Paul Pogba made a sensational return from injury as he fired Manchester United into the Europa League quarter finals with a 1-0 victory at AC Milan.
The France international scored just three minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute to mark his first appearance since February 6 in style.
It was Pogba’s fifth goal of the season and completely transformed the complexion of the tie as the Red Devils produced a much-improved second-half showing to progress 2-1 on aggregate.
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United had started brightly but faded as a cagey first half ended on an even footing. Milan actually had the better openings with Dean Henderson making a fine stop to keep out a well-struck drive from Alexis Saelemaekers.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer responded by bringing on Pogba for a first outing since picking up a thigh problem six weeks ago, and it paid dividends as the visitors took control.
Milan turned to former United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to try and rescue the tie, but the substitute saw a header brilliantly kept out by Henderson.
United will now await Friday’s last eight draw before turning their focus to FA Cup duty and the sixth-round clash at Leicester City on Sunday.

Paul Pogba of Manchester United celebrates with Bruno Fernandes

Image credit: Getty Images

TALKING POINT - Pogba magic keeps United in the hunt

The headlines will be all about Pogba and perhaps rightly so. The midfielder is truly world class when he’s on it and he provided a real moment of genius with his goal to wrestle the tie away from Milan. United were lacking intensity prior to his arrival on the pitch and it says much about his presence that it gave everyone the lift that helped them get over the line. The way he faked the shot to outfox Gianluigi Donnarumma before finding the net with a lethal finish was quite sublime.
There’s a feeling the Red Devils are making genuine progress now but they will always be judged on trophies. This remains a big target for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as does finishing in the top two in the Premier League. They haven’t lifted silverware since 2016-17 but remain in the hunt both in Europe and the FA Cup. They would have to get over their semi-final jinx to realise their ambitions further down the line, but with Pogba now hopefully back for the run-in, they look to be in pretty good shape.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. The midfielder’s moment of inspiration helped turn what was looking like a frustrating night into a euphoric one for the visitors. His quality was clear in a match-winning 45-minute cameo and he almost added a second late on.

PLAYER RATINGS

AC MILAN: Donnarumma 7, Kalulu 6, Kjaer 7, Tomori 7, Hernandez 7, Kessie 8, Meite 6, Saelemaekers 7, Calhanoglu 7, Krunic 6, Castillejo 6. Subs: Dalot 6, Zlatan 7, Diaz 6.

MAN UTD: Henderson 8, Lindelof 7, Maguire 7, Wan-Bissaka 7, Shaw 8, McTominay 7, Fred 6, James 6, Fernandes 6, Rashford 6, Greenwood 6. Subs: Pogba 8.
Matchcast: Full match stats and commentary

KEY MOMENTS

13’ – MAN UNITED CHANCE! Fernandes blazes over from 20 yards out after super approach play from Shaw. You'd expect Bruno to keep that on target.
41’ – AC MILAN CHANCE! Milan create space for Saelemaekers with some silky one-touch play but his driven 25-yard effort is pushed to safety by Henderson.
45’ – AC MILAN CHANCE! Krunic can't guide his volley on target after Milan had carved the visitors open down the right.
48’ - GOAL! – AC Milan 0-1 Man United. Pogba makes an immediate impact off the bench with a classy finish following an outrageous dummy to fool the keeper! The Frenchman slammed the ball home from the left edge of the six-yard box after Milan made a real mess of clearing their lines (Man United lead 2-1 on aggregate).
75’ – AC MILAN CHANCE! Zlatan rises above Shaw to meet a left-wing cross but Henderson does well to claw it away.
88’ – MAN UNITED CHANCE! Pogba loops a header just over the bar from James' deep cross.

KEY STATS

Pogba has scored in his last two appearances at Giuseppe Meazza (both v AC Milan) after failing to find the net in the stadium in his eight previous games there.
Pogba scored only his second ever goal as a substitute for Man Utd, in what is his 31st appearance from the bench for the club (also scored v Brighton in Sept 2020).
Man Utd have progressed from each of their last two knockout ties with Milan in European competition, having been eliminated in each of the four ties beforehand (European Cup in 1957-58/1968-69 & Champions League in 2004-05/2006-07).
Henderson has kept 11 clean sheets in just 18 appearances for Man Utd in all competitions this season, one more than David de Gea has registered in 29 games (10).
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