Milan crash out of the Europa League after losing to Manchester United at San Siro.
Just like in the first leg there was little to separate the two sides tonight, but a Pogba goal would be decisive in sending Manchester to the quarter-finals.
Milan was up against a selection crisis, with no strikers fit enough to start, forcing Samu Castillejo to be deployed as a false nine. The other noticeable absence was Davide Calabra, who will undergo knee surgery tomorrow, leaving him on the sidelines for around a month.
The game started scrappily but it became clear Milan’s plan was pressing in numbers behind the ball to counter Manchester’s directness and fast build-up play. Both sides had chances in the first half, and regardless of the starting eleven, they should have found the back of the net at least once. The biggest chance went to Theo Hernandez, who received the ball in his own-half before pacing through several United players. He had Castillejo making a clear run on his left but decided to charge into the penalty box before being tackled. This was the theme of the first half and the theme of the first leg too; Milan not being able to finish their chances.
United subbed on Pogba after the break and although the Frenchman had missed the last ten games with a thigh injury, it only took him three minutes to find the back of the net. The goal came from Milan’s inability to clear their lines on several occasions, Meite fell to the ground after Fred blocked his clearance and Pogba would settle the ball before shooting it past Donnarumma from close range.
Coach Pioli finally brought on Ibrahimovic twenty minutes into the second half, and the Swede brought an immediate impact. Milan would continue to pose a threat to the United goal and it was Zlatan himself who would have the best chance, heading the ball from a Calhanoglu cross, but Dean Henderson was able to fist the ball out to safety.
United began to commit more bodies forward and started to delay the clock in any manner they could. Milan’s attack left them vulnerable to the fast and effective United counter, yet Milan was able to keep the deficit at one as they would attempt to draw the game before the final whistle.
United was able to hold on to their lead, and will now progress to the quarter-finals after an exhilarating clash against one of Europe’s sleeping giants.
Milan must be happy with the performance they put over both legs with all the set-backs considered, but they did not lose tonight from sheer luck, their inability to finish would be the main factor in their elimination from Europe. However, with the continued injury struggles and with Juventus, Inter, Napoli, and Atalanta all out of Europe too, it will be a sign of relief to see the Rossoneri get some much-needed rest in the coming weeks as they try to claim a top-four finish.