Cristiano Ronaldo is rarely given to bouts of self-doubt, and the Manchester United winger yesterday gave the most outspoken verdict yet on his side's draw with Internazionale and how the return leg will unfold.
Ronaldo said that United would beat Inter at Old Trafford because, in his words, "we have a better team".
This was not a point that the Italian press were disputing yesterday. Jose Mourinho woke up to headlines pronouncing his side as being far inferior to the European champions. Inter may have held out for a goalless draw but the Gazzetta Dello Sport in particular was hugely critical of Mourinho for instructing his team to sit deep and let United come at them.
Few of the major newspapers in Italy were arguing when Ronaldo said: "We played better than Inter last night. We created more chances, especially in the first half, and we deserved to win. At home I feel we have a better chance. I don't know whether Inter will be a better team in Manchester. We respect them but in my opinion we have a better chance at Old Trafford because we have a better team."
Mourinho was accused of changing his story to fit the way the game had panned out. In his post match interview on Sky Italia, he said that the pace of United had pinned Inter back despite their best attempts. But in his subsequent press conference for newspapers he claimed that it was him who had expressly told his team to sit back despite his pre-match stated intention that Inter would attack.
"They [United] are a very quick team and we don't have these characteristics," he said. "The only reason I lost only once against Manchester United is that I understood this immediately. If they had scored in the first half the situation would have been harder for us and, for this, it is not an easy decision to make to sit deep and try to block them."
In Italy, where Sir Alex Ferguson is held in more reverence than perhaps he is even in England, his coaching was scored 6.5/10 by the Gazzetta. Such marks have been the cause of enormous controversy and rows in the past. Mourinho was given just 5 and accused of being timid in his approach and making the wrong decision to pick Nelson Rivas ahead of Ivan Cordoba.
Defending his position, Mourinho, said: "If we had played further up the field, then it gives us more options in attack, but it leaves us more room behind."
Wayne Rooney has said that he hopes to be part of the United team that plays in the Carling Cup final against Tottenham on Sunday even thought he has made just one substitute's appearance in the competition this season. "I just have to wait and see what the manager says about Sunday," he said. "All the players want to play, it is a cup final. But it is down to the manager because it is about the squad and how he thinks it should be used."
The striker added that he believed United were "capable of handling anything Inter throw at us at home" on 11 March.
He said: "It seems to me like Inter are probably better away from home. They can just sit there and defend then try to hit you on the break. But our own home form is excellent, so if we defend well and take our chances we will be OK."
Home comfort: Goalless to glory
English sides have returned home from goalless Champions League first-leg ties three times in recent years, going on to qualify each time.
2005 Chelsea 0 Liverpool 0 (Semi-Final; Liverpool won home leg 1-0 [Garcia])
2008 Olympiakos 0 Chelsea 0 (Last 16; Chelsea won home leg 3-0 [Ballack, Lampard, Kalou])
2008 Barcelona 0 Manchester United 0 (Semi-Final; Man Utd won home leg 1-0 [Scholes])Reuse content