Thursday March 11 2021
Milan and Man Utd have so much in common

Old Trafford is a special place for Milan and Kaustubh Pandey explains why the Rossoneri and Manchester United have a lot in common ahead of today's fixture.

Milan and Manchester United meet at Old Trafford this evening and it’s probably the best season for a Clash of Devils as the two sides have so much in common.

They have both witnessed a fair share of disappointments since their dynastic heydays and with the Rossoneri experiencing financial disasters.

Going by their positions in the table, both seem closer to the top ever since the dwindling times.

Playing against each other in the Europa League will indicate how far they’ve fallen and suggest that maybe, they are on their way back up where they possibly belong after many years of struggle.

Whether these are false dawns or not remains to be seen, but the fixture is brimming with history.

Just about every time they face each other, there’s a narrative involved. While United comfortably triumphed when they met in 2010, the second leg at Old Trafford was heralded as the ‘homecoming’ of David Beckham. The Englishman only came on from the bench and the first leg narrative revolved around a certain Wayne Rooney.

That game also gave social media a GIF for the ages, as Ronaldinho was captured by the camera, smacking his lips at the prospect of playing against the 2008 European champions.

There were moments of magic from the Brazilian, only for Rooney to steal the show with a brace.

There was a magical moment involving another Brazilian, Kaka, who in 2007 scored an iconic goal in a Rossoneri 3-2 loss at Old Trafford. However, in that campaign, Carlo Ancelotti’s men progressed over the two legs to reach the final thanks to a 3-0 win at San Siro.

The mercurial Kaka massacred the Red Devils at Old Trafford, running riot while constantly placing himself between the lines in attacking midfield. His runs in-behind were too quick for Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Gabriel Heinze to pick up.

His reading of the midfield spaces shone through, and ironically, it came under a coach who had shown disdain towards classic number tens earlier in his career.

The Brazilian broke in-behind for the first goal and just about knocked out three United players for a famous second. In his failed attempt to catch the marauding Kaka, Heinze ran into Patrice Evra, and Darren Fletcher was no match for his pace and close control. That night perhaps defined Kaka in many ways in terms of his approach to the game.

In the same game, Rooney showed his goal-scoring prowess in spectacular fashion too. His late winner helped United take a 3-2 lead to San Siro, as he finished brilliantly after receiving the ball outside the ball.

As fearless as he was, the Englishman slammed the ball past a helpless Dida, who perhaps wasn’t expecting the fierce effort from Rooney. Like it was for Kaka, the game stood for what Rooney has always been known for - tremendous work rate and never-ending grit.

The storyline attached to the two legs in 2007 was peculiar too. A United win or a draw in the second leg at San Siro would have ensured that the Champions League final against Liverpool. A Milan win gave them a shot at redemption and a chance to put the Istanbul ghosts to bed in Athens.

Old Trafford had also hosted the Champions League final of 2003, which saw Ancelotti’s Milan take on Marcello Lippi’s Juve. In what was a dominating show from Paolo Maldini, the Rossoneri won on penalties. The iconic image of Ancelotti’s men being led by their skipper in the trophy celebration is another historic moment in the club’s history.

While it is fair to say that there’s always a fascinating narrative to these games, the backdrop to the rather sad meeting in 1958 was more depressing.

United had lost eight of their players in the Munich air disaster, the club was left reeling financially, and there was a period around that phase when United could’ve been shut down. However, the club trod on, having to play Milan in the semi-final of the 57-58 campaign.

Despite everything, United did beat Giuseppe Viani’s men 2-1 in Manchester, only to be shown the door after a 4-0 hammering in Italy. Nils Liedholm, the iconic Swede who made a name for himself in Italy, did score against United as Juan Schiaffino grabbed a brace to take Milan to the final against Real.

While multiple sources have spoken gleamingly of United’s Busby Babes of that period, the tragic times of February 1958 have become a proud part of the club for what followed.

The March 2021 meeting may not be as gilded as the previous ones, but there’s a narrative in there too.

One involves Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his connection to both the great clubs. While the big Swede may be unavailable for the first leg, he could return for the second leg and come up against Eric Bailly, who was said to be close friends with Zlatan.

Gigio Donnarumma and David de Gea will take up opposite goalposts, just about when the pendulum seems to be swinging in the Italian’s way.

Massimo Taibi, a former goalkeeper of both clubs, said he would pick the Italian over the Spaniard in an exclusive interview with Football Italia.

It will be a particular game for Milan defenders Diogo Dalot, who is on loan from Manchester United, and Fikayo Tomori, who returns to England after his temporary move from Chelsea in January.

The game would also reunite two former Sporting teammates - Bruno Fernandes and Rafael Leao. There are plenty of talking points regarding this fixture, from past, present and future.  

The game has always had the makings of being a classic. This time it’s in Europa League, but the development of Milan and Manchester United suggests the next Clash of Devils will take place in the Champions League, where they both belong.


Have your say...
Speaking of Bennacer, he is absolutely fundamental. More so than Ibra perhaps. The game changed after he came on against Fiorentina. His medium to long range passing skills just opened the field for us. As the "next Pirlo" it's what you'd expect from Tonali, but he just isn't producing those kinds of passes. And finally, speaking of the devil, Hakan popped up with a goal that will keep the extend/don't extend squabble alive and well.
on the 21st March, 2021 at 11:28pm
I think there is no way Pioli will be let go if we finish in top 4. we will probably drop more points in short term but finish strongly when players get back to fitness like Bennacer. In summer striker has to be number one focus and maybe RW if money is there. I would be surprised if we dont sell one higher value player if big offer comes in, Kessie or Donna could attract big tag. Leao is a bit of an enigma, maybe a loan to mid table team like Sassoulo or someone might help him.
on the 20th March, 2021 at 3:48pm
@Vero Rossanero, the formation is a dilemma. The 4-2-3-1 works well when everyone is firing on all cyclinders. But at times we struggle to get players into the box. 1 striker in the box gets very isolated and the RW and LW don’t get up high enough to score or offer support. @ Teams have copped onto it. How many goals have been scored this season by RW and LW? Not enough. When ibra doesn’t play we struggle to score. I like the 4-4-2 format against United in 1st leg. We created lots of chances.
on the 20th March, 2021 at 1:41pm
Yes, not sure what to make of Calhanoglu anymore. Until January 2020 I was calling for him to leave. Then he has a great 2020 post Covid and it looks like maybe he finally broke through after FOUR years. Now he's looking like he's back to pre Covid form. I watch games where he just doesn't have a clue how to execute the final ball. We need a better playmaker, but where to find one we can afford? Perhaps let him go and change formation? Back to 4-3-3, or go to a 4-4-2? Maybe even a 5-2-3(3-4-3)?
on the 19th March, 2021 at 6:22pm
The true reality is our foundation is strong. Our defensive setup up, 7 players - GK,RB,CB,CB,Lb, and 2 CM's are fine. Our 4 attacking players are not adequate let's be honest. Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic, Ibra are not consistent. Ibra when fit is excellent, but cant play 30-40 games a year, his presence yes is a boost. We really need 4 new attacking players long term. Rebic/Calhanoglu are excellent on their day not consistently. Saelemaekers a back up. Leao needs time.
on the 19th March, 2021 at 3:22pm
@Vero Rossonero i like your ideas, my thoughts too. Clearly we need a CF, ideally someone who has Serie A experience like Belotti otherwise a proven goalscorer, only issue is they cost big money and are Milan wiling to invest! Castillejo is not even mid table level! He's suited to a bottom half team like Torino. Tomori is excellent & English teams will willingly pay a premium for him in 3 years. Gazidis wnts Pioli to reach top 4 to bring in champions league money, and boost the worth of the club
on the 19th March, 2021 at 2:52pm
(Cont'd). Once that is achieved and the club have the income stream to make major signings a top coach will be brought in to make the push for titles. Pioli has a contract until 2022. It will be interesting to see if that's the end or if they extend him another year or two. As others have said, we also need a quality RW. Saelemaekers has work rate, but not much else. Castillejo belongs at a mid-table club. Finally, a true LB backup for Theo and make Tomori permanent. 3 new players total.
on the 19th March, 2021 at 1:43pm
@Maldini's Heir: to your 3/15 comment, yeah, need a CF. Clearly Ibra can't play a full season. Belotti has 1 year left on his contract. I'd pay 30-35m for him. Proven Serie A striker with a bottom half table team. Ibra can stick around for another year as a "leader". Pioli may not be able to deliver titles? This is obvious, but he's not there to deliver titles. He's there to stabilize the ship and make us consistent top 4 finishers. Cont'd...
on the 19th March, 2021 at 1:38pm
@Maldini's Heir Glad you agree we need a new CF. But it's clear we need a RW too. It's very simple 1 in 1 out for the RW position, Castillejo must go and replace him with Thauvin or someone else. I don't even care how much we get for him, sell him and get him off the wage bill. Saelemaekers will improve so we can keep him as back up. A RW and CF are mandatory. After that, only add players that will upgrade the squad. If Otávio will arrive I would sell Calhanoglu pr move on Diaz. Sign Tomori too.
on the 17th March, 2021 at 8:04pm
Milan’s result may still be in decline after this, but I think they’ve done just enough to still finish 4th. Their competitors are even worse.
Roma just lost mikhi, their best players. They start to drop points not just against big teams but the lower teams as well. Dzeko isn’t getting back to 100% after his injury.
Napoli have better squad than Milan, but they’re inconsistent, and frankly gattuso is not a coach for big teams.
Lazio are done, either 6th or 7th.
Milan also have better H2H record.
on the 17th March, 2021 at 12:49pm
@ Shev True, but then again the team consistently underperformed for years so it's not like the standard was very high. Pioli is the first semi-experienced manager we've had since Allegri so there's zero point in comparing this to the sides that were coached by youth team coaches.

I agree we need a CF this summer, and if we are to sign a decent CF we shouldn't have the budget for anyone else. We have enough RWs.

@ Pauly Like I said above I do think we need a CF and this is an area we're short
on the 17th March, 2021 at 12:18am
Pioli deserves to be kept on next season if we finish 4th. I do have 1 issue with his tactics - lack of a alternative system. He did play 4-4-2 against Man U last week, & we looked solid in the defensive phase and bright-ish in the offensive phase. Just don't know why he doesn't use that system more when it is clear Leao struggles playing alone in our 4-2-3-1 system. I know @Maldini's Heir thinks we have too many players but we are short a striker & RW, & 3-4 signings/sales are necessary
on the 16th March, 2021 at 11:02pm
For me,no doubts about Pioli at all.Despite the dip in form,we haven't seen the team perform this well for so long and with this many injuries in years.The main problem is the lack of quality up front when both Ibra and Hakan are absent or not fully fit.The front four have scored 1 goal in the last 9 games.Things will improve when Ibra and Hakan are fully fit but we need the others to help carry the load.An established striker (or two if Ibra leaves) and right winger are a must in the summer.
on the 16th March, 2021 at 2:50pm
I’d target some of inters bench. Can offer starting spots to players like vecino, gagliardini, Alexis, dambrosio and darmian. Would hugely improve our team. Unfortunately I don’t know how much the club will invest. All seems to be about loans.
on the 16th March, 2021 at 9:24am
@inter - yes we may not have a top 4 team as you sat but we will hopefully still make it, especially considering the others will hopefully drop more points too. Desperately need a striker, CL money will help with that. Will also hopefully attract a better coach. Pioli well out of his depth. However fail to make top 4 and we are back to square one.
on the 16th March, 2021 at 9:19am
Viktor - tell me again how Bennacer is as good as barella.. next youl be saying leao lol next youl be telling us meite or krunic are world class... I wasn’t trolling anyways genuinely feel sorry for you, start the season the way you did and now will Miley drop out of top 4, which is obviously devastating. But as been said, your team probably isn’t a top 4 squad yet. Hence the year or two, depending on signings and whether players develop. Sadly players like Theo have completely dropped off.
on the 16th March, 2021 at 9:15am
club. If Conte was in charge of this exact same Milan I think we win the title. Unfortunately Pioli has done this with Lazio and Inter before, where he put together great runs but then came unstuck. He's done a phenomenal job and, frankly, if we do finish top 4 it might be morally difficult to sack him but the club must consider who is the right person to deliver titles.
on the 15th March, 2021 at 11:50pm
Nothing - NOTHING - should be decided until the end of the season but the recent form has prompted me to consider two things:

a) I think we need to prioritise a new CF this summer because Leão is not a CF and Ibrahimovic must have use by date; and

b) SUBEJCT TO the above disclaimer, Milan do need to consider whether Pioli is the right man to deliver titles. I am the person who usually calls for stability, but I am also the person that says the manager is THE single most important person at the
on the 15th March, 2021 at 11:48pm
@ Inter The Napoli performance reminded me of our performance pre-lockdown. The fact is we did produce the post-lockdown run so the focus needs to be on re-finding that form and confidence. It's clearly possible but I accept it does largely depend on Ibrahimovic being fit.
on the 15th March, 2021 at 11:44pm
@ Milanista But it ends up costing us more in the long term because we have to keep replacing players. It's like going and buying a cheaply made product and replacing it every few months instead of a good product that lasts. It's a total false economy. And it's not like we've made a great deal of money from sales.

@ Pauly My point is that when players, who have performed at every club, suddenly stop performing at my club, the issue is the club not the players.
on the 15th March, 2021 at 11:41pm

"Maybe year or two you may make CL.

Nice try little troll..
on the 15th March, 2021 at 6:27pm
Ouch hard to say it sadly think I’m right with top 4 looking unlikely after Napoli result. Had chances but ultimately outplayed by a better team. Just don’t have the quality - Napoli will beat juve in a few weeks with their game in hand and close the gap to less. Hard with the number of injuries but to be fair players coming in aren’t that much less in quality - none are really top class. Milanisti keep your head up, be proud of your team just not there. Maybe year or two you may make CL.
on the 15th March, 2021 at 7:20am
@j man - lol why troll a struggling team? Yes they aren’t one of the top teams in Italy but they are also improving a lot from where they were. They are on track for top 4 (this weekend is huge though - lose to Napoli and you would have to say top 4 would look unlikely) but agree with other comments. Kudos to Milan on the result but how far both teams have fallen. Milan at least don’t have any money and owners looking to sell for profit. Man U just woeful considering cash invested
on the 14th March, 2021 at 12:31am
@Maldini’s Heir you can’t stick with players that don’t perform - sometimes players don’t work out - it’s simple. We are Milan. Fighting to win. Modern era doesn’t offer such luxuries as extensive time.

@Milanista respect your views but I think your wrong. 1. Harlan will sign. 2. Gigio will sign. 3. Meite will prove to be good signing and excellent value for €8m - value will increase too. 4. Bennacer is a reference point for Milan’s present and future and will be kept.
on the 14th March, 2021 at 12:30am
Please don’t say meite is a bargain, worst player to join us in years. Makes players like rabiot or gagliardini look like Messi. Embarrassing that he plays. Constantly gives bAll away, fouls, just struggles to play. Gives hope to fans like me that I could one day play for Milan (I’m 40 and can barely run) that says it all. Rumors are we may capitalize on Bennacer offers, if we can get 25-30m considering his injuries we should run with it. Sadly cal and donna look gone. Just don’t have the cash
on the 13th March, 2021 at 11:36pm
Maldini heir - you miss the point. We sell players for money and loan players so we don’t have to pay for them. Financially football is bad - a lot reported on inter but in truth all football clubs are the same. Milan didn’t have a good base to start from either. Dalot won’t be signed, Man U are tough to negotiate with, we will just loan someone else. I’m ok with that, better to do this than not sign anyone at all. Players will also continue to be sold. In lieu of a strong business model.
on the 13th March, 2021 at 11:31pm
@ pauly Rodriguez was one of the most coveted left backs in Europe at one stage and he was a regular under the Gattuso side that put together a decent run. All we needed was a second choice left back. Yes, budgets are tight which is precisely why we can’t waste resources on short term loan signings and should be keeping players we own outright until we have the funds to replace them. I’ll never understand why a tight budget means we sign more players not less.
on the 13th March, 2021 at 10:09pm
I was surprised how poor united were considering the money they spent on this team, you think maguire transfer fee roughly equates to more than the combined 11 of milan which played against them.

as for the performances Tomori had another quality game even a 28 million euro fee for the guy seems like a bargain now, miete as well 10 million fee for him was peanuts in grand scheme of things. kessie just dominated the midfield if he goes in the summer it will be for a massive fee.
on the 13th March, 2021 at 8:28pm
@Maldini’s Heir Rodriguez was truly awful. He would run down the left side, reach half way, stop & play the ball into center half, he was predictable and offered nothing. Dalot has potential. And I think extending his loan for another year will happen. He doesn't have Man U in his insta bio and celebrated when we scored he wants to stay. He's only 21. Meite is a loan too - he's 26, & a steal at €8m & will be bought. Budgets are tight you have to operate according to financial parameters
on the 13th March, 2021 at 5:46pm
Surprised by the result. But also surprised by how bad United were. Don’t watch much of their games but expected a team near top of their league to perform a lot better than that. Could hardly string a pass together when under no pressure. Fernandes exactly how I remember him when playing in Italy, still average at best. Funny how no calhanoglu, ibra, bennacer, Theo (def dropped off in performances) and the team plays so much better. That’s why the 5-6 players in are so desperately needed.
on the 12th March, 2021 at 11:51pm

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