CL Preview: United meet nemesis Mourinho

MILAN - Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho is thrilled to be playing Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday because of his great record against the holders and a wish to test his side against the best.

The last 16 first leg clash at the San Siro brings the charismatic Portuguese face-to-face with United's Alex Ferguson for the first time since he left Chelsea in 2007.

Mourinho has acknowledged he may seem "mad" for wanting to play the Premier League leaders, who had not conceded a league goal in 14 matches before Saturday's 2-1 win over Blackburn.

However, statistics show Mourinho has got the better of Ferguson most of the time -- winning six, drawing five and losing one of their 12 meetings.

His Porto side knocked United out on their way to winning the Champions League in 2004 and his Chelsea team beat United to the English Premier League title in 2005 and 2006.

United hit back by taking the league in 2007 but Mourinho defeated them in the FA Cup final that year.

Inter are nine points clear in Serie A in Mourinho's first season but stumbled through the Champions League group stages.

Having only won the trophy in 1964 and 1965, Inter have flattered to deceive in the Champions League and Mourinho hopes the big draw can inspire them to end their European malaise.

"I don't want my players to go on the pitch under pressure. I want them to play with pleasure," Mourinho said.

"I've known all about Manchester United since 2004. They're the best team in the world, they play on the counter-attack and we'll have to be very intelligent in how we deal with this."


Dejan Stankovic was rested for the first half of Saturday's 2-1 win at Bologna but is expected to start on Tuesday just behind the powerful front two of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Adriano.

Midfielder Patrick Vieira, who had several battles with United in his Arsenal days, is a doubtful starter having only just recovered from injury while Mourinho has issues in defence with Walter Samuel and Cristian Chivu not fully fit.

Three-times European Cup winners United are without defender Nemanja Vidic, who is suspended after being sent off in their Club World Cup final win over Ecuador's LDU in December.

Fellow centre back Jonny Evans limped off against Blackburn with an ankle injury while Wes Brown and Gary Neville have already been ruled out of the trip to the San Siro.

"I just hope I can get two centre backs but at this moment in time it's very doubtful," Ferguson said. "Jonny Evans would have played on Tuesday but he's very doubtful. I'm hoping I'll have John O'Shea fit."

Probable teams:

Inter Milan: 12-Julio Cesar; 13-Maicon, 2-Ivan Cordoba, 26-Cristian Chivu, 39-Davide Santon; 4-Javier Zanetti, 19-Esteban Cambiasso, 20-Sulley Muntari; 5-Dejan Stankovic; 10-Adriano, 8-Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Manchester United: 1-Edwin van der Sar; 21-Rafael, 5-Rio Ferdinand, 22-John O'Shea, 3-Patrice Evra; 7-Cristiano Ronaldo, 16-Michael Carrick, 18-Paul Scholes, 11-Ryan Giggs; 10-Wayne Rooney, 9-Dimitar Berbatov