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Manchester United ‘targeting’ Franck Kessie ahead of contract expiry next summer

Manchester United are reportedly interested in signing AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie who will be a free agent next summer. Spanish news outlet Mundo Deportivo, via The Sun have reported the transfer news, which is interesting to say the least.

United will need to find a defensive midfielder ahead of the 2022/23 season despite needing to sign one this summer to balance the midfield with Nemanja Matic the only experienced player in this position at the club, even with Scott McTominay, who has excelled in the position – but it is not the position he plays in the best.

It is expected that Paul Pogba, 28, will leave the Old Trafford club in the summer on the expiry of his current contract, which is rumoured to be in discussion to be renewed but there are also reports that suggest the player could leave the Theatre of Dreams after six years back at the club. Kessie is a good option for United but there will be a number of clubs interested in signing him as a free agent.

It is reported that Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool all have an interest in the player with some especially keen if he does end up running his contract down and leaving the Italian club as a free agent.

Providing he does not sign a new contract at the San Siro, Kessie will be eligible to speak to foreign clubs from the 1 January 2022, just like Pogba and could sign a pre-contract agreement to join a club outside of Italy from the 1 July 2022, which would be a good deal for the 24-year-old.

United are said to be interested in West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice but it is suggested that the club will see a price possibly higher than £100 million for the player next summer as they intend to keep him – although he is also a target for Chelsea, a club he was once part of the academy of, which suggests he could be interested in returning to the club, if he leaves.

Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans is also reported to be a target of United but Kessie could be a cost-effective signing if the Old Trafford club were able to get it done. There is a suggestion that his wages demands could be as little as £130,000 a week, which is good for the type of player but this will only further the interest of other clubs who are interested in signing the player.

This would make it much harder for United to get a deal completed. It all depends on what the player wants to achieve and whether United could deliver those options. There is a chance that United’s 2021/22 season results could propel the club as a better option than other.

If United end up challenging for the Premier League title this season, they will become more marketable for new signings in the summer but the lure should be good enough with the players that United currently have at the club with Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and David De Gea, amongst others.

I would say Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani but at this time, they will both be out of contract with the club in the summer, therefore, at this time, have no future plans at the club.

Kessie has two international teammates at United currently with Eric Bailly, who recently signed a new contract and Amad Diallo, who joined the club in January 2021. This could be a boost for United as it will be easier for the player to settle in at the club. His contract expires at the end of June 2022 and there is a chance that he could sign a new contract in Milan.

This season, Kessie has made three appearances for his club, two in the defensive midfield position and one in central midfield. He has yet to score or assist a goal. Last season (2020/21), Kessie made 50 appearances in all competitions, scoring 13 goals and assisting a further six – which is a good rate of goals and assists from the midfield.

Of the 50 appearances he made for Milan, Kessie played in the defensive midfield position 37 times, scoring 11 goals and all six assists, also playing in the central midfield position 13 times, scoring three goals from there. It shows that he is more effective in the defensive midfield position, which is good for United.

Formerly of Cesena FC, in the third tier of Italian football, then signing for Atalanta before moving to Milan, Kessie seems to have a good pedigree in the game. The 24-year-old is a physical and mobile body in the midfield and will not lunge into tackles and will strive to win the ball with his determination.

He is a defensive player but has the ability and the guile to attack and the footballing mind to read the game and deliver at least one shot or key pass every 90 minutes, which is a good attribute to his game. United will be seeking a player with energy who will deliver for the club and his teammates and that could be Kessie.

Written by John Walker

Ratings: Paul Pogba returned to become the hero in Milan victory; Henderson, Lindelof, Maguire and Shaw all played well

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.

Manchester United

26 Dean Henderson

Last week he made an error, this week he became a hero. Made a few good saves to keep Milan at bay. Seemed to stop Ibrahimovic with ease. Definitely finding his feet in the first team.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Did well to thwart Milan's attacking at the end. But getting forward was a problem for him.

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2 Victor Lindelof

He's in excellent form at this stage of the season. Read the game well and dealt with the threat that is Ibrahimovic.

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5 Harry Maguire

He was a threat in set pieces. Defended well alongside Lindelof. Was a booking away from a suspension but that did not worry him. Maybe some will give him credit now?

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23 Luke Shaw

Was United's best attacking player in the first half. He's having a great end to the season for United, which is great to see. Even better when Pogba was on the pitch.

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17 Fred

Had the only shot on target in the first half. Improved with Pogba on the pitch but the jury is still out on the Brazilian.

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39 Scott McTominay

Offered a lot inn midfield but never seemed to be the provider of the goal United needed. Pogba's arrival gave him more thunder on the pitch.

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Ratings: Paul Pogba returned to become the hero in Milan victory; Henderson, Lindelof, Maguire and Shaw all played well

Stated the game on good stead and seemed to be ready to take on the world. He regressed as the game grew on but still showed some fight, which is good to see. Someone will criticise him for not scoring but he did try to get on the end of things, and start them.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

He's definitely tired. He was bailed out by Lindelof at one stage of the match. When Pogba came on, he was more assured on the pitch.

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10 Marcus Rashford

His game lasted 45 minutes and his impact was very little. He was rushed back at the weekend and it has shown tonight. Hopefully he recovers soon.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Played brightly but was isolated at times. When Pogba came on, the game changed for the better.

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Substitutes

6 Paul Pogba

Replaced Rashford 46'. Perhaps should have started but it would have been a risk. Introduced at half time and pounced to score the only goal of the match. Good to see him back.

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Goals: Paul Pogba 48′

Assists: N/A

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

Confirmed XI: Solskjaer names unchanged side to face AC Milan; De Gea, Pogba and Van de Beek on the bench

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 this 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.

Manchester United:

Henderson;

Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw;

Fred, McTominay;

James, Fernandes, Rashford;

Greenwood

Substitutes:

De Gea, Grant; Telles, Williams, Tuanzebe; Pogba, Diallo, Matic, Van de Beek

AC Milan:

G. Donnarumma;

Kalulu, Kjaer, Tomori, Hernandez;

Krunic, Kessie, Meite;

Castillejo, Calhanoglu, Saelemaekers

Substitutes:

Tatarusanu, A Donnarumma; Dalot, Gabbia; Bennacer, Tonali, Diaz; Ibrahimovic, Tonin

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.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-2-3-1] De Gea, Pogba and Van de Beek (from the bench) to return against AC Milan; Cavani misses out

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.

How United have faired against AC Milan in European competition.

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.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face AC Milan in the UEFA Europa League at the San Siro on Thursday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

David De Gea has not featured for United since the 0-0 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge at the end of February. He has been in Spain after the birth of his daughter. He returned to Manchester last week and should be ready for feature for his club once again, in a match that they may need his heroics so United prevail and reach the quarter-final stages of the competition. De Gea has not been in the greatest form this season but he has shown glimpses of the De Gea that kept United in good order following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. This could be a good match for the Spanish goalkeeper to return to, knowing that he will need to be at his best.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw

United’s defence are into a period whereby they are seen as strong, having kept five clean sheets in their past six matches in all competitions. Against Milan, United will need to be much stronger and play the game to their advantage. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw should keep their places in the fullback roles with Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire partnering each other in the centre of defence. Maguire and Lindelof are a yellow card away from a suspension, which would keep him out of the quarter-final first leg, if United get through. Brandon Williams is also in the same position, a booking away from suspension. United must get the job done.

Midfield: Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay

It is green news that Paul Pogba is back in training and even better that he could be back in the team on Thursday evening. He will be exciting to ge back on the pitch and get United heading in the right direction once again, but expecting him to light up the pitch, after many weeks out of action will be a big ask. He will relish facing Milan again, a team he faced many times whilst playing for Juventus. Scott McTominay should start alongside him as he can provide a lot of energy and cover defensively, although this is not his strength. United will need to get the ball forward to get the result they need. McTominay is a booking away from suspension.

Attacking Midfield: Daniel James, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford

There are 46 goals and 26 assists in inn this position alone if Daniel James (five goals and one assist), Bruno Fernandes (23 goals and 14 assists) and Marcus Rashford (18 goals and 11 assists) all start. This is the majority of the goals that have been scored by United this season and also demonstrates the best three-pronged attacking midfield at the club. If Solskjaer wants to see United head into the quarter-finals of the competition, starting all these three players will be needed. Granted, there won’t be many quality options from the bench if all these players start, so the players will need to achieve whilst they are on the pitch.

Forwards: Mason Greenwood

Edinson Cavani was originally drafted in to start after he had come through from injury in the last few days. He was initially named in the squad to travel to Milan today but after the final training session, he was ruled out and will remain in Manchester. With Anthony Martial also missing out, that leaves just Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood to lead the line. In this instance, with Rashford playing on the left-wing, Greenwood should lead the line against Milan, which will be a big occasion for the player and a chance for hims to play in his favoured role at the club. United still have a competitive squad and will be boosted with others returning.

Substitutes: Lee Grant, Dean Henderson; Alex Telles, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe; Fred, Amad Diallo, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek

Solskjaer will need to get his substitutes right for this match as it is the biggest match United will face this season. A place in the quarter-final of the UEFA Europa League is up for grabs and United will want to be in Friday’s draw for the quarter-final and semi-final stages of the competition. I would expect both Lee Grant and Dean Henderson to be on the bench and in defence, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams and Axel Tuanzebe. In midfield, Fred, Amad Diallo, Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek and would provide many different options. Eric Bailly, Shola Shoretire and Anthony Martial will not travel to Italy.

Written by John Walker

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

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

Ratings: Diallo scored fine goal to put United ahead but Milan equalised; Fernandes assist, Maguire miss and good defensive display

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.

Manchester United

26 Dean Henderson

Conceded twice in the opening 11 minutes of the match with one ruled out for offside and the other for a hand ball. Did well at times with his saves and commanded his area well. That said, he was at fault for Milan's equaliser in added time, which could be costly for United.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Largely solid in defence and put in a lot of support with United going forward, as has been the case this season. He was replaced by Williams in the 74th minute of the match.

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3 Eric Bailly

He was strong in the air against Milan and coped well with the pace of Leao. Perhaps he will play more this season as the defence is not yet as strong as it could be with the summer transfer window approaching.

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5 Harry Maguire

Missed a very close-range effort, which was mocked by the commentary team. Did well defensively, other than Milan conceding at the death. Put in many blocks to keep United in the game. It was a good job that he was not booked as he would have missed the second leg.

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27 Alex Telles

Struggled at times. He had a free-kick which turned into a shot on goal. Other than that, he has nothing to really write home about.

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31 Nemanja Matic

He seemed out of place in the first half with Milan overrunning him and him not being able to protect the defence, like he has done in the past. United need Pogba back inn the team as the midfield is predictable right now.

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39 Scott McTominay

He was the only forward-thinking player in the midfield. He was unable to surge in attack, like he has done already this season. He was booked in the second half and could have got closer to Kjaer ahead of the equaliser.

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Ratings: Diallo scored fine goal to put United ahead but Milan equalised; Fernandes assist, Maguire miss and good defensive display

Used his pace throughout his performance but lacked in build-up play. Missed an open goal, which was costly at the end of the match as Milan equalised. He was replaced by Shaw in the 74th minute of the match.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

He was isolated and rather ineffective in the first half with Milan pushing United. Played his part after playing the ball into Diallo before he scored the opening goal of the match. He was replaced by Fred in the 73rd minute of the match.

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9 Anthony Martial

Had little impact in the first half other than a shot on goal which was saved. He seemed to gain a knock in the first half and was replaced by Diallo at the start of the second half.

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11 Mason Greenwood

He was largely ineffective on the wing, which is not his preferred position. He got move activity in the match after he became the centre-forward, which seemed promising.

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Substitutes

16 Amad Diallo

Replaced Martial 46'. Scored his debut goal with five minutes of coming on. Played a good attacking game and should be included in the playing squad more often. Perhaps he has given himself a pedestal to gain more experience in the side.

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17 Fred

Replaced Fernandes 73'. Put in a lot of effort to keep Milan at bay from the midfield but that was not to be as they scored a late equaliser.

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33 Brandon Williams

Replaced Wan-Bissaka 74'. Played at wing-back. Didn't do too badly either. It is a shame that United did not keep a clean sheet.

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23 Luke Shaw

Replaced James 74'. Had little outlet as United were relentlessly attacked by Milan who were seeking an equaliser, which they got.

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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

Confirmed XI: Henderson, Bailly, Telles, Fernandes, Martial and Greenwood start against AC Milan; Dalot starts for his loan club

Manchester United return to UEFA Europa League action at Old Trafford this 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:

Henderson;

Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Telles;

Matic, McTominay;

James, Fernandes, Martial;

Greenwood

Substitutes:

Grant, Bishop; Lindelof, Shaw, Williams, Tuanzebe; Fred, Diallo, Shoretire

AC Milan:

G. Donnarumma;

Calabria, Tomori, Kjaer, Dalot;

Krunic, Meite, Kessie;

Saelemaekers, Leao, Diaz

Substitutes:

Tatarusanu, A. Donnarumma, Castillejo, Tonali, Kalulu, Tonin, Gabbia

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.

Written by John Walker

Predicted XI: [4-2-3-1] Amad Diallo and Daniel James to feature against AC Milan with Bruno Fernandes supplementing the attack?

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.

How United have faired against AC Milan in the European Cup and the UEFA Champions 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.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face AC Milan in the UEFA Europa League at Old Trafford on Thursday evening…

Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson

Dean Henderson has a great chance ahead of him at United with David De Gea effectively paternity leave following the birth od his first child. Henderson did well against Manchester City at the weekend and will be well pleased with his clean sheet against the Premier League leaders. AC Milan can be a bag of tricks and he will need to command his area and rise to the challenge, which is something that he is capable of doing. In 15 appearances in all competitions this season, Henderson has conceded nine goals and kept 10 clean sheets, which is an achievement considering the fact it is literally his first season representing United at first team level. For years now he has been loaned out, rising from through the leagues into the Premier League. He’s the future of the club.

Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw

United’s defence may need a slight tweak ahead of the visit of AC Milan. Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Brandon Williams are all one yellow card away from being suspended for the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg, which could bring some problems at the San Siro. With this in mind, Eric Bailly should replace Lindelof, giving United and Solskjaer an insurance policy should the worst happen. Maguire will need to keep his head and ensure he is not booked, otherwise United could be dealt a huge blow. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw should keep their places in the team after playing well against City at the weekend. United have kept four clean sheets in a row now, which shows some ability in defence and some consistency.

Midfield: Scott McTominay, Fred

Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek are both doubts at this stage, which could change when Solskjaer speaks to the media ahead of Thursday’s clash with Milan. This leaves Nemanja Matic, Fred and Scott McTominay as the fully fit experiences midfielders. Ethan Galbraith was added to the squad in the last round, so he is expected to be on the bench if one of two players are not fit enough to be involved. With this in mind, I don’t think Matic will offer what could be needed against the Italian giants so Fred and McTominay should start. There would be nothing stopping Solskjaer bring Matic one later in the match, if defensive stability is needed, as United can use up to five substitutions in the Europa League, which gives some scope for changes.

Attacking Midfield: Amad Diallo, Bruno Fernandes, Daniel James

Marcus Rashford limped off against Manchester City on Sunday and he will be a doubt for this match, which is a shame as he would like to play against Milan. United should aim to at least keep a clean sheet, thwarting any away goals, which would steer them in the right direction. Daniel James should start. He played well against City and has been in some good form in recent weeks, which is a good sign. Bruno Fernandes must start too as he could well be the player that makes the difference on the big stage. Amad Diallo needs some time on the pitch as his two appearances thus far have seen him play just 38 minutes of football and he needs to get more experience at first team level. His pace and raw talent could be a good ingredient for United.

Forwards: Anthony Martial

Edinson Cavani is unlikely to feature against AC Milan according to Solskjaer, which is a shame as it would have been a match he could have thrived in. Marcus Rashford is also a doubt because of the injury he received against Manchester City. Anthony Martial has not been in the greatest form this season but he turned up against City on Sunday which could be him turning a corner and wanting to build on his seven goals and eight assists in all competitions this season. It may not be ideal to be missing so many players through injury at this time, but it is something that we would need to deal with as there is little that can be done. United need to play well against the Italian giants and ensure they limit the damage, keeping a clean sheet would be massive.

Substitutes: Lee Grant; Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe; Donny van de Beek, Nemanja Matic, Ethan Galbraith, Shola Shoretire; Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood

United can use up to five substitutes in the UEFA Europa League this season, which will allow Solskjaer to have a few more options to change the game, to sit on their lead, should that happen. Dean Henderson will be expected to start again with David de Gea away from action so Lee Grant will remain on the bench, should he be required. In defence, Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams and Axel Tuanzebe could step in should the need arise. In midfield, Donny van de Beek could be fit enough to feature on the bench and play a few minutes if need be with Nemanja Matic, Ethan Galbraith and Shola Shoretire also available. Edinson Cavani (if fit), Marcus Rashford (if fit) and Mason Greenwood could all come off the bench to change the game.

Written by John Walker

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

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

Player Profile: Diogo Dalot – the future right-back at Manchester United, rivalling with Aaron Wan-Bissaka?

Manchester United signed then 19-year-old Diogo Dalot from FC Porto in a reported £19 million fee in the summer of 2018 and from the time the interest in the young Portuguese defender was first made known to the eventual signing of the player was around a week with negotiations coming to a conclusion just over a week before he signed for the club. Dalot was a relatively inexperienced player at the time he signed for United, playing only a handful of matches at first team level, also playing out of position in the left-back role, covering for a player on the sidelines. This did not stop United’s interest in a player that could grow massively.

The fact that then United manager Jose Mourinho spoke so highly of the player suggests to me that United and Mourinho will have seen the player extensively, which is why he came to the club as highly rated as he was. It is suggested that he could make his debut for the club that season, which he did, where he will be expected to take over from Antonio Valencia, who was the main right-back at the club at the time. Dalot seems to be a very level-headed player, thankful for the chance he has been given but also confident of what he could achieve. On signing for United, Dalot, speaking to the official Manchester United website, said:

“Joining Manchester United is an unbelievable opportunity for me. I have grown up in Porto’s Academy and I am so thankful for everything they have done for me. But the chance of coming to the biggest club in the world is something I just couldn’t turn down. I’m excited about working with Jose Mourinho and learning everything I can from such a successful coach. I am looking forward to playing alongside the fantastic players in the squad.”

Mourinho also commented about his first summer signing of 2018, speaking to the official Manchester United website, saying:

“Diogo [Dalot] is an extremely talented young defender with all the qualities to quickly become a great player for this club. He has all the attributes that a full-back needs: physicality, tactical intelligence and technical quality, combined with a Porto Academy mentality which prepares players for the maturity they need at the professional level. In his age group, he is the best full-back in Europe and we all believe he has a bright future ahead of him at Manchester United.”

It shows that Mourinho and United had been tracking Dalot for some time, especially in the fact that Mourinho had branded the player as the best full-back from his age group in Europe. The player obviously has a good head on his shoulders, not only to be able to move to one of the biggest clubs in the world at his age but to be confident of his abilities, which at his age is not something every player has in their remit. Dalot started his footballing career at the age of nine in the Fintas Academy in his hometown, Braga and left the Academy in 2008 when he joined FC Porto.

He was also wanted by Benfica at that time. Dalot is a player with natural pace, a modern full-back, one that can cross the ball, which will be great to see in the years to come, one who can play on the right or the left, which shows just how good he can be in the years to come. During the 2014/15 season, Dalot was loaned out to Padroense in the Portuguese Second Division and his experience in the Porto reserve team helped him on the way to where he is today, also giving him youth international experience, of which he has played alongside United third choice goalkeeper Joel Pereira.

Dalot has been capped for Portugal from U15 to U21 level, leaving just the senior team for him to be called up to, which after a year or two at United, could be something he achieves. The 19-year-old made his debut for Porto’s first team in October 2017, playing his first Primeira Liga in February 2018. Despite lacking experience at first team level, what Dalot has shown was encouraging, also suggesting that his future is bright. Mourinho will probably have been scouting the player for some time, or United were. Perhaps Javier Ribalta, United’s new scout, who came to the club last summer, was the lynchpin in bringing Dalot to the Premier League.

During the 2018/19 season, Dalot made his debut for the club against Young Boys in the UEFA Champions League group stage, a 3-0 victory for United. He then played in the EFL Cup against Derby County, a 2-2 draw with ended up with Derby winning 10-9 on penalties, knocking United out of the competition. He made a total of 25 appearances that season, not scoring any goals but assisting three times. Mourinho was sacked in December 2018 paving the way for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to manage the club with Dalot featuring more times under Solskjaer than for Mourinho, but he was injured from 17 October to 30 November.

Dalot featured in fewer matches for United during the 2019/20 season because of injury. He started the season with a hip injury, keeping him out from 4 August until 17 September, then suffered a groin injury from the 18 October until the 2 January 2020. This meant he only played a total of 11 times for United, scoring one goal, in the Emirates FA Cup in the 6-0 victory over Tranmere Rovers. The arrival of Aaron Wan-Bissaka may well have cost him a place at United, at least for the current season and maybe beyond. I feel that Dalot would benefit more on loan, which seemed to be in the plans of Solskjaer too.

The Portuguese full back played once for United in the Carabao Cup during the 2020/21 season and was named on the bench for another. From there, he was loaned to AC Milan for the remainder of the season, which should benefit him as a player, getting him more first team experience, which was not likely at United. So far he has made 10 appearances for Milan, more often than not in the UEFA Europa League where he has played six times, scoring one goal and two assists. He has played both at right-back and left-back for the Italian club. He has started in all six Europa League matches, starting only once in the Serie A.

Dalot will no doubt benefit from his loan spell in Italy, which may also pave the way for an exit of the Theatre of Dreams, although it is suggested that Solskjaer rates him and has no desire to sell him, according to reports in The Mirror. It is possible that Solskjaer has earmarked Dalot to rival Wan-Bissaka at right-back for United given that Tim Fosu-Mensah is out of contract in the summer and Brandon Williams, who can play in both fullback positions but has played more times in the left-back role. Solskjaer seems to be assembling a young squad, so perhaps the Portuguese defender will prevail at the club in the future.

It could well be an exciting future for United under Solskjaer with a young squad developing each and every match plus with the newly signed 19-year-old Facundo Pellistri chomping at the bit and the incoming 18-year-old Amad Diallo, who will arrive at the club next month after confirmation on deadline day back in October. United are also linked to Ecuadorian midfielder Moises Caicedo, who is also on the radar of Chelsea, according to the Daily Mail. Solskjaer is building something and if he is reluctant to sell Dalot, it would suggest that his plan for the player is in the future with United looking to succeed.

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW