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Feb 23, 2009

Mourinho: United aren't untouchable

Jose Mourinho has laughed off Arsene Wenger's claim that Manchester United are ''untouchable'' on their current form, claiming that his Inter side will beat the Red Devils on Tuesday in their Champions League encounter.

Mourinho's men face a tough test as United went 14 games without conceding a goal before their 2-1 win over Blackburn at the weekend, but the former Chelsea boss is confident his side can progress to the next round.

"Untouchable ... no," said Mourinho in the Daily Mirror. "I hope United think like that, though, because they're not untouchable."

"It doesn't matter how many of my team could get into theirs because my team is more than the sum of the parts," added Mourinho. "Players don't play individually. It's team play and United is not better than my team. We will beat them."

Mourinho, on the eve of the clash, dismissed the significance of Nemanja Vidic's absence and claimed that nothing would be determined until the very end of the second leg at Old Trafford.

''They are only strong in defence because their opponents have been poor,'' he said. ''There are teams who go to Old Trafford and do not play with much ambition. It then becomes easier for them to control the game.

''Obviously Vidic is a great player, but they have O'Shea and Evans, who is playing really well, and Scholes and Carrick give them a lot of stability so the fact Vidic is not playing will not be a big advantage for us.

''I have told the players that they have got to go into this tie and not be afraid of the possibility of, in 15 days, Inter being out of Champions League. We have got to go into this tie thinking that in 15 days probably we can celebrate that we have beaten the European champions.

''Nothing will be decided tomorrow. After the game, we will all have the feeling that there is going to be another great game at Old Trafford. Probably come the last minute at Old Trafford, nobody knows who is going to go through.''

The Italian has also said he deserves credit for turning United into European champions, after his Chelsea side raised the bar for them, claiming that his reign at Stamford Bridge made United up their game, resulting in them winning back the Premier League and Champions League.

He told the Sun: "When I was in England, Chelsea was the best team between 2004-06. That is why we won two consecutive Premierships.

"Manchester United at that time realised they needed to be better to win it and, in my third season, that's what they did. And they went on to win the Champions League.

"That has given them so much confidence. They are certainly a better team now than when I was in England."

Mourinho is convinced his side has what it takes to knock out the holders. He added: "This is the biggest challenge of my career here. The Champions League is so important to Inter Milan, because they have not won the cup for nearly 50 years. It is the ambition of everyone at this club to do it."

''I have a great relationship with Sir Alex. You know during the game it is going to be a real war. But afterwards there is always happiness and we share some time together. I don't want that to change, no matter who wins or loses.

"I have so many good memories of facing United. I beat them while with Porto in the last 16, in a Carling Cup semi-final with Chelsea and also at Stamford Bridge to claim our second title." You can throw in the 2007 FA Cup win, too, and Mourinho admitted: "My personal record against them makes me confident."

Many believe Mourinho will return to England in the near future, but the Portuguese revealed other plans.

"One of my ambitions as a manager is to win the three most important championships in Europe - the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga. If I can do the first two, my focus in the future will be on La Liga," he added.

Mourinho also believes the United battle could revolve around how his team handle Cristiano Ronaldo and United cope with the player he believes is the world's best - Inter striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

He declared: "Cristiano Ronaldo is a top player. It is impossible to stop such a good player, just as Sir Alex will find with Ibrahimovich."

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