AC Milan vs Manchester United – Pre-Match Thoughts

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As the day approaches, the semi final between Milan and Man United that is, it is very tempting for people around to start spouting their share of opinions left, right and center. We here at Soccerlens, make no mistake, will not hide such pretensions and yes, will spout our own opinions for you to read. So here are some pearls that are not meant to be taken with the proverbial (and cliched) pinches of salt.

Now that I have heightened your expectations, sit tight as I start off by picking on one such opinion I read on the Guardian; the one by Richard Williams. Go read it, it’s got quotes from Milan’s prime assets by the name of Zeljko Kalac so it’s going to be priceless. 🙂 Anyway here’s a quote from that:

… the techniques of the Milan Lab are closely studied by ambitious clubs keen to prolong the active life of players whose experience can exert a crucial influence on big matches… “They’ve got a very clear philosophy,” Forde says, “and the biggest element is a belief in treating the players individually – not just physically but mentally and emotionally. They’ve invested well in their facilities, obviously, but there’s a cerebral process going on there.

…”The key to it is that each player undergoes a screening process on a daily basis – biomechanically, neurologically, and so on. It’s about finding the nuances of what makes a player tick so that they can say, ‘This is where he is today and this is what he needs to be doing.’

Hmm… how interesting! Especially for a fan to know that his team is going to age and not much effort is going to be put into youth development. All will be focused on the 35+ players who despite their clear lack of pace will be egged on to play on. Make no mistake, the ageless Maldini and co are great but doesn’t it also mean that there really isn’t much coming up through the ranks, or rather should we say aren’t their any substantial efforts being made to bring in someone for the future?

Mr. Williams, we know how much you want to emphasize the value of experience in your article, but I would definitely want to have more than the solitary mention of Kaka in a preview to the game in my column. As one of the commentors in your column said to the effect of, had Bayern been just a tad conscious, you might have been talking about the battle between ageless Ottmar Hitzfeld and Sir Alex.

Or conversely, bemoaning the average age of the Milan team as a cause for their departure. Because, you must realize that a Milan team in their peak might not have conceded those two home goals in the first place. Hindsight can give such joy to the opinionated, but I digress.

Getting back to my opinions for the match, from a United point of view Kaka cannot be afforded space and Pirlo cannot be afforded time on the ball. All said about the age of Milan’s defense, I doubt they will play as high up the park as Roma did and Gattuso will have a lot of water carrying to do. Frankly I wouldn’t have really worried much about this leg had Ferdinand managed to come out of the Boro game in one piece.

But now, having Brown and Heinze together against the opportunist that is Inzaghi, gives me the jitters. Their understanding is of prime importance; a second of negligence would surely be punished, and all we would then see would be the animated celebration of Pippo running wildly around the San Siro after just a tap in.

In attack, I wouldn’t mind the 4-2-3-1 system that worked against Roma, as long as Carrick sits deep. Hopefully we won’t see Scholes annoying everyone and himself with his rubbish tackling and quick one-twos are the way around the Milan’s defense. Oh yes, and I really don’t need to talk about the importance of Ronaldo and Rooney do I?

From the Milan’s side, Pirlo and Kaka are the usual suspects that Inzaghi would look upto for his scraps. Although we wouldn’t expect them to go all out, unless they are a goal down, their quick counter attacks have proven time and again as their most potent weapon with Kaka at the heart of most of them.

Also expect reasonable amount of aerial balls (due to a make-shift United defense) from Jankulovski in particular, although I am not sure if Maldini might play in his preferred fullback role. Something still tells me experience might force him to play at fullback to negate Ronaldo.

There, now that I’ve given my comprehensive analysis of the game, apart from mentioning Kaka more than once, I deserve a pat on my back, don’t I? Wait, here’s my prediction so that you can comfortably snipe me once it all gets horribly wrong.

My Prediction: United to win 1-0. Heinze to go scot free after a professional foul, and all hell to break loose in the San Siro. Such joy will come of it!

Go ahead keep your eggs ready at your own risk!

Who will finish on top in this mediocre La Liga campaign?
Football Headlines: 23 April 2007


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