United set to renew old rivalry with Milan
Manchester United are set to renew an old rivalry when our Under-19s face AC Milan’s youth side on Friday evening.
Ahead of the clash, we’re taking a trip down memory lane and reflecting on some of our classic encounters with the Serie A giants.
We first locked horns with Milan in the 1958 European Cup semi-finals, mere months after the tragedy of the Munich Air Disaster. During the first leg at Old Trafford, it was the Italians who took the lead, via Juan Schiaffino. However, under Jimmy Murphy’s diligent guidance the Reds eventually came back to win 2-1, thanks to goals from Dennis Viollet and Ernie Taylor. It was a different story in the return leg six days later, with United going down 4-0 in front of a hostile atmosphere in Milan, as the hosts moved onto the final.
A similar fate befell United 11 years later, when again the Rossoneri eliminated us at the last-four stage. On this occasion, United - as European champions - were beaten 2-0 in the first leg, before Milan travelled to Old Trafford for the decisive return fixture. Despite Sir Matt’s Reds dominating the game, we could only nick one goal, meaning the Serie A side progressed to the final, one they would ultimately win 4-1 against Ajax.
This isn’t the first time we’ve hosted AC Milan in an exhibition game. In 1988, United welcomed Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and co to Old Trafford for an end-of-season friendly, that ultimately the visitors triumphed in. The Rossoneri were three up within 67 minutes thanks to goals from Pietro Paolo Virdis and Claudio Borghi (2), which rendered Jesper Olsen and Brian McClair’s strikes irrelevant.
Ahead of the 2004/05 campaign, the Reds met Milan in New Jersey, with Paul Scholes and Andriy Shevchenko netting in a 1-1 draw. The game then went to a penalty shootout, which Milan won after a remarkable 20 spot-kicks. In an unusual twist, United goalkeeper Tim Howard was the man who missed the decisive penalty.
Our most recent game with Milan actually came last summer, when we met them as part of Tour 2019. In our last warm-up game ahead of this season, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford were on target during a 2-2 draw that forced another penalty shootout. On this occasion, it was United who emerged victorious after we converted all five spot-kicks.
Seven months on from that warm-up match in New Jersey in 2004, United and AC Milan again came face to face, this time in the Champions League's last16. The first leg in Manchester was another tense affair, one which had been billed as Jaap Stam’s return to Old Trafford, only for the Dutchman to pick up an injury in the warm-up. Without him, Carlo Ancelotti’s men still won 1-0, thanks to Hernan Crespo’s reaction finish. The Argentinian, on loan from Chelsea at the time, again proved to be the difference in the return leg, with the striker grabbing the only goal of the game and securing Milan’s place in the last four.
The Reds were out for revenge two years later when again we were paired with the Italians in Europe’s top competition. It was our third-ever semi-final meeting and the Reds were aiming to undo our wretched record against the Rossoneri. With superstars in both line-ups, Cristiano Ronaldo put United ahead in the first leg, only for a Kaka brace to send us in at the break trailing. A Wayne Rooney double turned that around, the latter coming in injury time. But again it wasn’t meant to be, as Milan trashed United 3-0 a few weeks later to progress to the final, where they’d eventually beat Liverpool 2-1 in Athens.
Our most recent double header with Milan came at the start of the decade, when the Reds finally overcame our hoodoo against the Serie A outfit. A 3-2 win at the San Siro in the first leg of the last-16 clash set us up perfectly for the reverse fixture at Old Trafford - and it was one to remember for our supporters. With David Beckham back at the Theatre of the Dreams for the first time, United put on a superb showing and blew Milan away. The Reds ran out as 4-0 winners courtesy of goals from Rooney (2), Ji-Sung Park and Darren Fletcher.
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