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Manchester United relish true test of ability [Feb. 25th, 2009|12:56 pm]
Peter Bills

The sheer professionalism of Manchester United, that quality which oozes from every pore of their being, carried them halfway towards the next stage of their Champions league title defence in the chilly San Siro, Milan, last night.

A match of stunning pace, a game that kept arresting the breath by its speed and dynamism, ended with United clearly in the box seat on the road to the final.
Indeed, after a first half in which United scorned all manner of possible goal scoring chances, it was possible to lay charges of mere talk against Inter’s coach Jose Mourinho and profligacy against United.
The Portugese coach clearly held the upper hand in personal battles against Sir Alex Ferguson in his career but the match in Milan last night manifestly re-dressed that unfavourable equation to the Scot’s advantage.
United were so tactically superior in the first half that it was Inter who were happy to reach half time level. Ferguson, by contrast, will have seethed at such profligacy in front of goal, chances to Ryan Giggs, Dimitar Berbatov and Cristiano Ronaldo all disappearing in the blink of an eye.
It was ever thus in a contest where the ball was swept imperiously across the Italian turf with a finesse and pace that told you this, at last, was the test United had been seeking. They have not found it in their own League this winter and they didn’t do so in the first 45 minutes last night.
But thereafter, things changed. United were content to cover, control and contain as Inter at last found a semblance of their manager’s renowned arrogance. Until then, so much of Mourinho’s public utterances, had seemed little more than hot air.
United worked like an army of industrious ants to preserve their crown. They built their attacks, mounted their defence and had workers scurrying all across the famed San Siro. When, after 83 minutes mark you, Ferguson felt inclined to unleash Wayne Rooney on the proceedings, he withdrew only reluctantly the worker-in-chief of his side, the industrious J. Park.
None had worked harder than him yet his efforts epitomised United’s labours. A team of super stars, no doubt, yet beyond dispute, a side created in their manager’s image – earthy, committed, dedicated to the cause and unflagging in their devotion. Never has Ferguson’s character, every fibre of his being, been laid so gloriously bare by his men upon a foreign field of battle.
Of course, United wobbled at times defensively. That goes with the territory on such occasions. But the belief they exuded, their neat control of the ball at the highest of speeds and their snap and threat all over the field promises much for the return leg in Manchester.
Only a typically wild lunge by Wayne Rooney which earned him a yellow card suggested a blot on United’s night. Once again, keeping a calm head on such emotional occasions seems distressingly beyond Rooney’s capabilities.
Thankfully for United, most of their other players had long since demonstrated a calm control and deep-seated belief that was quite beyond the ability of Internazionale to shake loose.
United will surely confirm their superior quality in the return and march upon the next round.