Manchester United’s vulnerabilities at set-pieces were exposed again as we concede a late goal to draw the Europa League last 16 first leg 1-1 against AC Milan. The first half saw United had no rhythm to their game and were struggling to settle. Milan was the better side. They created a number of chances with two goals ruled out due to offside and a handball. We did have one glorious chance when Harry Maguire met Alex Telles’s corner at the far post, only for his strike to hit the post and come back across the six-yard box.
The second half saw the introduction of Amad Diallo after Anthony Martial went off injured. He made an impact within five minutes of being on the pitch as he ran onto a superb Bruno Fernandes’s chipped pass. With his back to goal, Diallo’s header looped over Donnarumma into the back of the net. Despite being 1-0 up, AC Milan continued to press us. They scored their away goal through Simon Kjaer in injury time despite Dean Henderson’s attempted save.
Here is a look at five things we learned from the game.
1. Amad Arrives On The Big Stage
We have only briefly seen Amad Diallo in the first team, making an appearance in the previous round of the Europa League. He got his opportunity for 45 minutes of game time after coming on for the injured Anthony Martial. The game needed that spark and he certainly delivered. Bruno Fernandes’s chipped pass was sublime. However, what stood out the most was the movement from Amad. He initially came to the ball but then look at Fernandes before spinning and sprinting in behind the AC Milan defence.
He timed his run to absolute perfection as he headed the ball over the goalkeeper whilst having his back turned. The goal had reminded United fans of a similar goal scored by Javier Hernandez at Stoke back in 2011.
At 18 and 243 days, Amad is United’s fourth-youngest European goalscorer. He has already got the trust of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær, who speaks of him highly. We may get to see more of him in the fixtures ahead as United has a packed schedule to contend with. It was a special goal and the only thing was that us fans were not inside Old Trafford to celebrate it with him.
2. Bruno Can Deliver In The Big Games
Who says that Bruno Fernandes cannot deliver in the big games. He proved he can again tonight as his world-class pass setup Amad Diallo to score. Overall, he was not having his best game but he was still a threat to the opposition. The Portuguese Magnifico has plenty of assists for us this season and this one has to be up there with the very best of them. The pass was pinpoint that it was all set up for Amad to do the rest. It was Bruno’s 13th assist of the season and no other United player has more.
3. Set Piece Vulnerabilities
The late equaliser from AC Milan has definitely put a different spin on the tie. To be fair, over the course of the 90 minutes they did deserve to get something out of the game. A Simon Kjaer header in injury time meant the scoreline ended 1-1. The Rossoneri have got their away goal, which means the second leg in the San Siro has taken on extra significance for United. Their equaliser sort of took some of the shine off Amad’s goal and celebration. It is definitely all to play for now.
4. Maguire’s Miss Cannot Be Explained
In what had become a drab first half from United, there was one chance that we did have to put ourselves into the lead. This opportunity came to Harry Maguire. He had timed his excellent run to the far post to meet Tells’s corner. His strike from just a yard out from goal hit the inside post and then came back across the six-yard box towards safety for the Milan defence. United fans on social media were left scratching their heads as to how he missed it.
5. Martial’s Injury Is Not What We Needed
As we arrive into the Milan game, the options in attack for United were lacking. Both Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani missed the game through injury. In addition to conceding the late goal was the cruel injury to Anthony Martial. He had limped off as the halftime whistle blew and was replaced by Amad Diallo for the second half. Though he did not assert himself enough in those 45 minutes and was not effective.
With a pack fixture schedule until the end of the season, Martial may miss some games. He has had a stop-start season as he had the suspension during the early stages of the season, followed by illness, other knocks, and now the injury sustained in this game.
Martial played well in the Manchester Derby and this setback is another blow. Hopefully, the injury is not too serious and he can come back with some momentum for the latter part of the season. This also highlights that now is time for Mason Greenwood to step up in the absence of these players.