Manchester United went from comfortable to precarious in a matter of moments as the concession of a last minute equaliser, and an away goal, swung this Europa League tie firmly in favour of AC Milan.
Amad Diallo scored his first United goal in some style, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could have no complaints about the result – though he will surely be bitterly disappointed by the late equaliser, he will surely shoulder some of the blame.
Both teams were missing players but the absence of Pogba, Cavani and Rashford really seemed to have an impact on United; as ever, it always feels that just taking one or two players from this team can come with a severe determined impact, and that was the case, with the hosts looked disjointed, low on tempo, urgency and quality.
Milan bossed the first half and went close twice to scoring – United were lucky when their poor marking in the fifth minute was saved by the offside flag. Maguire, McTominay and Matic were all lucky when they hesitated to get a challenge in on Kessie – the midfielder struck a magnificent half-volley into the net from the edge of the box, but the goal was disallowed harshly for handball.
In between those chances, Martial had a speculative effort from the edge of the box; but it took until the latter stages of the first half for United to get a real chance. And when it came – what a chance. Telles corner was whipped across goal and Maguire, a yard out, somehow hit the post when the goal was yawning.
Something needed to change – but the enforced substitution of Martial did not immediately spring to mind as the thing to do it. The French forward did not come out for the second half, and he was replaced by Amad Diallo, with Greenwood moving into the middle.
Within five minutes of the restart, Amad had his big moment – Fernandes flighted a fantastic pass into the box, and it was read superbly by the young winger. His finish, though, was even better – a back-flick header, reminiscent of one once scored by Javier Hernandez at Stoke.
United had a chance for a second when Greenwood’s cross was met at the far post by James, but the Welsh winger did not convert when he had a similarly promising opening to the one Maguire had.
Solskjaer rung the changes, giving brief rests to Wan-Bissaka and Fernandes – but this is not a Manchester United second-string built for pragmatic purpose, and instead of controlling the game out, they invited more and more pressure until the last moments of injury time, when Kjaer was somehow allowed to get an unchallenged header to a corner and level things up. Henderson, who had been so composed, should arguably have done better.
United could not argue with the result on the balance of play but will certainly bemoan their two big missed chances.
It was a great night for Amad, but with more injuries to United’s attacking options, qualification for the next round seems like it will be a big ask next week in Italy.
— United Goals ⚽️ (@UnitedGoals__) March 11, 2021