If you could select 11 players from Milan and Manchester United’s squads, what would the team be? Carlo Garganese offers his line-up.
Edwin van der Sar: The Dutchman may turn 40 later this year, but he still has a safe pair hands and is full of experience. His challengers for this spot are Christian Abbiati and the error-prone Nelson Dida, so van der Sar wins out.
John O’Shea: Neither side is blessed with an outstanding right back. Milan have the ageing Gianluca Zambrotta and Massimo Oddo as well as the naïve Ignazio Abate, while the washed-up Gary Neville and inexperienced Fabio don’t really cut it for United. While he will be injured for the Milan tie, O’Shea is an under-rated utility player.
Patrice Evra: A clear winner in the left back berth. The Frenchman has almost singlehandedly kept United’s defence together this season, if that is possible for a full back, and is one of the few world class left backs around. The position is a weak link for Milan through the likes of Luca Antonini, Giuseppe Favalli, Marek Jankulovski and Zambrotta.
Alessandro Nesta & Thiago Silva: Four players were battling it out for these two positions - Nesta, Silva, Rio Ferdinand & Nemanja Vidic – but in truth the two Milanese stars win quite comfortably. Nesta, back from an injury that ruled him out for all but 13 minutes of last season, is the best defender in the world. Thiago Silva, if not already world class, will be very soon. Ferdinand has had a terrible season ravaged by injury and poor form, and there are serious question marks whether he is past his best. As for Vidic, he has also had a difficult campaign and seems destined for a summer transfer.
Left Centre Midfield
Ryan Giggs: The Welsh wizard is 36 now, but the moments of magic have not left his left boot. One of the greatest left midfielders of the last 20 years, Giggs could have been a real worry to Milan in this tie, but a broken arm seems likely to rule him out of both legs.
Andrea Pirlo: His form may have been very inconsistent since the last time the two teams met in 2007, but when he is in the mood then perhaps only Barcelona’s Xavi is better at directing the traffic. If Pirlo takes charge against The Red Devils, bet on a Rossoneri triumph.
Right Centre Midfield
Massimo Ambrosini: A really close battle between Ambrosini and United-duo Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick, but the Italian just wins out for the job of midfield bulldog. Ambrosini has been a revelation this season, winning countless balls in midfield, keeping Matthieu Flamini and Rino Gattuso out of the team, and showing real heart.
Alexandre Pato: Surely the best Under-21 star in world football right now. His final ball can sometimes be hit-and-miss, but there is no denying the explosiveness of Pato. When he is in top form he can destroy any defence, as Real Madrid will attest from earlier this term.
Ronaldinho: The Brazilian is not back to his Barcelona brilliance – that would be impossible – but he is in his best form since his Camp Nou heyday. No longer able to glide past opponents, Ronnie remains a creative genius and he is top of the Serie A assists charts this season
Wayne Rooney: After Lionel Messi, and perhaps Barcelona chums Xavi and Andres Iniesta, Rooney is currently the best player in the world. He has dragged United on heroically since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, and this season has already scored 23 goals in all competitions. If he continues like this, he could end his career as one of the top three English footballers of all time.
Formation 4-3-3: van der Sar; O’Shea, Nesta, Thiago Silva, Evra; Ambrosini, Pirlo, Giggs; Pato, Rooney, Ronaldinho
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