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...
What was the point of selling Rodriguez, player we owned, and replacing him with Dalot, a player we loaned? Has Rodriguez really fallen to such a low level he couldn’t be the second choice left back? Each loan signing creates a problem for the next transfer window. Next summer, just to stay still, we need to either spend a fortune to buy our existing loan players or loan or spend a fortune on replacements. That’s not how you improve a squad in the long term.
on the 12th March, 2021 at 11:46pm
@ Dimitri Agreed.

@ Sheva Milan Where's the passion? This is football. You should want your team to win everything. If you don’t have the passion, how do you expect the players to? And enough of this scheduling. NBA players play 3 times as week, rugby players play weekly whilst getting bashed each weeks and tennis players go from tournament to tournament playing every 2 days. Footballers need to stop being so precious l.

@ Shev This is the problem with loan signings. They’re just patchwork.
on the 12th March, 2021 at 11:42pm
Oh, now even @Sheva guy is singing a different tune!
For him & others, like @ACM1899, JUST HOW SHORTSIGHTED YOU ARE! Do u think financial gain is all there is? U think English & Spanish teams are stupid to win it for 15 years now?!
EL is the best way for a team to prepare for the real battles in CL! If you don't get the feeling, what it means to play in a difficult schedule, against top opponents (as it happens in KO stage), how can u expect to have something more than an episodic role in CL?
on the 12th March, 2021 at 10:24pm
Such matches show what a great job Pioli has done.We were the better team without half our starters but were very poor in the final third. United didn't do much but when they got into dangerous positions they made it count with a goal and a big chance for James. Anyways it was a good result with a lot of positives. Tomori and Meite making a good case for staying but Diaz and Dalot haven't shown enough throughout the season. On to Napoli, a win would really solidify top 4 for us.
on the 12th March, 2021 at 7:45am
Great result, considering how we only brought 7 subs and two of whom are GKs! Massive point earned, would be devastating/annoying not to bring anything home after a brave performance like that. Now, let's finish the job at home.
on the 12th March, 2021 at 6:55am
@J Man. The only thing that's ugly was result at the J Stadium last night.
on the 12th March, 2021 at 12:08am
Good result. Let’s see no more short corners!
on the 11th March, 2021 at 10:51pm
@J man

"A new coach and 5-6 decent signings and they should challenge for top 4 next season."

Ehhhh.. what?? Pioli has done wonders... probably the best achievement in the league a long conte. 5-6 players?? Fifa in playstation much?
on the 11th March, 2021 at 8:20pm
Couldn't agree with a statement more than when Anon said that football goes in cycles. I was there for the highs of the UCL win, the scudetto but I've also been here for scraping top half of the table, constant poor signings and general lack of direction. Looking at the 2 squads I think United will win, but with a full strength squad I think Milan would give most good teams a battle this year. I hope the second leg has both squads at full strength.
on the 11th March, 2021 at 3:27pm
As a neutral it is good to see both clubs start taking the steps back up to their former glory.
on the 11th March, 2021 at 3:05pm
@Dimitri - Psychologically it would boost Milan to beat ManUtd, for sure, but Milan's priority is Cl placement in the league, not EL glory. It's a competition with little financial incentive/reward but one that tolls the club physically. The Top 4 race in Italy is tight, and like our friend Sheva I too agree that Milan dropping out of Europe would be good for them long term. As is, Milan is having a hard time keeping the players fit, and we need everyone to finish top 4.
on the 11th March, 2021 at 2:47pm
The guy called @Sheva Milan, should really scratch that name OFF, as I haven't heard or read a more defecatistic & stupid comment in a long,long time!
Surely, if we played this match a month & a half ago, we would've crash Utd, without a doubt! But now, with the absence of literally half of the 1st team's most essential players, the tie has changed in their favor! However, a win in this tie would mean so much for Milan, the confidence & return to the top of Euro football, it's essential!
on the 11th March, 2021 at 1:52pm
"Oh how the mighty have fallen"

Not a supporter of either of these two great clubs, but football does go round in cycles. It is not the worst thing in the world to show a bit of humility and poise when your own team is doing well while your rivals are not. The boot could very easily be on the other foot sooner rather than later...
on the 11th March, 2021 at 1:49pm
"Gigio Donnarumma and David de Gea will take up opposite goalposts"

Um... No, they won't. De Gea has been on paternity leave for more than a week now. He won't be playing either leg of this tie.
on the 11th March, 2021 at 1:45pm
I don't like seeing Milan lose but it would really help to stop playing in this competition. Even if we beat United, I don't see us winning the Europa League with our injuries and schedule. If we win tonight,cool. If we don't that's cool too. Even if they're healthy, I don't want to see Ibra,Hakan,Rebic,Bennacer,Theo in the second leg. Even Kessie and Calabria could use a break.
on the 11th March, 2021 at 12:11pm
Kaka what a player
on the 11th March, 2021 at 10:51am
Considering Milan form in 2021, this one might get ugly. Really hope they can turn around the decent poor form but I think they’ve run their race this year. Even if they don’t finish top 4, should be proud of themselves having done well. A new coach and 5-6 decent signings and they should challenge for top 4 next season.
on the 11th March, 2021 at 10:34am
Oh how the mighty have fallen
on the 11th March, 2021 at 10:06am

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