Monday, April 23, 2007

Champions League Preview: Manchester United v. AC Milan

It's the battle of the geratric defence versus the non-existent defence! With roughly half their squad out injured, United are down to only three fit defenders. And one of them is John O'Shea. It's not encouraging. On the other hand, they weren't in much better shape against Roma, and they seemed to do fine. I think they could come through again, but they have to go into the game with the right attitude: backs against the wall, fuck this, you're not getting past us tonight. I am worried, though, about their ability to defend set pieces -- always a danger when you're facing Andrea Pirlo -- and play the offside trap effectively against Pippo "Flag? What?" Inzaghi. I'm also expecting one or two reckless tackles like the ones by Heinze and O'Shea in their last two games -- and you're way less likely to get away with that in Europe.

Milan's team is just about fully fit. Dida is a doubt -- he's been struggling with a shoulder injury -- and I'm not too sure about Inzaghi. Their key player, apart from Pirlo, is Kaka. He's the one that United really have to shut down, but unfortunately they don't have a Makalele-type (or even a Hargreaves) to do it. The idea of Paul Scholes trying to tackle him is purely terrifying. Carrick will probably be playing fairly deep to try to contain him, but he'll also have Gattuso harrying him in return.

I really don't know how to call this one. Milan have the advantage of experience -- both in winning this competition and in beating United -- they're not distracted by the league or the domestic cup, and they've got a much stronger bench, with a bunch of proven veterans, whereas United have Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a handful of youth team players and some guy that Sir Alex picked up on the street. But United, on their day, can beat any team out there. Two weeks ago, I would've expected a fairly straightforward United victory, but now... I'm trying not to get my hopes up about either this one or the Liverpool game, frankly.

Team predictions:
Man United: Van der Sar; Fletcher, O'Shea, Brown, Heinze; Carrick, Scholes; Ronaldo, Giggs, Rooney; Smith

Milan: Dida; Oddo, Nesta, Maldini, Jankulovski; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Seedorf, Kaka; Inzaghi


ynba said...

I hadn't heard this till the Guardian podcast today, but apparently Sir Alex once said that Inzaghi was born offside. Which cracks me up and I don't know why.

Jen said...

Heeee. That is kind of awesome.