Paul Pogba scored just three minutes into his return to action as Manchester United beat AC Milan 1-0 to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
The round of 16 tie was delicately poised from the first leg, which had ended as a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
That match had been a tense affair and this one was no different. Chances were at a premium in the first half despite a decent intensity.
Alexis Saelemaekers probably had the best chance of the first half. The Milan wide man forced Dean Henderson to bat away a shot struck along the ground.
Other than that, there were few moments in which either keeper was tested. For example, a few minutes before Saelemaekers’ chance, Victor Lindelof made an excellent tackle to prevent Franck Kessie from getting into a shooting position.
That moment summed up the pattern of the first half, with both sides pushing but struggling to get clear-cut chances.
The last action of the half saw Hakan Calhanoglu disrupted by Aaron Wan-Bissaka when trying to turn a cross into the corner. The Milan attacking midfielder still got a shot away, but it went wide.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a change at half-time, replacing Marcus Rashford with Pogba. The midfielder, who had been out for over a month, made an instant impact upon his return to action.
After a goalmouth scramble, Pogba feigned to shoot from a tight angle, before taking aim and sticking it in the back of the net.
🙌 46' Paul Pogba gets subbed on
🔥 48' Paul Pogba scores
A vital goal for Man United! 👏 pic.twitter.com/UuPxhGWTzj
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 18, 2021
It meant United had crucially matched Milan in terms of scoring an away goal.
Ibrahimovic faces former side but fails to score
Immediately, the game sparked into life again, with both sides now finding it easier to get shots at goal. Mason Greenwood was next to have a go for United, but left a comfortable save for Gianluigi Donnarumma.
As Milan chased an equaliser, they sent on former United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and defender Diogo Dalot, on loan from the Red Devils.
Ibrahimovic nearly matched Pogba in terms of scoring soon after coming on. He forced a great reactionary save out of Henderson with a header.
However, it was his only real chance – and there weren’t many for his teammates either, despite a lot of pressure. Hence, United held on to their 1-0 win.
That puts them through to the quarter-finals with a 2-1 aggregate win. They will discover their opponents for the next round in Friday’s draw.