‘Milan colpito e affondato L’Inter ne fa 4 nel derby’ (Milan hit and sunk, Inter score 4 in the derby) was the way La Gazzetta Dello Sport described the events that transpired in the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Saturday night. It was a remarkable game for la Beneamata and their fans, and one that really sums up the change in fortunes that have befallen the Milan teams over the last few years. Inter are now the best team in the city by a considerable margin, a fact underlined by the manner of this weekend’s victory – it was not just a win, it was domination.
Club President Massimo Moratti was ecstatic at the victory, but could not help taking a shot at il Diavolo, saying: “We had to fight in the first 20 minutes, but then we played a great game. I have to congratulate my boys for another reason too – they didn’t want to attack relentlessly and they stopped in the second half!” José Mourinho also took the opportunity to send out a message, telling the squad that this victory was the true beginning of the post-Zlatan Ibrahimović era: “Now we have a higher potential even without Ibra. We are more balanced. Without Zlatan, we will only become even more of a football team.” This is a psychological barrier that the Coach knows could still hinder his squad – that they will miss the fantasy Ibra added to the team – but he feels that the addition of Wesley Sneijder should help to allay those fears: “Football is nice because when you win everything is well and when you lose everything is bad. If we’d lost they would have killed me for playing Sneijder, but I knew I would’ve let him play for the last 24 hours.”
The aforementioned Mr Sneijder has been a subject that we have talked about at length in the club focus over the last week but his performance on Saturday justified all the trouble through which Inter have gone to sign him. Thiago Motta, Javier Zanetti and Dejan Stankovic are three very talented players, but the addition of the Dutchman has already added something extra to the side, and it was shown in the sixth minute when he drove a powerful effort from 30 yards forcing a very good stop from Marco Storari in the Milan goal. The difference in the Inter midfield compared to the performance against Bari last week is enough to see why so many people are now predicting that the Nerazzurri will be unstoppable in Serie A this season.
However, it is important that the Nerazzurri do not get carried away by this victory. Yes, it was a great win against their rivals, and yes, Milan is a big club and it will be a massive confidence boost – but the season is still young. To use a common cliché, Rome was not built in a day (and neither was Milan), and one great performance does not make a great team. It has to be used as an incentive, and with two weeks before their next game Mourinho must focus on maintaining this post-derby momentum, because the match against Parma could feel like a huge letdown after such a high. It is not big wins but consistency that will ultimately be rewarded with another Scudetto. Captain Javier Zanetti has been playing for long enough to know that early season joy can quickly turn to pain, and urged caution in his post-match interview: “We must continue like this because the league is only just beginning,” said the Argentine, “but this result is an important sign – it means that we are doing well and we have to stay on this path.”
The other main talking point of Inter’s week has been the draw for the Champions League group stage. It is a competition that has not been kind to la Beneamata in recent times, and their inclusion in a group with reigning champions Barcelona will be a difficult challenge. With Dynamo Kyiv and the Russian side Rubin Kazan as the other two teams in the group, Inter will be expecting to make it through, but, as last season’s performance shows, every game in the Champions League is a difficult proposition and it is often the teams perceived as weak that cause the early problems. Playing Barça will, as Coach Mourinho said, quickly show Inter “who they are” in Europe, and whether they can realistically expect to be around in the latter stages of the competition. The Nerazzurri are certainly a stronger squad now in terms of overall depth, and with a significant amount of money invested this summer it is fair to assume that Massimo Moratti will expect his club to perform much better than last season.
In the last club focus we said that after the derby we would know whether teams could come to the Giuseppe Meazza with a sense that they could take points from the champions, but now they will be more scared than ever. This performance has sent out a message that if someone wants to take lo Scudetto from Inter, they are in for one hell of a fight.