to have Berbatov in the team. I had prepared Ryan [Giggs] to play in this game. The best way to use Berbatov was to play him up front and I thought he was fantastic."
On Mourinho's assessment of the referee's performance, Ferguson said: "Is he serious? I thought it was a marvellous performance by the referee. He wasn't intimidated, that's what Jose means. He hoped the referee would be intimidated and he wasn't at any time. I thought he was first class."
Instead of shaking Ferguson's hand at the end of the game, Mourinho said that he had exited through a secret door at the back of his dugout. He justified that by saying he had left a "£300" bottle of wine in Ferguson's hotel on Monday night and a card promising they would have a glass together at Old Trafford in two weeks' time.