Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho hailed Manchester United as the best counter-attacking team in the world ahead of the pair's UEFA Champions League clash on Tuesday. The battle at the San Siro between the champions of Italy and their visitors, who hold the titles of English, European and world champions, is the most mouth-watering of all the second round pairings in Europe's premier competition. And Mourinho is under no illusions as to who the favourites are, but he wants his team to relax and go out to express themselves when Sir Alex Ferguson's team arrives in town.
"I don't want my players to feel under pressure. I want them to enjoy themselves and the first thing I will tell them is that I have great belief in their ability to win it," said Mourinho. "I've known Manchester since 2004. They're the best counter-attacking team in the world and can kill their opponents in transition [from defence to attack].
"They have [Dimitar] Berbatov, who has fantastic technical qualities and then [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Wayne] Rooney, [Carlos] Tevez or Park [Ji-sung] who can make the difference, give them width and pace. Our concentration will have to be spot on."
Mourinho first pitted his wits against Ferguson at the same stage in 2004 and a late equaliser from his Porto team at Old Trafford gave them a 3-2 aggregate victory, after which they went on to lift the trophy. That earned Mourinho a move to Chelsea and he enjoyed an excellent record against Ferguson while with the Londoners, beating United to the title in 2005 and 2006 and wresting the FA Cup away from their northern rivals in 2007.
"From now we are totally focused on the challenge against Manchester United," said Mourinho. "I will tell the players that I have great belief in their ability to qualify for the next round and, like the derby (against AC Milan), I expect it to be a great match. It's a challenge that has arrived at an ideal time for us from both a physical and mental point of view. It should be a pleasure to play in this match and we'll approach it with calm and without any added pressure."
Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar, who made several fine stops in yesterday's 2-1 victory at Bologna, said he was confident his team could depose the current holders.
"I'm not worried. It's a match that will be decided by little details," he said. "They're a great team with many forwards that strike fear into their opponents, but we're aware of our own strengths. We have no reason to fear anyone. I'm sure we'll qualify for the next round."