Talking points: United 1 AC Milan 1
A stoppage-time header from Simon Kjaer prevented Manchester United from heading to Italy with a first-leg lead, in this Europa League last-16 tie with AC Milan.
The Reds, shorn of several regular starters, were never at our best against a youthful Rossoneri outfit, and could have been behind in the early stages but for a controversial VAR decision, which disallowed Franck Kessie's goal.
But Amad's 50th-minute header - his first strike in England - looked set to give us the advantage, until Kjaer popped up in time added on to give Stefano Pioli's side a priceless away goal.
Here are the main conversation points from the game…
United and Milan are both enjoying good seasons domestically, but the hectic campaigns have hit home in recent weeks, and several big names were missing for this tie. You could put together a formidable-looking XI from David De Gea, Phil Jones, Juan Mata, Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek, Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani, plus Milan’s Theo Hernandez, Alessio Romagnoli, Hakan Calhanoglu, Ismael Bennacer, Ante Rebic and Mario Mandzukic, but the biggest shame of all was that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was denied a reunion with the club he scored 29 goals for in 53 games between 2016 and 2018. Maybe we’ll see him at the San Siro next week.
NICE TO SEE YOU, DIOGO
Due to domestic rules regarding temporary moves, it’s extremely rare for an on-loan Red to make an appearance against us in a competitive match – we couldn’t find any examples in recent years, anyway! Dalot joined the Rossoneri for the season in October and, with the Italians in the midst of an injury crisis, was deployed at left-back at Old Trafford, a position in which he has featured a few times for United. The former Porto man was given the thankless task of keeping the dangerous Mason Greenwood quiet, which he did well in the first half, before our no.11 was moved inside.
TON-UP FOR ERIC
Eric Bailly made his 100th appearance for United as he replaced Victor Lindelof in the XI. It’s taken a little while longer for the popular Ivorian to make it to the landmark due to injuries, almost five years since signing from Villarreal in the summer of 2016, but the 26-year-old has barely put a foot wrong when he’s been called upon recently. The Reds had kept nine clean sheets in his 14 starts this season going into the game, and Eric did virtually all he could to make it 10 in 15. Bailly helped successfully combat the Milanese attack for 92 minutes, with timely blocks on Rade Krunic and Davide Calabria and a team-leading four clearances, prior to Kjaer's late header.
HANDED A LIFELINE
United should have fallen behind in the 10th minute, when Kessie powered home after picking the ball up from a throw-in, but much to United’s relief, the strike was chalked off after a brief check by the Video Assistant Referee. It turned out the Ivorian had handled the ball in the build-up, before firing into the top corner past Dean Henderson, but the contact certainly wasn’t obvious and the Rossoneri players weren’t happy with referee Slavko Vincic when he communicated the decision.
The Reds’ best chance of the first half fell to the skipper, when he ran on to Bruno Fernandes’s flick-on from Alex Telles’s corner. Maybe a slight touch from Milan keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma threw our no.5, but it was a surprise to see the ball cannon back off the post, rather than nestle in the back of the net. Set-pieces were our most fruitful avenue during a first half of few openings, with Telles and Maguire having three of our four shots on goal, leading to a change in attack which soon paid off...
A FIRST GOAL FOR AMAD
Our January capture from Atalanta had been afforded a couple of fleeting appearances in the two games with Real Sociedad, but this was an extended opportunity to impress after half-time – and the youngster didn’t let us down. It took just five minutes for our no.19 to beat the Milanese offside trap and run on to Fernandes’s lobbed pass to execute a Chicharito-esque header, which left Donnarumma standing. It was a truly excellent finish from a player not known for his aerial ability, and he celebrated in style in front of the cameras, becoming our youngest-ever non-British scorer in European competition.
18 - At 18 years and 243 days, Amad Diallo is the youngest non-British player to ever score in major European competition for Manchester United. Notorious. https://t.co/VzJANe3AV5— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 11, 2021
ALL TO PLAY FOR
With fewer options than usual due to the injuries, United opted to hold on to what we had, sitting back for the last half an hour and targeting the quick break. A 1-0 lead would have made us strong favourites going into next Thursday's game, but Kjaer's injury-time intervention means Ole's side now go to the San Siro needing to score. Fortunately, that's something we've done in each of our last eight European away assignments, while Milan have won just one of their last six on home territory. Don't write United off just yet.