Date: 11th March 2009 at 1:38pm
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OK, so we’ve been forced to put up with dark predictions about how Jose will get the better of Sir Alex again during the last two weeks. The prophets claimed that Mourinho’s superior record in head-to-head clashes with our boss will prove decisive.

Well of course this is rubbish. The record they speak about exists of course: Fergie’s United won only one game out of thirteen against Mourinho’s teams. But let’s put a bit of a spin on this.

First, when in charge of Porto, Mourinho knocked out a United side that was an absolute shambles with more than the aid of good fortune. We were rubbish in those months (next game after the Porto disaster was the 4-1 defeat at Citeh) yet outplayed the Portuguese team at Old Trafford and should have won but for the linesman and Howard’s terrible error.

Then our Jose took charge at Chelsea, Chelsea who’ve been our bogey team since more than a decade. This Chelsea team was strengthened with the infinite money of Abramovich while United were forced to field the likes of Miller, Kleberson and Djemba-Djemba. To summarise: our bogey team suddenly became much stronger than us and we couldn’t live with them. Hardly surprising.

The year 2006 represents a turning point of course: United became a power again both on the domestic front and in Europe. Since then the two managers have met four times – three of these occasions have ended in draws which hardly show a great superiority of either manager.

The fourth game (chronologically speaking it was the third) was the 2007 FA Cup final, a total borefest which United shaded but lost. Claiming that Mourinho’s tactical ingenuity helped Chelsea to a win would be stretching the truth to breaking point: Chelsea set out to squeeze the life out of a tired but triumphant United team. We still had the better of the chances but Chelsea scored in extra time and won the Cup, not undeservedly I have to admit.

My point is that when the two managers had roughly similarly strong teams then results and performances were pretty even and when Mourinho had a significantly better team then results showed that. This is the first occasion though when United have an obviously better team than what Mourinho can boast (yes, that Porto team was no worse than that United team without the suspended Ferdinand and the injured Solskjaer).

Inter can still go through of course: luck, psychology and all sorts of things play a role in football. But through the history of the Fergie v Mourinho duels the better players were who usually proved decisive, not the tactical surprises. This time we have the better players and we should make it count.