Manchester United taught a lesson in quality football by AC Milan

You can catch the match report and goal videos here. Below, you’ll find a second leg preview and coverage from the first leg.

Starting Lineup

AC Milan


XI: Dida, Oddo, Nesta, Kaladze, Jankulovski, Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Ambrosini, Kaka, Inzaghi
Subs: Kalac, Cafu, Gilardino, Favalli, Bonera, Serginho, Brocchi

Manchester United

XI: Van der Sar, O’Shea, Brown, Vidic, Heinze, Ronaldo, Fletcher, Scholes, Carrick, Giggs, Rooney
Subs: Kuszczak, Ferdinand, Saha, Smith, Solskjaer, Richardson, Eagles


First Leg Review

A cracking, cracking, cracking game. United went ahead initially, then went 2 goals down before half time, equalised by the 60th minute and then got a winner in injury time. Milan were excellent, always in control, while United’s flair eventually helped them edge out in front.

The 2 away goals will bother them, but not tonight. Tonight, they have just played one of the best games of the season, and they deserve to celebrate.

Here’s the match report. Here’s a second match report with a critical analysis of the performances from both sides. The goals are below, and the original game preview is below as well. I’ll be updating this page over the weekend with the second leg preview after United and Milan have played their weekend games.

Manchester United vs AC Milan (goal videos)

Manchester United 1-0 AC Milan (Ronaldo)
Manchester United 1-1 AC Milan (Kaka)
Manchester United 1-2 AC Milan (Kaka)
Manchester United 2-2 AC Milan (Rooney)
Manchester United 3-2 AC Milan (Rooney)

Match Updates

A surprise in Manchester United’s starting line up with Evra slotting in at left-back and Fletcher pushing up in midfield. No Smith as Giggs, Ronaldo and Rooney will be expected to push forward.

Manchester United lineup: Edwin van der Sar, O’Shea, Brown, Heinze, Evra, Fletcher, Scholes, Carrick, Ronaldo, Rooney, Giggs.

Manchester United bench: Kuszczak, Smith, Solskjaer, Dong, Richardson, Eagles, Lee.

Thing is, with Evra, you’ll almost be expecting a breakdown, so hopefully he can stay fit throughout the game.

AC Milan lineup: Dida, Oddo, Nesta, Maldini, Jankulovski, Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Seedorf, Kaka, Gilardino.

AC Milan bench: Kalac, Cafu, Inzaghi, Favalli, Gourcuff, Bonera, Brocchi.

It’s almost scary when you look at what Milan has acheived in the past, and also how experienced and good the Milan players are. It’s a very stable team.

Let’s hope that Ferguson gets his tactics right.

Manchester United vs Milan – Match Details

First leg to be played at Old Trafford on Tuesday, 24th April.

Second leg to be played at San Siro on Wednesday, 2nd May.

Both games will start at 19:45 GMT.

Match reports plus goal videos will be up for each leg the next morning.

Manchester United Preview

This is Manchester United’s and Alex Ferguson’s comeback season. At the start of it, everyone said that Manchester United didn’t have the players, the talent, the will or the leadership to achieve anything this season.

As a matter of fact, they might still end up busted by the end of May with no trophies to show for their efforts, but ask any Manchester United fan what they thought of this season and they’ll tell you the same thing: that this team has shown heart, has dominated opponents, has recovered from setbacks, has never given up – and has done all of this consistently.

In the Premiership only Chelsea – champions for the last two seasons – can lay claim to those attributes. That alone is achievement and gives real hope for the future.

As everyone will hear in the build-up to the semifinal, United beat Roma 7-1 in their previous European game, but that counts for nothing except confidence (which could be in a very different shape after the three games United play before the first leg).

You’ll also hear that Milan beat Manchester United two years ago en route to the final – but that United team was very different.

Manchester United have a severe injury crisis, with Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Louis Saha all injured, along with Ji-Sung Park and Kieran Richardson as well. The fact that Craig Cathcart – Academy captain – has been moved to the first team and is regularly listed as one of the injured players says a lot about United’s resources.

Scholes, Ronaldo, Heinze and Evra are one booking away from suspensions, and given Heinze’s and Scholes’ propensity to tackle, they could end up missing the return leg in San Siro.

AC Milan Preview

AC Milan are European “giants” of past and present – 6 Champions League titles and 4 semifinals in the last 5 seasons. However, this season has probably been their worst in terms of domestic achievements and that strain has shown as Milan barely managed to stumble past Celtic in the second round before conceding two goals to Bayern at San Siro.

Their return to form – an emphatic 2-0 win away to Bayern with a controlled performance that said a lot about their ability to sit on a lead – is well timed but they are against a team whose last European game yielded 7 goals. If we were to talk about hitting form and peaking, then Milan have still some way to go before they can catch up with Manchester United.

But Milan are a strong, strong side with plenty of class and experience in them. They have 3 world class midfielders in Pirlo, Kaka and Seedorf and any of these three could fire at Old Trafford and give United hell. What they lack in pace they have made up in possession, positioning and awareness.

Milan will be United’s toughest test in the Champions League, and vice versa. For them to win, countering United’s pace and exploiting set pieces will be key.

Key Clashes

A few key battles on the pitch:

Who will mark Kaka?

Brown or Carrick? My money is on Brown – he’s a hard tackler and will cramp Kaka for space, something Lucio did to good effect for Bayern. That’s not the only way to beat Milan but it defintely makes their job a lot harder.

Brown vs Kaka – who will win?

Rooney and Ronaldo vs Milan defence

Their pace and strength vs Milan’s experience and defensive nous.

At the very least, you can expect Ronaldo to be shackled and hounded out to the flanks, but if he plays half as good as he has been playing all season, a goal or an assist is on the cards.

Rooney’s been accused of playing in fits and starts this season, but it’s a measure of how much is expected of a 21-yr old that when he scores 17 goals in a season (with 9-10 assists) people say that he has under-performed.

Rooney could probably score over the two legs as long as he’s not shunted out wide and is used as a proper striker.

Rooney and Ronaldo edge this one, on pace and on the experience they’ve gained in the last two years.

Gattuso vs Scholes

One is a hard tackler who never gives up, the other is a bad (but equally hard) tackler who never gives up. Both are extremely professional and give their 100%. Gattuso is likely to needle his opponents, Scholes is likely to explode in retaliation and get booked.

This one will be a fun battle to watch.

Carrick vs Pirlo

Pirlo doesn’t need much space to create attacks but he does need to be marked, although I’m not sure that Carrick is the right player to mark him. You’d ideally want someone like Alan Smith marking Pirlo – tackle at every opportunity and don’t let them settle. Carrick’s laid back style means that while Pirlo may never get past him, he will certainly get the chance to spray the ball wide.

Predictions

In previous seasons it might have seemed impossible but United’s maturity this season means that they go into this tie as equals to Milan (in their chances of winning, at least). That is, until United’s defence went and injured themselves.

Still, I’m going for a United win at Old Trafford, and probably a draw at San Siro.

What do you guys think?