Manchester United drew 1-1 with AC Milan at Old Trafford on the UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg. Milan had the ball in the net twice in the first half of the match with one being ruled out for offside and Frank Kessie’s strike disallowed for a hand ball. United were the second-best team on the pitch for the majority of the first half, which also resulted in Anthony Martial receiving a knock. Amad Diallo replaced the Frenchman at the start of the second half and within five minutes he had the ball in the back of the net from a header, beating Gianluigi Donnarumma. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United looked to keep a clean sheet and head into the second leg with the advantage. However, in the last minute of added time Simon Kjaer scored an equaliser.
United started poorly with this young Milan side getting the better of them at each opportunity. The Italian side had the ball in the back of the net rather early but the flag was raised and it was ruled offside. However, in the 11th minute of the match, Frank Kessie, who is a capable player, also found the back of the net but VAR looked at it and the referee ruled out the goal for a handball, which seemed accidental, which will be fine when the rule change comes in on the 1 July 2021. Milan were back to squad one for the second time of the half. United did not do themselves many favours with few attacking opportunities in the first half. Alex Telles had a free kick which seemed like an overhit cross but became a shot on goal from distance.
United would need to do so much better in the second half of this match and keeping a clean sheet will be a big advantage heading to the San Siro next week with United having a good chance of reaching the quarter-final stage of the competition. However, getting through this match with the injuries that United had which see Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek, Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford all on the sidelines. As if that was not bad enough Anthony Martial seemed to suffer from a knock in the first half and was limping off at the half time break. Solskjaer made his first substitution at the start of the second half which saw Amad Diallo come on in place of Martial with United needing to work some magic to get back into the match after Milan’s dominance.
Diallo had am immediate impact in the match, scoring his first goal for the club within five minutes. He ran forward, won the header and beat Gianluigi Donnnarumma from close-range to fire United ahead with 40 minutes remaining. Milan did not seem the penetrative side they were in the first half, having a few opportunities after United broke the deadlock. That said, United did not seem like they were aiming to score another goal either, despite some good attacking plays, considering the talent they are missing from this match due to injury. Solskjaer made use of more substitutions, seeking to keep his players fresh for their challenge against West Ham United in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday evening.
Inn the 73rd minute of the match Fred replaced Bruno Fernandes, having assisted Diallo in his debut goal for his club. A minute later, a double substitution of Brandon Williams and Luke Shaw replaced Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James. United looked to be seeking to keep a clean sheet, which will be a result in this tie against a resurgent Milan side, who have attacked United at every opportunity they have had. United were keeping their areas clear, despite the Italian giants getting forward and pushing towards the end of the match. Three minutes were added on at the end of the match but in the very last minute, Simon Kjaer scored the equaliser, giving Milan an away goal, which puts them in an advantageous position next week.
United will need to go all out to score goals at the San Siro, which with Cavani, Martial and Rashford currently injured of having knocks could be difficult. I am sure Solskjaer will be seeking to find out whether he could get the likes of Pogba, Van de Beek and the attacking trio back in action again with the Hammers coming to the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday evening. It will be important for United to continue their winning ways in the Premier League, to make it easier to finish in the top four this season, instead of leaving it until the last game of the season to do just that. There are many positives to be had from this match but more hope with the quality of the players that are currently injured.
Goals: Amad Diallo 50′; Simon Kjaer 90+2′
Assists: Bruno Fernandes 50′; Rade Krunic 90+2′
Manchester United: Henderson; Wan-Bissaka (Williams 74′), Bailly, Maguire, Telles; Matic, McTominay; James (Shaw 74′), Fernandes (Fred 73′), Martial (Diallo 46′); Greenwood
Substitutes Not Used: Grant, Bishop; Lindelof, Tuanzebe; Shoretire
Bookings: Scott McTominay 55′; Alexis Saelemaekers 18′
Written by John Walker