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The Red Devils could have done with an easier Last 16 tie, but they’ll take comfort from the relatively poor record Italian teams have in the latter stages of the Europa League.
Only Lazio in 2017/18, Napoli in 2018/19 and Inter in 2019/20 have reached the quarter-finals over the past five campaigns, with the latter the sole side to reach a semi-final.
Milan have sustained an unlikely title challenge this year in Serie A, though while they’re the closest team to leaders Inter, a return to the Champions League is the ultimate priority.
Given Juventus are closing the gap and the likes of Roma and Atalanta aren’t far behind either, they’ll be more concerned by domestic performances than results on the European front.
Man Utd will fancy their chances of going all the way in this tournament and a trophy would be a major boost for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a succession of semi-final appearances in cup competitions.
Their main rivals should be Arsenal, Tottenham, Villarreal, Ajax, Roma and Milan themselves, as there aren’t too many big guns left in the tournament.
Milan are only W4-D3-L4 since late January and were outclassed in the Milan derby last month as Inter ran out 3-0 winners. Although they edged out Roma recently, they haven’t been at their best in the big games since the turn of the year, losing clashes with Inter (twice), Juventus and Atalanta in 2021 so far.
Man United To Beat AC Milan
The Rossoneri spent some years in the wilderness as after their 2013/14 Champions League campaign, they didn’t qualify for Europe until 2017/18.
The best side they’ve encountered in the Europa League over the past few years was Arsenal in 2018, losing both Last 16 legs by two-goal margins, while they haven’t enjoyed themselves against the next-best sides they’ve faced.
Arguably, Real Betis, Lille and Red Star Belgrade are the greatest teams they’ve encountered beyond the Gunners, as they’ve drawn four of six winless matches against those sides.
United have only lost twice in 25 appearances now, but they’ve drawn seven of 11 over 90 minutes since late January. Still, they are capable of turning on the style as a 4-0 win in their first leg with Real Sociedad in the last round proved, while of course they enter this fixture off the back of ending Man City’s 21-game winning streak.
Both managers have injury concerns ahead of this fixture. For Man Utd, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Phil Jones are ruled out, David De Gea looks set to miss out again for personal reasons, while Luke Shaw, Donny van de Beek, Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford are all doubts to varying degrees.
That should see Alex Telles come in at left-back, but while Pogba, Cavani and Rashford are all big misses, Milan have a string of absentees and that could well prove pivotal here.
Stefan Pioli is without Ismael Bennacer, Brahim Diaz, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu and Mario Mandzukic, while Theo Hernandez, Ante Rebic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are all doubts.
Sandro Tonali made the bench at the weekend, but played no part, though almost all of those players would make the matchday squad if fit.
That will hamper them in attack especially, where Ibrahimovic, Calhanoglu and Rebic are key men, while Mandzukic represents an experienced back-up option.