History Is On Milan's Side But We're No Outsiders
The most frequently heard stat these days is that Manchester United never managed to knock AC Milan out of the European Cup. In four attempts and eight games United registered three wins and five losses and lost every duel on aggregate.
Of course games played in the 50s and 60s are absolutely irrelevant but our capitulation by the hands of Milan in 2005 and 2007 is a not so distant memory - indeed, there will be many who were there on both occasions.
Milan still have Massimo Ambrosini, Dida, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Filippo Inzaghi and Kakha Kaladze - all of them wore their colours in 2005.
United also have many players remembering both recent double headers: Wayne Rooney, Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Wes Brown, John O'Shea and Rio Ferdinand were all there.
So it's not just ancient history that is on Milan's side, key playes in our squad are all too aware what a huge obstacle they are. We could even say it's a kind of a jinx: in the Champions League era, United met Italian clubs on seven occasions in the knockout stages and progressed five times - but Milan always seem to be just too good.
This time, however, it can be different: Fergie is right when he argues that it's a good time to play Milan. His reasoning is sound: they lost Kaka, Pato is short of match fitness after injury but he'll probably play anyway, they are not in great form.
However, we also have injuries (Vidic, O'Shea, Giggs, Hargreaves), other absentees (Anderson), we have out of form players like Owen and we've been quite inconsistent this season. Still, this time we're not outsiders, even though Clarence Seedorf argues that we are - not outsiders to progress but outsiders to win the trophy, with which I actually agree. But he forgot to mention that, unusual though it is for Milan, they are also outsiders, extreme outsiders, to win the competition.
History is on their side against United but pace and power are not. We'll see which one is the more important.