It was another example of one step forward and two steps back, which has been Manchester United’s season history. The equalizer in added time he conceded against AC Milan means he has a huge task ahead to reverse this Europa League last 16 draw at San Siro next week.
Teenage winger Amad Diallo was almost the hero Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side desperately needed after a tasteless first half, as he became the youngest non-British player to score for United in European competition. He came off the bench at half-time to take the lead at United.
But the old habits are dead. Solskjaer’s side were once again caught on a free kick as Simon Kjaer caught the visitors a deserved leveler deep in the stoppage time.
United goalkeeper Dean Henderson should have done better after receiving the starting kit and will be under pressure for the job once David de Gea is in contention again.
Progress is a word that has been used often when discussing the club this season, and the question of whether that makes. In the past, this clash between two European heavyweights would have been played on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening under the lights of the Champions League. But not now.
The two teams are fighting to get back to where they think they belong: at the top. And after a lethargic and heavy display of the home side’s first half, which led to Harry Maguire yelling at his teammates to stop giving the ball, it felt like Stefano Pioli’s men were a lot closer to realizing this dream than that of Solskjaer.
After the derby victory over Manchester City this weekend, Maguire spoke about how it rekindled the long-held belief that they can come out and beat the best. However, they certainly didn’t start the game with that mentality.
Milan are arguably the best Europa League team this season and United have struggled to match them. Maguire missed his team’s best chance at one yard and the whole team watched the pace, giving sloppy passes time and time again.
United desperately needed a moment of inspiration and stepped up 18-year-old Ivorian Amad.
The teenager had only managed 38 minutes of first-team football for United before being brought in to the break and, given his fantastic header five minutes after his introduction, he may not have to wait long. before getting his first start.
If Amad abides by all the additional clauses included in the deal that brought him from Atalanta to Manchester United in January, then the club will have spent nearly 37 million pounds (52 million dollars). The fee would be considered a bargain if he continued to score important goals like the one he scored at Old Trafford on Thursday night.
Some young players might have been frightened by the prospect of being called up at halftime in a huge European clash, but it’s clear from the few weeks Amad has been at the club that he has the temper and the necessary confidence. his capacity.
In his Under-23 debut, he scored a Panenka penalty, one of three goals he’s managed in two appearances at this level, and he scored with his first shot for the first team. It’s certainly not a bad comeback so far.
An injury to Anthony Martial forced Solskjaer’s hand to bring in Diallo. With Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford both missing the game with injury, the Norwegian had little other option to invoke in the attacking department on his bench.
That Solskjaer was forced to make this change is not necessarily a bad thing. The United manager is known to have left late with his replacements and after that first half something had to be given.
Daniel James should have doubled United’s lead when he missed the goal in the 71st minute and the hosts couldn’t see the game end.
Solskjaer went on the defensive with his changes, training Luke Shaw, Brandon Williams and Fred. He had little choice in his arsenal from an attacking standpoint, but they sat down and invited pressure from a resilient and well-trained Milan. The Serie A side deserved their last-minute equalizer, continuing to push until the final whistle.
It will not only be the timing of the goal that will disappoint Solskjaer but also the nature of it. United defenders were once again beaten on the first free kick and questions will be asked about Henderson’s contribution.
It will not be ranked next to the classic European fixtures of the past between these sides. Not only were there no fans in attendance, but both fell from their previous highs.
If United are to find a way and keep their dreams of silverware alive, then they’re going to have to dig deep and find some of that old European spark.