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Feb 24, 2009

Ronaldo relishing mighty battle

Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo is looking forward to a "titanic" battle with Inter Milan at the San Siro in Tuesday night's Champions League last-16 clash.

The World Player of the Year is aiming to be part of the first side to retain the trophy since it was formed in 1992; but the runaway Serie A leaders will provide a tough test for the European champions.

"It is going to be a titanic fight," Ronaldo said. "Inter are top of Serie A which tells you immediately they are a good team who are going to give us a tough game.

"But we are playing well, which should give us confidence. We just have to be ready."

Inter manager Jose Mourinho has a fantastic home record that stretches back to his time as Porto boss, when he knocked United out of Europe at this stage of the Champions League en route to winning the title in 2004.

And, while Ronaldo is confident the holders will get through, he recognises Inter will not be disposed of without a mighty battle in Milan.

"A good result is a win but if we draw it is not bad because Inter know it will be difficult to beat us in Manchester," Ronaldo said.

The last time United travelled to the San Siro, AC Milan scored three times without reply as they beat the Red Devils in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will take a late check on the fitness of John O'Shea and Jonny Evans before finalising his line-up.

O'Shea is more likely to shrug off the pain of a sore heel than Evans is to battle through an ankle injury, but if either are fit it would at least give Rio Ferdinand a partner in central defence.

Fabio Da Silva - whose twin brother Rafael is absent with an injured ankle - and Darren Fletcher stand by to fill the right-back slot.

"My options? I panic!" said Ferguson, only half-jokingly when asked what he would do if both his Irishmen were ruled out. "I suppose I could play Dimitar Berbatov as a sweeper."

At a time when plausible rivals on the domestic front are disappearing, the United chief is relishing a meeting of minds with Mourinho, who has only lost one of their previous 12 head-to-head duels.

There has never been anything worse that a healthy rivalry between the two men, with opinion growing that Mourinho will one day succeed Ferguson at Old Trafford.

And, as he enjoys a fabulous climax to his own career, Ferguson credits Mourinho's arrival in England for giving his team the edge they had lost.

"When Jose came there was a great upsurge at Chelsea," he said. "I remember he uttered those words 'I am the Special One' and it seemed to galvanise the whole club. They won the first two titles under his management and their starts just caught us on the hop.

"By the time we got to October in that first season we were trying to play catch-up. It gave them the upper hand over everyone really."

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