Manchester United are into the UEFA Europa League quarterfinals after a 1-0 win over AC Milan at San Siro on Thursday secured a 2-1 aggregate victory. After a largely forgettable first half, Paul Pogba came on for Marcus Rashford at halftime and needed just three minutes to open the scoring with a smart finish.
Milan tried what they could to get back into the tie, including throwing former United man Zlatan Ibrahimovic on, but the Italians were unable to equalize. The 2017 champions are now back in the quarterfinals and will be one of the teams that nobody wants to draw in the final eight on Friday.
Here are some takeaways from the match.
Pogba powers up
The France international has been heavily criticized during his second spell at Old Trafford and could still move on this summer, but he came up big in Italy and was the difference between these two sides on the night. It was a reminder to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and others of the contributions that he is capable of making on his day.
The super Swede was sent in off the bench during the second half, but was unable to conjure up a moment of magic for the home side. At 39 and off the back of another injury lay-off, it was not the ideal circumstances for the ex-United man, but he still had a good chance to equalize and was denied by a Dean Henderson save.
2 - Man Utd have progressed from each of their last two knockout ties with Milan in European competition, having been eliminated in each of the four ties beforehand (European Cup in 1957-58/1968-69 & Champions League in 2004-05/2006-07). Edged. pic.twitter.com/OLPDDMhfY7— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 18, 2021
It has been a frustrating wait for success for the Norwegian manager in Manchester with a number of close calls that have ultimately ended in disappointment. However, United will enter the quarterfinal draw as one of the favorites and an opponent that nobody wants to come up against. They could just go all the way as they did under Jose Mourinho, who crashed out spectacularly with Tottenham Hotspur at the hands of Dinamo Zagreb earlier Thursday.
5 - #ACMilan have been eliminated in European competition knockout stage encounters in five of the last six clashes against English sides (only exception v Arsenal 2011/12 in Champions League). Thorn#MilanManchester #UEL #EuropaLeague pic.twitter.com/fMARG10Uhf— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) March 18, 2021
While United are looking good for potential success, Milan have seen most of their potential avenues closed off within a matter of weeks. At the start of 2021, things looked bright and the Italians were looking at potential Serie A, Coppa Italia and Europa League success. Now, they trail Inter Milan by nine points in the league, lost to their bitter rivals in the domestic cup and have also crashed out of Europe. Stefano Pioli and his players have some tough questions to answer.