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Preview: Manchester United must treat AC Milan like they did in 2010 after renewed confidence of Manchester City victory

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Manchester United -v- AC Milan

UEFA Europa League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Thursday 11 March 2021, KO 17:55 GMT

Referee: Slavko Vinčić Assistants: Tomaž Klančnik, Andraž Kovačič

Fourth Official: Matej Jug

VAR: Bastian Dankert Assistant VAR: Jure Praprotnik

Manchester United return to UEFA Europa League action at Old Trafford on Thursday evening as they welcome Italian giants AC Milan to the Theatre of Dreams for the first time in the European competition. United last faced Milan in the UEFA Champions League during the 2009/10 season in which they won 7-2 on aggregate, which was a great result back then. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be boosted by their 2-0 Manchester derby victory over Premier League leaders Manchester City on Sunday, which saw Bruno Fernandes score a second minute penalty and Luke Shaw score his first goal of the season in the 50th minute of the match, getting the better over Pep Guardiola’s side who has won their last 21 matches in all competitions.

United have managed 24 away matches in the Premier League undefeated, closing in on Arsenal 27 match unbeaten record which was set between April 2003 and September 2004. In all domestic competitions, United have managed 29 matches unbeaten, which is a major positive this season. United’s home form is not as impressive, but Rome was not built in a day. There is progress to be seen, unless you are one of those supporters who seem to find negativity everywhere and nothing ever pleases you. Last season, United made it to the semi-final stage of the Europa League and they will be seeking to go further this season following their exit from the Champions League back in December. You have to be in it to win it.

Manchester United: WDDDWW

Manchester City 2-0 W, Crystal Palace 0-0 D, Chelsea 0-0 D, Real Sociedad 0-0 D, Newcastle United 3-1 W, Real Sociedad 4-0 W

AC Milan: WDWDLD

Hellas Verona FC 2-0 W, Udinese Calcio 1-1 D, AS Roma 2-1 W, FK Crvena Zvezda 1-1 D, Inter Milan 3-0 L, FK Crvena Zvezda 2-2 D

Top Scorers: Bruno Fernandes has scored 23 goals for United this season, which is nine goals more than Zlatan Ibrahimovic has managed for Milan. Marcus Rashford has 18 goals but he might miss this match due to injury.

Manchester United Goals: 23 – Bruno Fernandes, 18 – Marcus Rashford, 7 – Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, 5 – Daniel James, 4 – Mason Greenwood, Paul Pogba, 2 – Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, Own Goal, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 1 – Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Donny van de Beek

United are still undefeated in their last six matches, winning three and drawing three. Solskjaer’s side have scored nine goals, conceding one and keeping five clean sheets, which is good form to be in despite the three draws in a row. After two draws in the Premier League following their 3-1 victory over Newcastle United, United returned to winning ways on Sunday, beating Premier League leaders Manchester City following the 0-0 draws against both Chelsea and Crystal Palace. After beating Real Sociedad in the round of 32 stage of the UEFA Europa League 4-0 on aggregate, which included a 0-0 draw, United are now tasked with Milan in the round of 16 stage for a place in the quarter-final and semi-final draws on the 19 March 2021.

AC Milan Goals: 14 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 10 – Franck Kessié, 6 – Rafael Leão, 5 – Theo Hernández, Ante Rebic, 4 – Brahim Díaz, Jens Petter Hauge, 3 – Samu Castillejo, 2 – Davide Calabria, Hakan Calhanoglu, Diogo Dalot, Rade Krunic, Alexis Saelemaekers, 1 – Pierre Kalulu, Alessio Romagnoli

Milan have two wins, three draws and one defeat in their last six matches in all competitions this season, scoring eight goals, conceding eight goals and keeping just one clean sheet. Milan, like United, sit second in the Serie A table, to city rivals Inter Milan, like United who are second to Manchester City. Milan are currently three points adrift of Inter and four points ahead of Juventus on their trail to challenge for league titles once more. United loanee Diogo Dalot scored his second goal of the season against Hellas Verona on Sunday, scoring his first in the Europa League against Sparta Prague earlier in the season. Former United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks set to miss a return to Old Trafford, which is a shame for him and United.

Team News: Four players out for United with the club sweating on three more; up to seven players could be missing for Milan.

Phil Jones (knee), Paul Pogba (thigh), David De Gea (paternity) and Juan Mata (other) will once again miss the match for United, which will be seen as a blow in the case of Pogba, who would relish going head to head with a club he has faired against in Italy whilst playing for Juventus. Donny van de Beek and Edinson Cavani have 25% chances of facing Milan after missing the Manchester Derby (both) and the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace (Van de Beek). Marcus Rashford limped off in the 2-0 victory over City on Sunday, himself having a 25% chance of featuring for United in the Europa League, which will be another blow, especially if Cavani is still out of action. It could give more plain time for Amad Diallo and Shola Shoretire though.

Daniel Maldini (unknown), Ismaël Bennacer (muscular), Mario Mandzukic (muscular), Hakan Calhanoglu (muscular), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (muscle tear), Theo Hernandez (shin bruise) and Ante Rebic (hip) could all miss the trip to Manchester, which could be seen as a huge blow for the Italian giants who will be seeking to return to the pinnacle of European football this season, keeping in mind their current position in the Serie A; second. Stefano Pioli may have some tough decisions ahead of Thursday’s clash. Diogo Dalot, who is on loan with Milan for the 2020/21 season, is eligible to face United in the Europa League, which would be interesting to see how well he has done, providing he is selected to face his parent club.

Predicted Starting XI: Edinson Cavani or Anthony Martial to lead the line for United? Amad Diallo to get his first start for the club or remain on the bench once again?

Solskjaer will need to pick a team capable of getting at least a clean sheet at Old Trafford as Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Brandon Williams are all one yellow cards away from missing the second leg, which with the current injuries at the club, would not be the best thing that could happen. I would expect Eric Bailly to start in this match, as he missed the Manchester derby at the weekend. I would like to see Edinson Cavani start, as this is something that he would want, if fit so a guess will have to be made as to whether he will be ready. The same could be said for Donny van de Beek, who has also missed a lot of football at a time where he would have made the team with Paul Pogba on the sidelines, which is a big shame. He could have gained some momentum.

Match Prediction: Ten matches played between United and Milan in 63 years. Both teams have won five matches, each scoring 13 times. It is quote a level history between the two teams with around 11 years since their last competitive matches. This will be the first time both teams have met in the UEFA Europa League.

United and Milan have met competitively ten times in the history of both clubs, all in the European Cup/UEFA Champions League. United have won five times with Milan winning five times, meaning there has been no draws between the two clubs. United have scored 13 goals against Milan with the Italian giants scoring 13 goals – making it level between the two clubs. The last time United faced Milan was in the round of 16 in the Champions League in the 2009/10 season; winning 3-2 at the San Siro with Ronaldinho and Clarence Seedorf scoring for Milan and Paul Scholes and a brace from Wayne Rooney winning the match. United won 4-0 (7-2 on aggregate) in the second leg with Rooney scoring a brace and Park Ji Sung and Darren Fletcher also scoring.

United also met Milan in the semi-final of the competition at Old Trafford in the 2006/07 season, winning 3-2 in Milan with Cristiano Ronaldo and a Rooney brace and Kaka scoring a brace for the Italian side. At the San Siro, United were beaten 3-0, losing 5-3 on aggregate with Kaka, Seedorf and Alberto Gilardino all scoring. United met Milan in the 2006/07 season at the round of 16 stage, losing 2-0 on aggregate (two 1-0 defeats) with Hernan Crespo scoring in each legs. In 1969, United lost 2-1 on aggregate with Sir Bobby Charlton scoring United’s only goal at the semi-final stage. In 1958, after the Munich Air Disaster, United lost 5-2 on aggregate at the semi-final stage with Ernie Taylor and Dennis Viollet scoring.

Manchester United 2-1 AC Milan

Written by John Walker

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