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Manchester United 2 (5), AC Milan 2 (4): Promising



The fact that Milan lost… again... is very misleading. Each match in the ICC Tournament, they have shown improvement and a greater sense of the tactics that Giampaolo is trying to instill in the team. In this match, they met a team that is about three weeks ahead of them in terms of preparation, and Milan actually dominated them in times in possession. In fact, it was only on penalties that we lost, and it was the closest thing to a win that Giampaolo has seen so far at Milan. Not winning aside, however, the play is so incredibly refreshing. For Milan fans, it is very promising.

Suso playing our savior once again with a goal and an assist

In the first half, I read that Milan kept Manchester United down to only 37% possession. Unlike the first two matches, Milan came out strong from the first minute. And despite falling behind to Rashford’s goal in the 14th (1-0 Manchester United,) they didn’t lose focus or give up. That is so very refreshing. Even more so when after going close in the 25th, Suso scored a goal just a minute later, 1-1 all. The assist was from Borini, but I predict that his next position will be at center back after an amazing tackle in the 43rd to prevent a goal. Piatek had a couple of great chances in the first half, too, but was thwarted by De Gea.

In the second half, Manchester United came out much stronger and had a lot more chances. However after Suso sent in a great cross in the 60th and Castillejo just got his head on it, it was Lindelöf’s deflection that scored the goal for Milan, 2-1 Milan. Despite Giampaolo out-subbing Solskjaer, Manchester United were able to equalize in the 72nd with a goal by Lingard, 2-2 all. And after a yellow card for Calhanoglu in the 90th minute, the score was still tied at the final whistle, so it went to penalties.

Castillejo knows even as he celebrates that they're going to give his goal as an own goal

I had flashbacks of last year, when I was actually there to watch the game live here in Los Angeles, and it took 17 penalties to decide the match between these two clubs. That was grueling, even if it was still also just a friendly. This one was a little intense, too, for a friendly, and everyone scored their penalties until it came to poor young Daniel Maldini. De Gea saved his penalty, so when James drilled his past Reina, the game went to Manchester United… again. At least this time it only took ten penalty kicks.

The big takeaway, though, from this match, other than the rapidly improving playing style and much more entertaining tactics, is that Giacomo Bonaventura made a triumphant return to the pitch as a sub in the 76th minute. He nailed his penalty, too, cool as you like. We have missed him so much, and one has to imagine that having him back to 100% soon will help to heal the wound where Milan ripped our hearts out and forced Cutrone out. Bonaventura has long been the heartbeat of this team, inspiring others even if his performances fell short. It was great to see you back, Jack.

So great to see you back, Jack

It is much too early to judge Giampaolo, even if fans on social media have already hoisted him on their proverbial shoulders and are carrying him around as if he has won a major trophy or something. The truth is, he hasn’t won anything yet at Milan, not even one game. Not against Novara, not against Benfica, Bayern, or Manchester United. But he is winning the fans over with improved performances. After Gattuso’s negative football, it is very refreshing to see so many short passes building up the play, the team actually pressing, a formation that is narrow and more attacking, and especially the confidence of players returning after being beaten down by such defensive football for so long. In effect, though Milan are going to need to actually start winning at some point, it’s the football that everyone is talking about. And finally, after years of being so poor, that is very promising.


This post inspired by the music of Chris Cornell’s “The Promise”


Our next match is a friendly
FC Feronikeli vs. AC Milan
Saturday, August 10 at 8:45pm CEST (2:45pm EDT)
This is Milan’s first match ever to be played in Kosovo