Zlatan Ibrahimovic set for Manchester United reunion in Europa League

Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
·3 min read

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will return to Old Trafford after Manchester United were drawn against AC Milan in a mouth-watering Europa League last-16 tie.

The 39-year-old striker established himself as a fan favourite during his short spell at United, scoring in the Community Shield and EFL Cup triumphs in 2016/17.

Ibrahimovic played a key role in that season’s victorious Europa League run, but a serious knee injury in the quarter-finals against Anderlecht ruled him out of the remainder of the campaign.

The Swede only made seven more United appearances after that and looked set to wind down his career when he moved to LA Galaxy in March 2018, but has flourished since returning to Milan.

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Ibrahimovic will head back to the club he scored 29 goals for in 53 appearances on March 11, before the last-16 tie is decided at San Siro on March 18 – fixtures on-loan United defender Diogo Dalot is eligible for.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is celebrating his 48th birthday, told club media: “It’s a nice birthday gift, isn’t it? To watch that draw!

“We do have the tradition of making it hard for ourselves in draws. It’s one of the those draws again that you feel could be a Champions League game.

“It’s good for us to have these games to look forward to. This team needs challenges and we enjoy challenges and we embrace them.

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“The tradition and history of AC Milan, it’s a great club that we welcome and it’s a great stadium that we go to there, and we’re looking forward to it.

“Zlatan, of course, I’ve been so impressed, I’ve got to say, by how his career has gone. He had a career-threatening injury when he was here but came back from that and went to MLS, then came back to Milan and has really lifted them.

“They’re on the up and have done really well this season. I’ve been so impressed by him, and Diogo we know. He went there to get some experience at a big club and he’s learned a lot.

“He’s played a lot more games this season, kept fit and, hopefully, we can give him some bother!”

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Tottenham will face Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb and are due to play the second leg at home, but UEFA said that the “fixtures may be switched pending confirmation of Covid-19 travel restrictions” in this tie.

Arsenal have been drawn against old foes Olympiacos, who knocked them out of the Europa League at the round-of-32 stage last season.

The match will see them return to the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis in Piraeus, where they played Thursday’s last-32 second leg against Benfica due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, runaway Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers’ reward for impressively beating Royal Antwerp was a clash with Slavia Prague, who shocked Premier League high-flyers Leicester on Thursday.