Europa League: Manchester Utd – AC Milan the clash of the giants

Europa League: Manchester Utd – AC Milan the clash of the giants

Two continental giants clash at Old Trafford on Thursday, as Manchester United meet AC Milan within the Europa League, with each side seeking silverware in Europe as they trail within the wake of local rivals domestically.

More reception with going head-to-head at the elite level, this heavyweight last-16 tie pits together a pair of once-dominant clubs, now edging closer to former glories under unfashionable but effective management.
In their first encounter for 11 years, Manchester United meet Milan for the first-ever time in Europe’s second tier competition – an indication of their diminished stature, perhaps, as other domestic rivals have surpassed them in recent times. They do, however, share a stylish history together, having been drawn against each other five times previously in either the European Cup or Champions League knockout phase.

manchester utd - ac milan

Courtesy of their relatively recent success under Jose Mourinho, United are the sole real club remaining during this season’s competition to possess won the Europa League in its current guise, while Milan are yet to achieve the last word of either this incarnation or its predecessor, the UEFA Cup; only ever making it as far because the semi-final in both 1972 and 2002.

Ahead of this week’s first leg at Old Trafford, United ended local rivals Manchester City’s remarkable 21-match winning run all told competitions on Sunday, with a 2-0 away victory within the Premier League. Nevertheless, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are still 11 points adrift of their cross-city counterparts.

With a Milan squad reborn since football first resumed last summer also currently second behind San Siro-sharing foes Inter in Serie A, it should prove another stern challenge for the Premier League side, following their impressive elimination of l. a. Liga outfit Real Sociedad within the previous round.

Having competed within the Champions League during the autumn, but seeing defeats within their final two Group H fixtures leave them within the wake of Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig, United subsequently saw off La Real by means of a 4-0 win in Budapest’s Puskas Arena followed by a goalless attract the house leg.

Now unbeaten in 17 consecutive games since the tip of January and still basking within the glow of victory within the Manchester derby, the hosts also will have history on their side, as they need won four of their previous five games versus Milan on home soil.

Returning to the scene of their 2003 Champions League final success, after they defeated compatriots Juventus on penalties after a goalless draw, Milan trip England amid a spell of inconsistent form, representing their first serious wobble since returning to action after the Serie A shutdown last year.


Partly due to a stubborn injury list, which has exposed their relative lack of squad depth, the Rossoneri have won only two of their last seven games altogether competitions, allowing their bitter rivals Inter to dump them out of the Coppa Italia and overtake them at the simplest of the table.

However, in their two latest away trips domestically, Milan have enjoyed two fine wins against Roma and Verona, demonstrating some resilience within the face of adversity.

One of several key men who are unavailable to show Stefano Pioli in recent weeks, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is extremely well-regarded in Manchester, having served the Red Devils for 2 years before avoiding for a sojourn in MLS.

ibrahimovici

The Swedish star’s subsequent return to his spiritual target Italy’s second city has been transformative for a team which had fallen on hardship, but the self-anointed ‘King Zlatan’ is missing from the Milan lineup at the Theatre of Dreams due to the newest during a very very succession of injuries to affect him this term.

Nevertheless, the Diavolo’s talismanic target-man was scarcely involved as they knocked out another former giant of the eu game, Red Star Belgrade, within the previous round, with type of Pioli’s younger attacking talents instead to the fore.

Progressing unconvincingly, by the combined virtues of an goal, two penalties and also the away goals rule, the Serie A side aired all their recent frailties across two hard-fought contests with the Serbian champions, but are unlikely to hunt out such forgiving opponents on Thursday night

Prediction: Manchester Utd -AC Milan over 2.5 Goals

Reinvigorated by their weekend derby success, United are capable of starving an injury-hit and increasingly inconsistent Milan side of too many opportunities; utilising their renowned pace on the counter to establish a lead in this eye-catching tie.

As their focus may be more weighted towards the still-glowing embers of their Scudetto challenge and even next week’s return encounter, Milan may find themselves with work to do in the return leg – particularly if flying full-back Theo Hernandez is not fit to boost their attack from the flank.

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