AC Milan wrap up their International Champions Cup campaign on Saturday when they face Manchester United in Cardiff.
So far the ICC has not been kind to the Rossoneri in terms of results, with the team having lost both games against Bayern Munich and Benfica in America, and doing so without scoring.
Nonetheless their were positives to take, especially from the latter game, so Marco Giampaolo will be looking for more improvement from his side as we head towards the new season.
Giampaolo welcomed back a number of key players for the game against Benfica – such as the likes of Musacchio, Romagnoli, Rodriguez and Suso – and all are expected to feature in the Welsh capital this weekend.
New signings Rafael Leao and Leo Duarte are not expected to travel with the squad – who depart from Milano on Friday afternoon – while Lucas Paqueta is also expected to be left out as he has only just got back from a break, as is Franck Kessie.
Mattia Caldara of course will remain absent as he recovers from a ruptured ACL, while Theo Hernandez will also sit on the sidelines as he continues to recover from an ankle ligament problem.
It will of course be interesting to see if Andre Silva plays any part in the game amid all the speculation that Milan are trying to force him out in order to fund a move for Angel Correa.
Predicted AC Milan XI (4-3-1-2): Donnarumma; Calabria, Musacchio, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Borini, Biglia, Calhanoglu; Suso; Castillejo, Piatek.
The Red Devils have hit the ground running in preseason, winning all five games and conceding just once in the process, scoring 10.
Their young players – the likes of Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong and Scott McTominay – have been particularly impressive.
Striker Romelu Lukaku will not feature for United at the Principality Stadium as rumours continue to swirl that he is set to move to Italy, with Juventus and Inter strongly linked.
Eric Bailly meanwhile will also be absent as he is expected be out until Christmas time, having undergone an operation on a knee injury.
How is United’s preseason going so far?
“I can’t fault five wins from five games and it’s clear Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is stamping his mark on the team without sufficient backing from the board.
“There’s been lots of high pressing football and intensity, so it’s nice to see United finally play with an identity again. Hopefully that carries on into the new season and United become an entertaining side to watch.”
Are you happy with the summer business you’ve done?
“Yes but it’s not enough. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be a great signing and while Daniel James is raw and requires patience, I think he’ll be an important addition to the squad. Looking at the overall picture, we finished sixth last season after appointing a new manager towards the end of that campaign.
“Solskjaer said certain players wouldn’t be at the club beyond this transfer window but nobody has been sold and just two players have come in. That’s not enough to bridge the gap from sixth to the top, and that’s what United should be aiming for every season. To be number one.”
What are your hopes and expectations for the coming season?
“As things stand, with the squad we have, I think United will struggle to get top four.”
If you could sign one current Milan player, who would it be and why?
“At the start of the summer I would have said Gianluigi Donnarumma, but it now looks like David de Gea is saying. Other than that I’m not so sure but we need a centre-back, so maybe Alessio Romagnoli who has been linked to United in the past.”
Which of your players should we look out for on Saturday?
“Wan-Bissaka has been outstanding on the tour. He’s hardly put a foot wrong and makes it up and down the right flank with ease, using his pace and physical presence.
“McTominay looks a completely different player since we seen last term. A driving force in our midfield.”
Prediction for the game?
“2-1 to United!”
Predicted Manchester United XI (4-3-3): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Jones, Lindelof, Shaw; McTominay, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Martial.
LAST TIME OUT
The two sides haven’t played each other competitively since 2010, when United thrashed Milan 4-0 at Old Trafford in the second leg of a last 16 Champions League encounter.
Of course the two sides did meet in last year’s edition of the International Champions Cup, with United winning a thrilling penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw in normal time.
In the last ten competitive games, both sides have won five each, and there have been some classic encounters between the two over the years.
For Milan, concerns are starting to arise regarding Krzysztof Piatek. The Poland international was prolific last season and the hope was that he would adapt quickly to the 4-3-1-2 and find his scoring boots in preseason, but so far he has fired blanks.
Eyes will also be cast upon Suso, as reports have suggested it could be a do-or-die for the Spaniard in terms of proving he can adapt to the system and be a useful player for Giampaolo.
United meanwhile have no shortage of quality at their disposal. The likes of Victor Lindelof, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford provide a frightening spine – and with all the speculation surrounding whether Pogba could leave it will be interesting to see if he puts on a show.
As mentioned, United are a lot further ahead in their preseason preparations – as they should be given their season starts a fortnight before Milan’s gets underway.
They appear to have found a rhythm and given their opener (against Chelsea) is just a week away, Ole Gunnar Solkjaer has seemingly confirmed that their starting XI for that game will play on Saturday.
“We’re getting close to the league then,” the Norwegian said. “To play against Milan in Cardiff is a great chance for us to put the full team out and test ourselves before the league starts.
“We’ve got seven or eight days after this AC Milan game so that’s going to be vital game for us to just lay the last little foundations so we’re ready for the league.”
For the Rossoneri, it is all about seeing Giampaolo’s vision continuing to manifest, plus a useful exercise in fitness. The law of averages suggests goals will come after bright performances without any, so Milan could find some joy in South Wales.
Prediction: Manchester United 2-2 AC Milan