PARIS: Zlatan Ibrahimovic will take on his old club Manchester United after they were paired with his current team AC Milan in the last 16 of the Europa League in Friday’s draw in Nyon.
Milan and Ibrahimovic will do battle with United, who beat Real Sociedad 4-0 on aggregate in the previous round, in a two-legged encounter after the seven-time European champions squeezed past Red Star Belgrade on away goals on Thursday.
Veteran forward Ibrahimovic won the 2017 edition of the Europa League with Premier League giants United in a two-year spell at the club.
He was a big success in particular during his first season at United, where he won over fans with his goals and exciting play before a serious knee injury suffered in their Europa League last eight tie with Anderlecht ended his 2016-17 campaign.
“I’ve been so impressed, I’ve got to say, by how his career has gone,” United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told the club’s website.
“He had a career-threatening injury when he was here but came back from that and went to MLS, then came back to Milan and has really lifted them. They’re on the up and have done really well this season.
“It’s one of the those draws again that you feel could be a Champions League game. It’s good for us to have these games to look forward to.”
Milan, a club which despite its illustrious history had long been in the doldrums, have been revitalised since Ibrahimovic’s return in December 2019.
They are currently battling for their first Italian league title since 2011, when the Swede was leading the Milan line for a team featuring the likes of Clarence Seedorf, Thiago Silva and Andrea Pirlo.
The Swede has been in fine form this season for a Milan team in which he is the only real star name, scoring 14 Serie A goals in 13 appearances at the ripe old age of 39.
United will be considered favourites for the tie however, even though they play at home first as they sit second in the Premier League having lost just once in the English top flight since the start of November.
Milan meanwhile have surrendered top spot in Serie A to neighbours Inter Milan after a run of three defeats in five league matches which has Stefano Pioli’s side looking over their shoulder at a host of rivals for a place in the Champions League.
They are without a win in four matches in all competitions thanks to straight league defeats at the hands of Spezia and Inter and the two draws with Red Star which saw them through to the last 16.
Ajax will fancy their chances against Switzerland’s Young Boys after the four-time European champions eliminated Ligue 1 leaders Lille on Thursday.
Granada were rewarded for making the last 16 in their first ever European campaign with a tie against Norway’s Molde, while Roma coach Paulo Fonseca will be reunited with his old team Shakhtar Donetsk.
United’s fellow Premier League teams Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal will face Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos respectively. Rangers take on Slavia Prague after dumping out Royal Antwerp 9-5 on aggregate. – AFP