Manchester United secured their place in the Europa League quarter-finals after a 1-0 victory at the San Siro secured a 2-1 aggregate win over AC Milan.
A goal from substitute Paul Pogba just minutes after coming on secured the victory after a solid defensive display from the visitors.
Two sides each of spectacular magnitude met at one of football’s great colosseums as Manchester United travelled to the San Siro attempting to secure their passage into the Europa League quarter finals.
Story of the game
Both sides were in a state of recovery coming into the game with previously absent player Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all taking their place on the respective benches.
The hosts were boosted by the return of Theo Hernandez and Hakan Calhanoglu returning to the lineup, as loanee Diogo Dalot lost his place in the starting side.
United on the other hand named an unchanged side to the one that secured three points against West Ham at the weekend.
With the scored locked at 1-1 from the first leg, following a last-minute equaliser from Milan’s Simon Kjaer, United knew they needed a goal to stand any chance of progressing.
As expected, United started the brighter of the two sides chasing after that elusive away goal. Two balls flashed across the six-yard area narrowly evaded Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford respectively in the opening five minutes.
The visitors dominated the ball in the opening stages to little avail as the red and black wall of Milan’s defence stood firm allowing little territory, let alone chances.
The first chance came after 11 minutes after Luke Shaw darted into the box following his familiar overlapping run down the left-hand side before pulling it back to Bruno Fernandes on the edge of the box. Fernandes took his effort first time but failed to get his head over the ball as he watched his effort sail over the bar.
As the game grew, the pace of Dan James became a key aspect of United’s play as he darted past Kjaer and into the box before being stopped by a magnificent last-ditch challenge from Fikayo Tomori just as James was setting himself for the shot.
As the game opened up, Milan began to show the threat they posed at Old Trafford the week before, looking bright and lively in possession as they began encroaching on the United box.
With 10 minutes of the half remaining, a misplaced Fernandes pass played Samu Castillejo through on goal with Frank Kessie in support. The Spaniard chose to play his team mate through on goal, before the recovering Victor Lindelof slid in to make a timely challenge and prevent a goal scoring opportunity.
Milan grew in confidence from that point, with some slick one touch football on the edge of the box culminating in Saelemaekers receiving the ball on the turn and striking from 20 yards low to Henderson’s left. However, the save was perhaps more comfortable than he made out, as he parried it behind for a corner.
With the half coming to an end, Milan really took the initiative, restricting United and preventing them from getting out of their own half. Much of this was down to the inefficiencies in United’s passing with McTominay and Fred both making numerous schoolboy errors.
The second half began with the introduction of Pogba who came on to replace Marcus Rashford, believed to be struggling with injury.
Pogba’s impact was almost instant. A ball into the box from the right from Wan Bissaka triggered a scramble in the box as the ball eventually dropped at Pogba’s feet just yards from goal. The Frenchman took one touch before dropping a dummy to unsettle Donnaruma and scooping the ball into the now vacant net to give United a crucial lead.
Milan responded with a substitution of their own, bringing on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, alongside Diogo Dalot, as their pursuit of an equaliser dragged on.
Milan expectedly took charge of the game from that point, holding the majority of possession but unable to really make any inroads on the United box.
Ibrahimovic’s first impact on the game came as he isolated Shaw at the back post before powering a header goal bound. However, Dean Henderson’s reactions served him well as he shot his arm up to parry the ball over the bar in emphatic fashion.
With just 10 minutes remaining, Milan threatened to enter panic stations as their intensity hit overdrive and the passes became less calculated and more pressurised.
As the minutes dwindled down, United’s game management kicked in as Pogba and James did very well winning fouls in the Milan half to disrupt the flow of the game.
United very nearly sealed the win three minutes from time as Dan James dug out a looping cross towards Pogba in the box who out-jumped his marker before directing his header just inches over the bar.
As the game headed to added time and the possibility of a repeat of the week before, the tension in the San Sino amplified to close to breaking point.
With just a minute to go, a free kick was swung in deep towards Tomori who failed to convert from a tight angle, as the belief drained from the Milan players.
The referee brought the game to a close shortly after, sealing a thoroughly professional victory for the visitors, only their second ever at the San Siro as they look forward to tomorrow's draw.