Manchester United host Serie A title hopefuls AC Milan in the first leg of the Europa League last 16 on Thursday evening.
The two European footballing giants haven’t met competitively since 2010 and have each endured a tough decline throughout the last decade, but find themselves battling each other in a European knockout round once again following promising revival seasons for both clubs.
The Red Devils head into the tie off the back of ending Manchester City’s 21-match winning streak with a 2-0 derby victory to go second in the Premier League. Milan also won over the weekend, fighting to a 2-0 away triumph of their own at Hellas Verona.
In a tie that sees two favourites of the competition pitted against one another, there might just be some fireworks over the two legs.
When is the match? Thursday 11 March
What time is kick off? 17:55 (GMT)
Where is it played? Old Trafford
TV Channel? BT Sport 1/BT Sport Ultimate (UK)
The Red Devils had to watch Marcus Rashford limp off with an injury to his ankle in their win over Manchester City. It didn’t look good, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hopeful he can be fit in time for the clash with Milan.
Anthony Martial returned from a knee injury in the derby and put in a much-needed improved performance, as did defender Victor Lindelof. Edinson Cavani didn’t make the squad at the weekend, so Martial might keep his spot in the XI on Thursday.
David de Gea is still unavailable following the birth of his first child, so Dean Henderson will resume in goal. United are also likely without Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek in midfield, while Juan Mata is also recovering from an unknown issue.
The Rossoneri fielded a rotated side against Verona at the weekend with injury concerns keeping a number of key players out of the running. Theo Hernandez and Ante Rebic were absent, although head coach Stefano Pioli is optimistic that they will be fit enough to return for the trip to Manchester.
An adductor injury is likely to dash Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s hopes of an Old Trafford return. United loanee Diogo Dalot is eligible to play and scored at the weekend, but could return to the bench should Hernandez be declared fit.
Ismael Bennacer, Hakan Calhanoglu and Mario Mandzukic are all unavailable, leaving Milan with a selection headache with a number of usual starters missing through injury. Jens Petter Hauge and Sandro Tonali are also nursing fitness issues, but were well enough to be involved at the weekend.
Manchester United: Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, McTominay; Greenwood, Fernandes, James; Martial.
Milan: Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Hernandez; Kessie, Tonali; Saelemaekers, Rebic, Hauge; Leao.
Manchester City 0-2 Manchester United – Premier League (7/3)
Crystal Palace 0-0 Manchester United – Premier League (3/3)
Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea – Premier League (28/2)
Manchester United 0-0 Real Sociedad – Europa League (25/2)
Manchester United 3-1 Newcastle – Premier League (21/2)
Hellas Verona 0-2 Milan – Serie A (7/3)
Milan 1-1 Udinese – Serie A (3/3)
Roma 1-2 Milan – Serie A (28/2)
Milan 1-1 Red Star – Europa League (25/2)
Milan 0-3 Inter – Serie A (21/2)
When both sides are fully fit, there isn’t a great deal that separates Milan from Manchester United. The Red Devils just edge things on all-round quality, but the Rossoneri have proven doubters wrong with a resilient and talented youthful side this season, spearheaded by a veteran Ibrahimovic in attack.
Injuries have cursed Milan at an all-important time of the season, however, which has seen them slip up in the race for the Scudetto and stutter in form somewhat. Such a big clash in the last 16 means a competition favourite is guaranteed to be eliminated early on, and the first leg at Old Trafford is the perfect opportunity to gain the advantage for United.
Playing the away tie first probably would’ve been more ideal in making the second leg feel easier, but United have enough quality to eek out an important victory against a seriously depleted Milan.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Milan