Manchester United vs AC Milan: Match Preview
By Shaquille Morgan
Courtesy of their relatively recent success under Jose Mourinho, United are the only club remaining in this season's competition to have won the Europa League in its current format, while Milan are yet to reach the final of either this incarnation or its predecessor, the UEFA Cup; only ever making it as far as the semi-final in 2002.
Ahead of this week’s highly anticipated first leg at Old Trafford, United ended local rivals Manchester City’s impressive twenty-one match winning run in all competitions on Sunday, with a resilient 2-0 away victory in the Premier League. Milan also won 2-0 away from home with a professional performance against 8th placed side Verona in the Serie A. This match should prove to be another difficult challenge for the Premier League side, following their impressive elimination of La Liga side Real Sociedad in the previous round.
"Old Trafford" by L.Mejuto is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
The two teams have faced each other 10 times. The head-to-head record going into this encounter is level as both teams have five wins apiece.
There have been no draws between the two teams.
Thursday’s fixture will be the first time they have faced each other in a competitive game since their Champions league encounter in 2010.
There are several injury doubts for Manchester United ahead of Milan’s visit, with Marcus Rashford having to limp off early during Sunday’s Manchester derby with an ankle injury and fellow attacker, Edinson Cavani, is a doubt for the game after missing the Manchester Derby with an injury in training last week.
A former Europa League finalist with Ajax and current outcast, Donny Van de Beek has not been fit to feature in any of United’s last five fixtures, while Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Phil Jones are all expected to miss out on the round of 16 clash.
David De Gea has reportedly been given time off following the birth of his child, which leaves the door open for Dean Henderson to keep his place in the team, who has been in spectacular form in recent games.
The visiting manager Stefano Pioli has tended to rotate resources in the Europa League and will be forced to do so again as Milan are expected to be without former Manchester United attacker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and midfielder Ismael Bennacer.
First-choices Hakan Calhanoglu, Ante Rebic and Theo Hernandez are in doubt too and are unlikely to be risked with the home leg coming up on Thursday.
Recently, Stefano Pioli has offered rests to both of the previously watertight central-defensive pairing Simon Kjaer and Aessandro Romagnoli, with Chelsea loanee Fikayo Tomori an option to replace either man if required. Another loan signing, Diogo Dalot, could start upon returning to his parent club, covering Theo Hernandez at left-back.
Probable starting line-ups
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, McTominay; Greenwood, Fernandes, James; Martial
AC Milan possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Dalot; Tonali, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Diaz, Castillejo; Leao
Both teams are on a good run of form at the moment. However, Manchester United will head into this fixture with a little bit more confidence after their massive win against Manchester United. Despite defensive woes earlier on in the season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are starting to find consistency on the defensive end, while Milan have struggled with the absence of their stars. Manchester United’s capability to dismantle teams on the counter; utilising their speed and ingenuity will be too much for an injury-hit Milan side.
Score prediction: Manchester United 2 – 0 AC Milan