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Preview: United’s squad stronger to face Milan with De Gea, Pogba and Van de Beek all returning; Cavani now misses out

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AC Milan -v- Manchester United

UEFA Europa League

San Siro, Milan

Thursday 18 March 2021, KO 20:00 GMT

Referee: Felix Brych Assistants: Mark Borsch, Stefan Lupp

Fourth Official: Christian Dingert

VAR: Marco Fritz Assistant VAR: Sascha Stegemann

Manchester United will travel to Italy to face AC Milan at the San Siro in the round of 16 second leg of the UEFA Europa League on Thursday evening. It was a 1-1 draw in the first leg at Old Trafford last week which saw 18-year-old Amad Diallo score his first goal for the club five minutes after replacing the injured Anthony Martial. Unfortunately for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, Simon Kjaer equalised in the penultimate minute of added time with goalkeeper Dean Henderson punching the ball into the top of his own net, which must have been devastating for him. To overcome that, Henderson kept a clean sheet against West Ham United on Sunday.

With United conceding an away goal, it will be in their hands to outscore the Italian giants on Thursday with the side having the advantage at this moment in time. If United score at least twice, it will add pressure to the hosts and United will be in the driving seat, as long as they can minimise Milan’s attacking threat, which was the case at Old Trafford last week. Milan lost 1-0 to Napoli this weekend so they will be seeking to return to winning ways and restore faith by knocking United out of the competition but Solskjaer’s side will be seeking to be in Friday’s draw for the quarter-final stage of the competition in his quest for his first trophy as United manager.

Both Solskjaer and Stefano Pioli may be facing problems with their squad ahead of this match with injuries but each manager has worries regarding bookings in this match with Milan having three players a booking away from suspension, which means they will miss the first leg of the quarter-final, should they advance. These players are; Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alessio Romagnoli and Alexis Saelemaekers. United have four players at risk of suspension following a booking. These players are; Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Scott McTominay and Brandon Williams. There could be trouble ahead if United lose both Maguire and Lindelof to bookings.

Manchester United: WDWDDD

West Ham United 1-0 W, AC Milan 1-1 D, Manchester City 2-0 W, Crystal Palace 0-0 D, Chelsea 0-0 D, Real Sociedad 0-0 D

AC Milan: LDWDWD

SSC Napoli 1-0 L, Manchester United 1-1 D, Hellas Verona FC 2-0 W, Udinese Calcio 1-1 D, AS Roma 2-1 W, Crvena zvezda 1-1 D

Top Scorers: United have scored 88 goals in all competitions this season with Milan scoring just 64 times so far this season. Bruno Fernandes (24) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (14) lead the way for both clubs.

Manchester United Goals: 23 – Bruno Fernandes, 18 – Marcus Rashford, 7 – Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, 5 – Daniel James, 4 – Mason Greenwood, Paul Pogba, 3 – Own Goal, 2 – Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 1 – Amad Diallo, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Donny van de Beek

In the last six matches in all competitions, United are still unbeaten; winning twice and drawing four of the matches played. United have scored four goals and conceded once, which is a good sign, keeping five clean sheets, which is even better in a demonstration of consistency. Granted, United’s attack has been thwarted by injury, which is why goals had not been scored with United down to bare bones. With players now coming back to fitness and ready to feature for the club, United will be inn a much better position to reach the quarter-final stage of the competition this season, which is what the focus will be one achieving.

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, Simon Kjaer, Alessio Romagnoli

Milan have been a much better club this season and they are rising to the challenge domestically once again, sitting in second place in the Serie A table, although they are nine points adrift of league leaders Inter Milan. In their last six matches in all competitions, Milan have won twice, drawn three times and lost once, which was in their match against Napoli at the weekend. They have scored seven goals, conceding five and keeping one clean sheet, which shows a weakness in the defence at this time, which could be something for United to get on the end of. That said, Milan have missed Ibrahimovic and he could be back for Thursday’s clash.

Team News: Solskjaer boosted with Cavani, Van de Beek, Pogba and De Gea news although Martial will miss out. Ibrahimovic, Mandzukic, Bennacer and Maldini could all miss the clash with United.

Phil Jones (knee) and Juan Mata (other) have both been ruled out of action for the foreseeable future. It is suggested that Jones may not feature for United for the remainder of the season. After Sunday’s 1-0 victory over West Ham United at Old Trafford, Solskjaer gave the news that Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek and David De Gea are in contention to feature against AC Milan. Anthony Martial, Eric Bailly, Nathan Bishop and Shola Shoretire have not travelled to Italy for the match. However, after the final training session on Wednesday, Cavani suffered a reaction which means he will remain in Manchester for observation.

Mario Mandzukic (muscular) and Daniel Maldini (unknown) are currently on the sidelines for Milan. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has missed the last five matches and returned to training on Monday so could be in line to face United. Ismaël Bennacer has missed the last eight matches and there are hopes that he will be available to face United. At the weekend Hakan Calhanoglu, Theo Hernandez and Ante Rebic all returned to action with the latter being sent off, which will not affect his availability for Thursday’s match. Milan have the slight advantage with the away goal scored at Old Trafford last week but if United score one goal, that advantage is gone.

Predicted Starting XI: Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood to lead the attack against AC Milan at the San Siro on Thursday evening?

Solskjaer gave the impression that David De Gea, Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek and Edinson Cavani could all be fit to face AC Milan on Thursday evening, in what it a big match for United. Anthony Martial might not be fully ready for the match but could be a substitute on the bench, not that his current form is anything to go by. This is good news for United. As Tuesday’s training pictures were released, it showed the trio of Pogba, Van de Beek and Cavani training but not De Gea, to my knowledge. It would seem that United are going to be much stronger in Milan than they were at Old Trafford last week, which is a good sign for the manager and the club.

Match Prediction: 11 matches played between United and Milan. Each club has five victories and one draw ahead of the clash to see which teams reached the quarter-final of the UEFA Europa League this season.

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.

AC Milan 1-3 Manchester United

Written by John Walker

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copyright: JW