Just as in 1999, Manchester United FC find Italian opponents barring their path to the final as they prepare to receive AC Milan in the semi-final first leg.
Just as in 1999, Manchester United FC find Italian opponents barring their path to the UEFA Champions League final as they prepare to face AC Milan in the semi-final first leg at Old Trafford.
• After their remarkable 7-1 success against AS Roma, Sir Alex Ferguson's side must now get the better of another Serie A side in Milan. Those seeking omens may be tempted to draw parallels with United's triumphant 1998/99 campaign when they saw off FC Internazionale Milano in the last eight and then, in the semi-finals, a Juventus side coached by Carlo Ancelotti, now in charge of Milan.
• Then, as now, United were at home in the first leg, where Ryan Giggs's 90th-minute equaliser earned them a 1-1 draw. Ancelotti's Juventus went 2-0 up early in the return in Turin only for United to fight back to win 3-2 and book a final date with FC Bayern München.
• Those 1999 successes were United's only previous two-legged wins against Italian teams prior to their quarter-final rout of Roma. After going down 2-1 in the first leg in the Italian capital, they responded with a stellar performance in the return as Michael Carrick (2), Cristiano Ronaldo (2), Alan Smith, Wayne Rooney, and Patrice Evra equalled the second biggest win in the club's European history.
• Milan, meanwhile, qualified for their fourth UEFA Champions League semi-final in the past five years at the expense of Bayern. After being held 2-2 at home, they claimed a 2-0 victory in Munich through goals from Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi.
• Overall Milan have previously been semi-finalists eleven times in this competition and only twice have they failed to go on to the final – losing to Real Madrid CF in 1955/56 and to FC Barcelona last season. Milan reached the 1992/93 final direct from the group stage.
• United's record at this stage of Europe's élite competition is less impressive, their eight previous semi-finals bringing just two victories. The most recent of their six semi-final losses came five years ago when they went down on away goals to Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
• United have lost just once in 29 UEFA Champions League home games and can take heart from an impeccable record at Old Trafford this term. They won all three group fixtures, beating Celtic FC (3-2), FC København (3-0) and SL Benfica (3-1). They then defeated LOSC Lille Métropole 1-0 to complete a 2-0 aggregate success in the first knockout round and subsequently swept aside Roma.
• Milan, for their part, have conceded just one goal in five away games in this campaign. In the group stage they drew with Lille (0-0), beat RSC Anderlecht (1-0) and lost to AEK Athens FC (0-1). Ancelotti's men then earned a goalless draw at Celtic FC in the first knockout round, en route to a 1-0 aggregate triumph, before overcoming Bayern in Bavaria.
• United have a good home record against Italian opposition with eight wins and just two defeats from 12 matches.
• One of those reverses came against Milan when the Rossoneri achieved home-and-away 1-0 victories in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round in 2004/05. Hernán Crespo's 78th-minute strike in the first leg at Old Trafford earned Milan their first success in England in eight attempts – and the Argentinian striker also headed the only goal of the return.
• The teams for that first leg at Old Trafford on 23 February 2005 were:
United: Carroll, Neville (Silvestre 80), Ferdinand, Brown, Heinze, Ronaldo (Van Nistelrooy 63), Keane, Scholes, Fortune (Saha 80), Giggs, Rooney.
Milan: Dida, Cafu (Costacurta 87), Kaladze, Nesta, Maldini, Gattuso, Pirlo (Ambrosini 84), Seedorf, Rui Costa, Kaká (Serginho 90), Crespo.
• The teams for the second leg in Milan on 8 March 2005 were:
Milan: Dida, Cafu, Nesta, Stam, Maldini, Gattuso (Costacurta 88), Pirlo, Seedorf, Rui Costa (Dhorasoo 85), Kaká, Crespo (Ambrosini 78).
United: Howard, Brown (Smith 85), Ferdinand, Silvestre, Heinze, Ronaldo, Keane, Scholes, Rooney, Giggs (Fortune 57), Van Nistelrooy.
• Milan's victory against United in 2004/05 maintained their 100 per cent record against the English team in two-legged contests. Their first confrontation came in the 1957/58 European Champion Clubs' Cup semi-finals where a 2-1 home success for United was overturned in Italy as the Rossoneri ran out 4-0 winners. The tie was United's first in Europe since the Munich air disaster on 6 February 1958 where eight players were among the 23 people who lost their lives on the team's journey back from a quarter-final against FK Crvena Zvezda.
• If Milan went on to lose that year's final to Real Madrid CF, their next victory against United proved the stepping stone to their second European Cup, won against AFC Ajax. United were the defending champions going into the sides' 1968/69 semi-final, but despite present-day United director Sir Bobby Charlton scoring the only goal of the second leg, Milan's 2-0 cushion from the first fixture in Italy proved enough to carry them through.
• Overall, Milan have won six and lost two of their previous two-legged ties against English opposition.
• It was at Old Trafford that Milan won the 2003 UEFA Champions League final against Juventus, beating their Italian rivals 3-2 on penalties after a goalless draw.
• The Milan team for that final on 28 May 2003 was:
Milan: Dida, Costacurta (Roque Junior 66), Kaladze, Nesta, Maldini, Gattuso, Pirlo (Serginho 71), Seedorf, Rui Costa (Ambrosini 87), Shevchenko, Inzaghi.
• That success means Seedorf is the only player to win the European Cup with three different clubs - Ajax 1995, Madrid 1998 and Milan 2003.
• Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso were both part of an all-star Europe XI that took on United in the UEFA celebration match on Tuesday 13 March at Old Trafford.
• The Rossoneri's most recent meeting with a team from England was the 2005 UEFA Champions League final in Istanbul against Liverpool FC where they surrendered a three-goal half-time lead in a 3-3 draw and succumbed 3-2 on penalties.
• Milan, who would play another Premiership team if they reached the final, have won their two other UEFA finals against English clubs. They defeated Leeds United AFC 1-0 in the 1972/73 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final and Arsenal FC 2-0 on aggregate in the 1994 UEFA Super Cup, played in February 1995.
• United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar played in Serie A between 1999 and 2001 with Juventus, while Mikaël Silvestre, out for the season with a shoulder injury, spent the 1998/99 campaign at Inter. His fellow French defender Evra also played in Italy in the late 1990s for Marsala Calcio and Monza Calcio but never in the top flight.
• The second leg will be played in Milan on 2 May. The winners will go through to face either Chelsea FC or Liverpool FC in the final on 23 May in Athens and would be designated as the home team.