The nine time European elite winner AC Milan, welcome United at the Giuseppe Meazza on Tuesday night, in what is expected to be one of the best ties of the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions league so far.
The two teams last met in the Semi-final of the Champions League back in 2007, and United were outperformed and outclassed over the two legs. With Kaka and Seedorf, the heroes for the Rossoneri over the two legs. Much has changed since then. United went on to win the Cup in 2008, and were the runners-up in 2009. Whereas, Milan have lost their sheen and have lost the 'Kaka' factor to the side from Madrid.
Still, the Rossoneri are no pushovers by any means. A squad boasting of match winners like Nesta, Pirlo, Pato, Inzaghi, Ronaldinho, and Seedorf, they can beat any side on their day. They have loads of experience and are most likely to play their ‘Italian’ possession game.
Their manager, Leonardo, likes to employ the 4-3-3 formation with Borriello up front as a target man and Ronaldinho and Pato playing behind him on the wings. Pirlo, Ambrosini, and Seedorf will comprise the three-man midfield.
To counter that, Manchester United would surely play a 4-3-2-1 system, which has paid much dividends off late. And in a way is quite similar to that of Milan's. The United squad will look something like this, with like replacing for like.
Squad: Van der Sar, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Fletcher, Carrick, Scholes, Park, Rooney.
Park will surely play to counter Ronaldinho or Pato. And on the other flank Nani/Valencia would be deployed to keep the flank busy all the time. It being an away leg, Park will be essential. However, when we play them at Old Trafford, I think Sir Alex will start both Nani and Valencia.
Fletcher would be the most crucial player in the match. He needs to do what he’s been doing all season long. His “in your face” style is quintessential to United's performance. He's a very important player for United and they missed him badly in the Champions League final last year. He will be all over the pitch and at every player, most importantly Pirlo!
Scholes and Carrick would be the string pullers in the team. I think Carrick would be given the task of marking Seedorf.
Rooney up front, will surely cause the Rossoneri’s defence some problems. He's been in blistering form off late and has been winning matches for United virtually on his own. He will be up against a "rejuvenated" Alessandro Nesta who is more than formidable to say the least.
All said, there is a certain 'Beckham' factor involved too. A former favourite of the United faithful, now on loan at Milan from LA Galaxy, will surely be looking to perform against his former team and boyhood idols to make it to the England World Cup bus. The sight of him rubbing shoulders with United will surely be a pleasure to watch, at least for the neutrals.
Whoever wins, one thing is sure: the tie would surely live up to the expectation.