Stefano Piolo commended his Milan side for their performance against ‘perfect opponent’ Manchester United – but felt his side could consider themselves unfortunate not to win at Old Trafford.
It means they will have to score at San Siro next week – and if the first leg was anything to go by, they can expect another close game.
Milan posed a tough test for United, also having two goals ruled out in the early stages of the match. Frank Kessie could certainly consider himself unfortunate having seen his strike ruled out for a handball.
Piolo though was happy to focus on the positives and believes Milan proved themselves a hardy opponent.
“The team played with personality. We suffered in the difficult moments. We knew they have quality, but this performance must boost our self-confidence,” Pioli told Sky Sport Italia, via Football Italia.
“When we were drawn with Manchester United I though they were the right opponent for us.
“We’re working to improve and try to win again. We want to take Milan where we belong and these are the games where you can improve,” he continued.
“We want to go all the way through and to do so we have to beat these teams.”
Piolo warning over second leg
Piolo though knows next week’s second leg will be an entirely different game. As such, he will guard his side against complacency.
“Today’s result is positive, but we have another tough game ahead. The job is not done. They are a great team,” he added.
“I am satisfied. I keep repeating my players I am not training a regular group. This is an extraordinary group, under any aspect.
“When I see the lads give their soul to get a good result, I can only be happy. It’s probably a result we would have accepted before the game. After it, I can say we may deserve something more, but it’s a good result,” Pioli said.
“The team’s spirit was great, we wanted to dominate the game and give our best. We must have a high level of application to play as we do.
“We’ve been playing one game every four days since September, but these guys never give up. We must continue, it’s a crucial part of the season.
“Now, we have three big games coming next: Napoli, Manchester United and Fiorentina. Then we’ll have time to rest, at least those who won’t join the national teams.
“[Rafael] Leao can improve, he has talent and quality and I like his commitment and desire to stay focused on the game, definitely more than last season.”
After seeing Kessie‘s goal disallowed in the first half, Piolo is adamant the effort should have stood.
“That gold would have given us more strength, especially on a mental level,” he added. “Franck is convinced he didn’t touch the ball with his hand, but the referee thought otherwise.”