Match preview: Manchester United v Inter Milan (Champions League)

Manchester United v Inter Milan, Champions League last 16, second leg, March 11, 2009

The tie of the round comes to a conclusion at Old Trafford in a match that brings a new level to mouthwatering.

Ever since the draw was made, the image of Jose Mourinho celebrating Francisco Costinha’s goal at Old Trafford following Porto’s 1-1 draw in March 2004, that sent them through to the quarter finals, has hovered over this tie. Since Sir Alex Ferguson has only ever engineered one win over the “Special One,” it appears that Inter may be able to do the impossible and shatter the Manchester United quintuple dream.

Despite dominating Serie A, the truth is that Inter Milan are not a great team, they have probably three world class players in Julio Cesar, Maicon and Zlatan Ibrahimovic but the supporting cast, which includes some real quality (Cambiasso, Zanetti etc.) is not in the same league as the attacking array of talent United have at their disposal.

So, if Inter are to progress to the quarter-finals it could well be due to the brilliance of Jose Mourinho and his side will need a resilient defensive performance combined with either an early goal to knock the stuffing out of United and the Old Trafford crowd or go the route of Porto in 2004 and claim a late away goal which won’t give Rooney, Ronaldo, Berbatov et al the opportunity to hit back.

The odds on an exact replica of the 1-1 scoreline achieved by Porto in 2004 are 6/1 whilst 2-2 is 20/1 and the odds on Inter Milan scoring the crucial first (away) goal are 15/8. Sir Alex Ferguson has already claimed that Inter will go for a 0-0 draw, which is 15/2 with the bookies.

This game also marks yet another opportunity for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to perform on the European stage. The super Swede has been found wanting in the Champions League and ask most English football fans what they think of Zlatan and they will describe him as one of the most overrated players in world football. Ibrahimovic is 8/1 to be first goal scorer, 40/1 to score in both halves and 28/1 to get sent off.

Whether Rio Ferdinand plays or not, United will be confident of taking a major step to their second successive Champions League final after a dominant display in the San Siro. The Manchester United midfield overpowered the Italians in the first leg and the likes of Fletcher, Carrick and Park should have the legs to see off Inter should the game go to extra time.

Ferguson will surely go for the Berbatov-Rooney partnership initially with Tevez off the bench if things are not going as smoothly as expected. And Cristiano Ronaldo will expect to perform on the biggest stage and claim his first Champions League goal of the season. (The Portuguese winger is 7/1 to score from outside the box and 3/1 to be man of the match.)

Inter will not make it easy and this game looks like being similar to the second leg of the Barcelona semi final last season. Similarly, it could be one of the old guard, such as Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs that could make the difference with a second-half goal.

101gg predicts: Manchester United 2 – Inter Milan 1 (15/2) & Michael Carrick first goal scorer (20/1)

Full match odds from 888sport here.