Milan 0, Manchester 1: Relief

This tie could have gone either way, but for one tragic minute of defending. In the end, having healthy bodies proved to be the difference maker, and Milan have precious few of those. Solskjaer got 45 minutes out of a recovered Pogba, while Pioli only got 25 rusty minutes from an Ibrahimovic who was clearly rushed back to action. And that made all the difference. Still, for Milan fans, it is actually not a bad thing to go out of the Europa League finally, because our injury bench has become a war triage and we didn't even have a single striker to start in this match. So actually, this is a relief.

They came, they fought, they didn't conquer

The game started ugly, and not just because Castillejo started as a "false nine" up front. As both teams settled into their game, thought, it became intensely entertaining for the rest of the first half. Each side traded shots and defended as if their lives depended on it. Both sides would only total four shots on target each, as the game was played largely up and down the pitch.

Just one look, that's all it took

The second half saw Pogba subbed on, who was very clearly recovered. That became more evident three minutes later, when after what could only be described as The Three Stooges-inspired defending from Milan, Pogba chipped Gigio for the goal. 1-0, 2-1 on aggregate. 

That was basically it. Ibrahimovic came on with 25 minutes left, and he was still clearly rusty. He had an epic header in the 74th minute that forced an equally massive save from Henderson, but not much more. There were four yellow cards for Milan - Kalulu, Dalot, Kjaer, and Theo Hernandez. In the second half, Manchester United dominated more with Pogba on the pitch. Milan gave it all they had, the yellow cards as evidence of their effort and frustration. It's just that with so many players missing, Milan simply didn't have enough.

They fought valiantly

The day started by finding out that league leaders Inter were going to have a game postponed with only four cases of COVID-19 after we were required to face them with six of their players infected, and we played many other games with more cases for and against as well. I'm all for being safe and doing the right thing, but we were disrespected when we were top of the table. Inter got special treatment when they were top of the table, so the missing players don't impact their precious results. Then we find out that the mayor of Milan has stopped our stadium project because of Inter's financial situation as well. Inter ruins everything.

Next came the injury report... Mandzukic and Maldini are still out with muscle injuries, Romagnoli and Leao have muscle lesions and will be out longer, and Rebic is still having hip problems. However, the worst news was that Calabria will undergo knee surgery tomorrow. It was nice to play in Europe, but Milan played 13 games in the Europa League this season, more than any other Serie A side played in Europe. And we have the injuries to show for it. Hopefully there are no new injuries after this match.

It was like 90 minutes of this.

Milan missed Hauge desperately, a decision that Pioli made. He could have reserved Mandzukic for the league and still had Hauge play in the Europa League, where the young Norwegian had an incredible six goals and three assists this season. Having Mandzukic in Serie A would have been amazing for our standing, and Hauge would have been a breath of fresh air up front instead of Castillejo, who barely qualifies as a winger. Additionally, Pioli chose to keep more depth in midfield in Krunic and Meite, which were needed, but it was attackers we were short on tonight. Hopefully Pioli learned from this.

Not a single striker was found

It may seem like the loss and going out of Europe was yet another disappointment to add to a pretty bad day, but honestly, everyone at Milan have to be breathing better and will sleep better tonight because we have only the league left to worry about. I could have definitely done without the entire knockout round, but whatever. It was nice to see that we could compete in Europe, even if the injuries from playing so many extra games may actually prevent us from playing in Europe next season. When all was said and done, after this match, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

This post inspired by the music of the Foo Fighters' "All My Life"

Our next match is
Fiorentina vs. Milan
Sunday, March 21 • 18:00 CET (1pm EDT)*
*note the time difference due to American Daylight Savings Time

Milan 0, Manchester 1: Relief Milan 0, Manchester 1: Relief Reviewed by Elaine on 5:33 PM Rating: 5
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