The legendary veteran striker has been denied a reunion with his former club in the knockout stage
Two giants of world football collide in the Europa League when Manchester United lock horns with AC Milan in the last 16 of the 2020-21 edition.
Undoubtedly one of the stand-out ties of the round, it aroused plenty of intrigue in the aftermath of the draw, not least because it appeared to promise a reunion for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Red Devils.
Alas, cruel fate has intervened and the legendary striker’s eagerly anticipated return to Old Trafford will not happen.
So why not? Goal brings you everything you need to know about Ibrahimovic’s absence and whether or not he will be available for the second leg.
Why isn’t Zlatan Ibrahimovic playing against Man Utd?
Ibrahimovic is unavailable for the game against Manchester United because of a thigh injury.
On February 28, two days after the draw was made, the Swede sustained the injury during AC Milan’s Serie A clash against Roma and was forced to leave the pitch 55 minutes into the game.
Tests subsequently confirmed he had suffered a thigh muscle tear and he was officially ruled out of the first leg of the last-16 tie against his former club as a result.
“I was unlucky,” reflected the veteran striker when asked about missing the Red Devils meeting. “I had a small injury.”
Having already missed games against Udinese and Verona, Ibrahimovic is also expected to miss the March 14 encounter with Napoli, which takes place three days after Milan’s United showdown.
Man Utd vs AC Milan team news
Ibrahimovic is not the only absentee Milan must contend with in their game against Man Utd, with a number of key players set to miss out for the Rossoneri.
AC Milan injuries
Defender Theo Hernandez was not included in the travelling party, nor was Ante Rebic, while Mario Mandzukic is also unavailable, meaning that Rafael Leao is set to lead the attack.
Hakan Calhanoglu, who has been heavily linked with the Red Devils, and midfielder Ismael Bennacer have not travelled to Manchester either.
Man Utd injuries
Manchester United also have a number of missing players, including strike duo Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani. Both players are considered major doubts for the game.
Juan Mata and Phil Jones are injured, while concerns linger over the fitness of Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek, Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial. Dean Henderson is expected to continue in goal, with David de Gea ruled out.
It looks like Zlatan Ibrahimovic won’t get a reunion with Man Utd due to a thigh injury 😢 pic.twitter.com/nH7Sl4LjTw
— Goal (@goal) March 2, 2021
Will Zlatan Ibrahimovic be available for the second leg against Man Utd?
Ibrahimovic remains a serious doubt for the second leg against Manchester United, which is set to take place on Thursday March 18.
There is a small chance that he could be involved, perhaps even from the substitute bench, but it will naturally depend on how his recovery progresses in the next week.
Indeed, as much as he will be keen to play United, he is at an age where it would be particularly unwise to rush back to action after an injury.
Either way, Milan will miss his influence and, considering he has scored 16 times in 21 appearances this season, his goals.
What is AC Milan’s head-to-head record with Man Utd?
AC Milan and Manchester United have played each other 10 times in European competition and their head-to-head record is split down the middle, with five wins each.
Their last meeting came in the last 16 of the 2009-10 Champions League, with United winning both legs to post a 7-2 aggregate victory. However they were subsequently eliminated in the quarter-final by Bayern Munich.