Manchester United beat AC Milan 1-0 in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg, winning 2-1 on aggregate to earn a place in the quarter-final of the competition with the draw being held on Friday, where United will learn their fate. It was a dire first 45 minutes for United, who did not look like scoring and went into the break knowing that they would need to step up. Paul Pogba returned from injury, replacing Marcus Rashford at half time, scoring the only goal of the game in the 48th minute of the match, which saw United through. A late onslaught from Milan led to nothing for them, other than an exit from the competition.
United did not have the greatest of starts in Milan with the home side doing all they needed to do on and off the ball to keep United at bay. They were effectively winning the tie with the away goal from last week so were in a position of strength keeping United at bay. Mason Greenwood seemed to be the most potent Anointed player in the early stages of the half to cause some damage, especially with his pace, but United were not getting the right responses from the players to get an early goal. Solskjaer’s side needed to break through the Milan defence and get something to level the game, which would take some pressure off them.
Luke Shaw was an outlet of attack on the left again, which has been the case in recent matches. United had a great chance in the 12th minute of the match with Shaw playing a one-two with Marcus Rashford before Bruno Fernandes had his first sight of goal on the edge of the box but the ball eventually skipped over the crossbar. Milan then went on the attack with Pierre Kalulu losing the ball to Fred before Franck Kessie received another pass and tried his luck from distance with the ball heading into the arms of Dean Henderson. It was not really a first half to talk about other than think about the challenge that United had ahead of them.
At the start of the second half, United made a change with Marcus Rashford being replaced by Paul Pogba with the Frenchman playing on the wing, which is a gamble but something the player has been involved in before his latest injury. Almost instantly he made an impact with United forward, Fernandes played the ball to Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James then received the cross but his shot was deflected wide. Fred then did well to make Milan panic with a clearance as Pogba collected the ball. He then dummied a shot before dinning the ball over Gianluigi Donnarumma to get a vital away goal for United.
United then started to find more attacking prowess as they had more chances, seeking for a cushion in their lead, which will see them through if Milan did not score. Milan then brought on former United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and current loanee Diogo Dalot as the Italian side fouled Pogba more than once, with Dalot being shown a card for a foul. United may have been tempting fate by sitting on this away goal, in what has been a difficult two-legged tie for United, which is only to be expected from the Italian giants, who have not let up in this game and did not let up last week.
Five minutes were added on at the end of the match with United needing to hold on and stop Milan from getting a sight on goal. United were not able to celebrate anything as Milan were still seeking another late equaliser, which would have taken the match into extra time, which is what happened with Tottenham Hotspur in their match with Dinamo Zagreb, who were 2-0 at full time. They ended up scoring a third which saw Spurs exit the competition with Jose Mourinho not looking all that happy – but when does he? United hung on and grinned out the victory, which was good to see. Another clean sheet and a place in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
Goals: Paul Pogba 48′
Manchester United: Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, McTominay; James, Fernandes, Rashford (Pogba 46′); Greenwood
Substitutes Not Used: De Gea, Grant; Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe; Diallo, Matic, Van de Beek
Bookings: Pierre Kalulu 65′, Diogo Dalot 77′, Simon Kjaer 85′, Theo Hernandez 90+5′; Luke Shaw 90+3′
Written by John Walker