Old friends Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are set to face each other on Thursday night with both the Manchester United and AC Milan stars passed fit for their Europa League last-16 clash.
Pogba and Ibrahimovic joined United in the same summer transfer window in 2016 and have formed a close friendship over the years. They share an agent in Mino Raiola and Pogba has even said in the past he values Zlatan as a ‘really good friend and big brother’.
But they will have to put their friendship aside for 90 minutes on Thursday night with the Europa League quarter-finals in sight for both teams, as United travel to the San Siro with the tie poised at 1-1.
After their dreadful first leg displayOle Gunnar Solskjaer has received a number of boosts for the game with the return of Pogba, who could be set to play his first game since February after being out with a thigh injury, and Donny van de Beek.
However, the Red Devils suffered a last-minute blow ahead of their trip to Italy, with Edinson Cavani suffering a setback in training after being named in United’s initial 21-man squad.
David De Gea is also back from paternity leave and ready to challenge Dean Henderson for the No.1 spot in goal, but Anthony Martial is out and Eric Bailly has not travelled.
And there has been more good news for United fans with former striker Ibrahimovic officially fit for the encounter.
The 39-year-old Sweden superstar, who recently announced his return from international retirement, missed the first leg and a return to Old Trafford with a thigh injury but has recovered in time to face his former teammates.
Ibrahimovic played a key role in United’s last taste of silverware four years ago, scoring in the Community Shield and EFL Cup triumphs in 2016/17 and also helping the club to win that season’s Europa League.
Since Solskjaer’s appointment Manchester United have reached the semi-final stage of four successive competitions, and they will be looking to end that run by lifting the trophy again this season.
But they’ll have their former goal hero to contend with first, if he’s given a chance to play.
“We are happy to have Donny back, Paul and David,” Solskjaer said on his returning stars.
“They’re big players for us.
“Unfortunately, it looks like Edinson has got a bit of a reaction to training [on Wednesday] and didn’t feel ready to travel.”
On Ibrahimovic’s possible return, Milan boss Stefano Pioli admitted it’s not guaranteed he’ll get game time after recovering from a long-term problem.
“Ibrahimovic and Ismael Bennacer are both available for selection,” said the manager.
“They’re both coming back from long injuries, but I’m very pleased with the way that they’ve recovered and they’re important players for us, so we’ll see whether or not they’ll feature tomorrow night.”
Pushed on Ibrahimovic’s fitness, Pioli added: “I know what to expect because obviously I pick the team but we’ll see how he gets on with regards to his recovery from injury.
“I’m not sure he’s necessarily got 90 minutes in him, but we’ll see whether he’s available to feature for a portion of the game.”