Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes Paul Pogba can give Manchester United a “big boost for the rest of the season” after he made an instant impact on his return from injury.
Having not featured in United’s previous 10 games, Pogba scored within three minutes of coming on as a substitute against Milan in the Europa League, his goal securing a 1-0 victory in the second leg at San Siro.
The result was enough to see the Premier League side progress 2-1 on aggregate, meaning they will be in Friday’s quarter-final draw.
Solskjaer was delighted to have the France international available again, particularly as he had been in such outstanding form prior to suffering a thigh problem against Everton in early February.
“We’ve missed Paul. He’s been out for over two months and any team would miss a player like Paul Pogba,” Solskjaer told BT Sport.
“He was just getting into his best form. He’s very important for us and will give us a big boost for the rest of the season. Today, he made a very, very big difference.”
United had conceded a late equaliser in the first leg at Old Trafford, yet this time they held firm to keep a clean sheet against their Italian opponents.
Goalkeeper Dean Henderson produced an excellent save to deny Zlatan Ibrahimovic an equaliser, while Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire excelled in defence for the visitors.
11 – Dean Henderson has kept 11 clean sheets in just 18 appearances for Man Utd in all competitions this season, one more than David de Gea has registered in 29 games (10). Opportunity. pic.twitter.com/wSpt0vinaX
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 18, 2021
The centre-backs both made five clearances, plus the same number of interceptions each, though Solskjaer was pleased with how the whole team had worked so hard to keep Milan at bay.
“You give yourselves a chance to win games of football [with clean sheets],” the Norwegian said.
“Dean had a fantastic save towards the end, from the big lad (Ibrahimovic). I’m very pleased with everyone and their defending, right from the front.
“Dan James, Mason [Greenwood], Marcus [Rashford] and Bruno [Fernandes] – the front four pressing like they do.
“We always know that the back six – with Scott [McTominay], Fred and the back four – always give everything.”
Solskjaer felt United should have had an early penalty following Fikayo Tomori’s challenge on James, the referee’s decision to refrain from awarding a foul ultimately not costly.
But Solskjaer said it demonstrated just how cup ties can hinge on key decisions.
“You’ve got to be spot-on in cup competitions. Anything can happen,” the United boss said.
“Today, I think it’s a penalty on Dan James in the first minute, or five minutes, whatever. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. If you get that against you, anything can happen in cup competitions.
“We are through, we’re confident and we’re looking forward to the draw.”
The Red Devils have an FA Cup quarter-final against Leicester City to come at the weekend, their last fixture before the international break.