AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has revealed he was “very impressed” by the way Manchester United played against Manchester City at the weekend.
Milan visit Old Trafford on Thursday for the first leg of their glamorous Europa League Round of 16 tie. It is the standout fixture of the round, with both clubs historically of Champions League pedigree.
United go into the game in high spirits after inflicting a 2-0 defeat upon rivals City at the weekend. But Milan are also on the back of a win after beating Verona.
Milan boss Pioli was keeping an eye on proceedings in Manchester over the weekend as well. And he has now told United that he was taking note of how they played.
“I was very impressed,” Pioli said.
“United have deservedly won against a fantastic team that haven’t lost in 20/21 games. We studied that game.”
The winner of this tie will go on to be one of the favourites to win the competition overall. However, Pioli played down the notion that it is an early final.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “There are many strong teams still in the running.
“It is a prestigious match between two historic clubs with a great past. Now we are working to get back to winning and make our dreams come true.”
The two-legged tie is expected to be a close affair, but Pioli is unsure that a draw would be a good result on Thursday.
“Some games just have to be played to the fullest and with great conviction, as well as with great respect for a team that has dropped out of the Champions League.
“A positive result tomorrow evening would give us an important momentum in view of the return leg.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not be returning to Old Trafford due to injury, but Man Utd loanee Diogo Dalot will be in the travelling party.
Doubts remain about the full-back’s future, but Pioli is happy with the impact he has been having recently.
“We are very happy with his growth,” he said. “Future? It’s early, we are focused only on the next matches.
“Then it’s not up to me to talk about these things.”
Tomori ready for Utd challenge
Another familiar face who will take part in the game is Fikayo Tomori, who is on loan at Milan from United’s Premier League rivals Chelsea.
Tomori has made a decent impression since making the switch to Italy in January and is hoping his experience of English football could help against United.
“We know that it’s an important match for both teams,” Tomori added. “It’s the first game, and it’s going to be a tough one.
“We are two great teams with great tradition and will be a great match.
“We’ve studied Manchester United, we know it’s going to be a tough game, they have fast strikers. I hope my experience in England will help me.”
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