Pioli hopes Ibrahimovic will be fit to face Manchester United in Europa League

Soccer Football - Serie A - Hellas Verona v AC Milan - Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi, Verona, Italy - March 7, 2021 AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the stands REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

VERONA, Italy (Reuters) - AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli is hopeful that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be fit to face his former side Manchester United in Thursday's Europa League last-16 first leg at Old Trafford.

Ibrahimovic has missed Milan's last two matches with a muscle injury and watched on from the stands as his side earned a 2-0 win at Hellas Verona in Serie A on Sunday to close the gap on leaders Inter Milan to three points.

"He is better," Pioli said of the Swede. "Tomorrow he will have another examination to see how his recovery is going, we hope he can recover by Thursday.

"He knew the difficulties of the game and was planning to be here today. We saw him at the technical meeting, he immediately asked for information on how we were doing and we greeted him with affection.

"He helped and stimulated us, as great champions do."

In their top scorer's absence, Milan struggled to break down a determined Verona early on, but spectacular strikes from Rade Krunic and Diogo Dalot earned the side an important win in their quest for a first Scudetto in a decade.

"I expected such a performance, with this conviction and this strength," Pioli added. "I know our qualities, we weren't satisfied with the last performance.

"The team has shown that they have important ideas and mental strength."

(Reporting by Peter Hall; editing by)

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