Last night had a feel of win or bust for AC Milan. The way Milan started, gave the impression their players and management felt they had to win the home leg to stand any chance of progressing to next round.
Milan absolutely blitzed Manchester United for the first 20-25 minutes creating several chances with Ronaldinho running the show and causing havoc. It was the Ronaldinho of old; some pieces of skill were breath taking and left the mouth a gaping.
At times last night we were our own worst enemies. As to be expected the early goal set the tone for the first part of the match, it gave Milan confidence and put us on the back foot. Our Passing was sloppy, defending/heading was poor and we were very fortunate to be level at half time. In defence the main culprits in my opinion were Jonny Evans and Rafael. Evans looked especially nervous finding himself out of position several times whilst Rafael came up against a former great (Ronaldinho) in top form. Both showed their lack of experience at this level. I was surprised to see Rafael start the second half; I would have replaced him with Wes Brown at half time.
Rafael in some ways was at fault for the all important goal scored by Clarence Seedorf. Instead of clearing the ball, Rafael tried running the ball out from defence, eventually he was tackled which left an acre of space for Ronaldinho to cross the ball in for Seedorf to coolly score. Seedorf’s goal is massive, in terms of the balance of the tie. United had the tie won last night and if anything I felt we were going to be the next team to score.
I do rate Rafael; I think he will be the long term replacement for Gary Neville. His lack of Champions League experience shone through though last night that is all. His shoulder pads are quality; they make him look like a mini prop forward… 🙂
In midfield Carrick was also poor. His passing was strangely sloppy which put us in trouble on a couple of occasions. I’m a big fan of Carrick, but I’ve rarely seen him perform so poorly before. His sending off was a tad unfortunate. I felt the first yellow card he received was harsh; I thought Carrick pulled out of the sliding tackle. I still haven’t seen a reply of the second yellow card to pass judgement on.
Our first goal (as Milan’s) was… you could say, rather fortunate. I thought it was ironic that one of the cleanest strikers of a football (Scholes) missed the ball completely but the ball rebounded of Scholes’ standing leg and trickled into the corner of the goal. This however brought one of moments of the night for me. Sir Alex Ferguson absolutely let rip at Jonny Evans. Fergie was frothing at the mouth as he leashed a barrage of expletives directed at Evans. In recent years, people have suggested Fergie has mellowed, if that’s a mellowed Fergie then I can only imagine what the Ferguson of ten years ago was like…
The two stand out players last night (as they have been many times this season) were Rooney and Fletcher. Rooney was relatively quiet in the first half but in the second half we saw the striker he has now developed into this season – two goals in the six yard box.
The transformation of Fletcher in the last eighteen months has been sensational. He’s gone from a squad player to virtually the first name on the team sheet. I was never his biggest fan but I’m extremely pleased to be proven wrong. Fletcher has a great engine, he never stops running for the full ninety minutes and has added creativity in his passing this season, with a number of assists this season. He proved his worth again last night with two assists.
I was delighted to hear the whistle for half time at only 1-1. I was then confident we would go on and get a result in the second half. I felt once Fergie had time with the players in the changing room he would settle them down and ask them to show greater composure in attack and defence. With the return leg at Old Trafford and three away goals, I fully expect us to qualify for the next round. However, it won’t be easy if Ronaldinho is on top form again and Pato troubled Evra with his pace and movement throughout the game and perhaps should have done better with a couple of headers.
A good result and our first win at the San Siro. Just a shame we conceded the late goal but we’ll still go through.