Internazionale Vs. Manchester United: A Defensive Battle

Rob FergusonContributor IFebruary 18, 2009

Next week sees two of Europe's most in-form sides meet on what arguably is the most mouth-watering Champions League clash of this knockout stage. The champions of the world, Manchester United, will meet the champions of Italy, Internazionale, at the San Siro on Tuesday, in what I believe will be a very defensive battle.

It would obviously be foolish to overlook both teams' attacking talent. Manchester United have a forward line of Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Cristiano Ronaldo, and when you can afford to leave the likes of Carlos Tevez on the bench, you know it's a team bursting with destructive power.

Internazionale on the other hand, have the sheer force of Adriano and the technical prowess of Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading their forward line. All of these strikers have the ability to score out of nothing, which is why the defence plays an especially important role in this match.

Italy is renowned (sometimes stereotyped) for its defensive way of playing the game, but this tactic can sometimes come undone against teams from different countries.

Liverpool, for example, completely overpowered Inter in last year's competition; the Italians simply couldn't keep up with the pace and force of Liverpool's game.

However, Italy-based defenders are still feared by strikers around the world, and this is evident in Italy's generally low-scoring domestic league. Compared to games in the Spanish and especially German leagues, not many goals are on show, and it's a defensive game all round.

Inter have strength in depth in the centre-back position; Christian Chivu, Walter Samuel and Ivan Cordoba are all fantastic defensive talents.

Anyone keeping up with Manchester United in recent times will know about their current league defensive record; an impressive 1,155 minutes (at time of writing) without conceding a goal.

This statistic is based on the one goalkeeper, Edwin Van der Sar, and an ever-changing defence. Nemanja Vidic in particular has been very impressive at centre-back, although unfortunately for United he will not play at the San Siro, instead serving a European ban for a sending off at United's CWC victory.

Johnny Evans and Rio Ferdinand still make a formidable defensive pairing and will frustrate Inter's attackers for sure.

A big talking point is the use of full-backs. In the right-back position, both teams have similar first choices. Maicon and Rafael are both Brazilian attacking full-backs (think Roberto Carlos or Dani Alves), and both have impressed this season.

The only difference is Maicon is a good nine years older than his United counterpart and arguably more mature in his playing of the game.

One weakness in both their games is their ability to get back and defend when needed - both are great at bombing up and down the flanks, but sometimes can be caught out of position and cause problems for the central defensive pairing.

Inter are more reliable on Maicon creating play than United are on Rafael, but will either team want to play attacking full backs in a game where defence needs to be so tight?




Internazionale: Inter beat AC Milan 2-1 on Sunday night, in a controversial game. Adriano's goal to open the scoring looked suspiciously handball, but still stood.

If you would argue that, Inter's second was pure class, with an excellent cross into the box from Stankovic to lash past Abbiati. Ibrahimovic didn't get on the score sheet, but still created a lot of opportunities, and is definitely a man on form.

Manchester United: United crushed Derby 4-1 in the FA Cup on Sunday, and at time of writing were beating Fulham 3-0 in the league. At present, it doesn't look like anyone will score against them in the domestic league, but European competition is a different story; United's two wins in the group stage reflect this.


Likely lineups:



  • GK: Julio Cesar
  • RB: Maicon
  • CB: Samuel
  • CB: Chivu
  • LB: Cordoba
  • DMF: Muntari
  • CMF: Zanetti
  • CMF: Cambiasso
  • AMF: Stankovic
  • SS: Ibrahimovic
  • CF: Adriano

Manchester United:

  • GK: Van der Sar
  • RB: Neville
  • CB: Ferdinand
  • CB: Evans
  • LB: Evra
  • DMF: Carrick
  • CMF: Giggs
  • RMF: Ronaldo
  • LMF: Nani
  • CF: Rooney
  • CF: Berbatov



Internazionale: 1-1 Manchester United


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