Gennaro Gattuso has said the thing he liked the most about the Ludogorets win was what happened in the locker room and claimed he has no preference regarding an opponent for the next round of the UEFA Europa League.
After winning 3-0 in Bulgaria last week, Milan hosted Ludogorets at Stadio San Siro last night and completed the task of qualifying to the EL Round of 16.
Fabio Borini scored in the 21′ minute and it was enough for the Diavolo, who rested a lot of their starters. And coach Gattuso was mostly pleased with the fact that once again, the Rossoneri didn’t concede.
“I am happy we kept a clean sheet, as that’s something I was focusing on in training lately,” Gattuso told Sky Italia. “For 30 minutes we were playing with 4 in midfield and 2 strikers. It’s good that nobody had cramp after 90 minutes, but it’s about attitude too. I am very, very happy with the growth of the team and those who haven’t played as much and ensured they were ready when called.
“The next games? We have to take it one game at a time, prepare for a very difficult match against Roma on Sunday and then we’ll think about Lazio and Inter. It’s true Shakhtar Donetsk hadn’t played for two months due to the winter break, but Roma dominated them for 45 minutes.
“André Silva? He did what we asked. He didn’t have the finish but did everything else. Kalinić did very well while Cutrone worked in a role that is not really his, but he can do, and we’ll look at that again in future. We are content, we enjoy passing this round and our heads are on tomorrow.
“The work done during the week? I think that not conceding a goal helps you propose some work that could annoy the players. When you work on defense in training, players do sulk a bit, as did I when I was a player, but the fewer goals we concede, the more eager they are to work on defending. We are improving, we no longer have players running in all different directions, we close down the ball more.
“We’re getting better, but not there yet. My future? You have to ask the club that. I always give the same answers, because it’s what I believe. It is a great honor for me to be the Milan coach. It’s a lot of pressure and responsibility too, but I like that. I am eternally grateful to Mirabelli and Fassone for giving me this opportunity. If it wasn’t for them I might have finished the season with the Primavera and next year I would’ve been somewhere else. I thank them, and I hope it continues.”
Speaking to MilanTV, Gattuso said: “The boys were good as we did not concede a goal. Ludogorets went 10 matches in Europe without losing and they are team with more European experience than us in the last years. Now the head is on the league, on Friday we’ll know who we face in the next round.
“The best thing that happened on Thursday? The thing that I liked the most was seeing all the players that weren’t called-up or are injured, staying with us in the locker room. They could’ve stayed home and watch the game in slippers and comfortable pajamas in front of their TV.
“I’ve been looking for this, I think these are very important things. Our players continued to warm-up despite having already made three substitutions? We were unlucky because the fourth referee caught us after 10 minutes. The rules say that when you finish the subs then players can no longer warm-up.
“Roma? The thing that didn’t let me be calm on Thursday was that we had everything to lose. Instead, we gave continuity to the results. We must now recover energies and deal it well. On Wednesday Roma showed that they are strong, and we hope to recover our energies.
“The next Europa League opponents? I have no preference, we trust those who will pick the balls. They are almost all strong teams. In Europe we need to be mentally well and with a great physical condition. We were lucky with Ludogorets because their league stopped for two and a half months.
“Trust me that when we got them I was very worried because they are a very fast team. We were lucky to catch Ludogorets in their worst moment.”
The coach also held a post-match press conference: “I was expecting not to concede a goal and the defense moved well. It seemed like an easy game, but I was very worried because I know how these matches can go, but we were on point and we did everything that we could to not concede a goal.
“It was Montolivo’s second match in three days and he played well, Locatelli provided substance and I expect a lot from him. Zapata hadn’t played since Rijeka and we are happy for everyone. Also Jose Mauri held his own, Kalinić did well and Andre Silva was only missing the goal.
“Cutrone only needs to improve a couple of things and he could also play on the wing. Up front I’ll always change the strikers, it is unnecessary to keep asking me. The choices I do are mine and I will never say that someone played badly when there’s a sense of belonging.
“Borini? Since I arrived, he has never given up. He has English football in his mind and he always gives everything, he is very intense and has great desire. When he’s left out he makes a funny face but there is a wonderful relationship with him, he makes himself available for all roles and he can be a stop-gap solution, even if I don’t like this word [Fabio has been used as left/right winger/wingback].
“Playing with a trequartista [an attacking midfielder behind the strikers]? Maybe we’ll see it, but the formation on Thursday was designed to let someone like Biglia take a breather. But things are going well, and I don’t want to change anything. In the end we tried two strikers, but they were too flat. Maybe in the future we can play with a trequartista, but we must remain a compact team.
“I want to compliment Zapata, he deserves it. Both he and Musacchio deserve more for their experience, but they have given me professionalism and respect. I thank them. We have many injury setbacks? We’ve been lucky because no one has serious physical problems or muscular damage.
“Both Calabria and Musacchio have a bit of edema but nothing more. Davide is 20-years-old but has the problems of an elderly, we must be cleverer in respect to the recovery, but I’m sure that on Friday both will be training. The only stop for several days is of Antonelli. We are going to give some rest to the boys because in football not only fatigue exists, but it also takes improving the head.
“The possible opponents in the next round of the Europa League? So you think that we have not faced tough teams until now? Sampdoria are tough, Ludogorets went 10 European matches without losing, we were lucky that they hadn’t played in 2 months due to the break.
“The 3-0 result there was lying, if we didn’t score a goal in the 45′ minute then it would’ve been a different game. In terms of names, it’s logical that there are stronger teams, but Ludogorets is certainly stronger than Craiova and Shkëndija [who Milan faced in the Europa League qualifiers].
“If I’ll sign up a new deal for a win in the next matches? I am proud and for good luck I won’t sign anything. I have a contract and without Mirabelli and Fassone I wouldn’t be here. It’s going well, now I have only to continue, the last problem of Milan is Gattuso. I’m getting old because I’ve been struggling but I am experiencing something beautiful. I don’t sleep at night, but I like it, it makes me feel alive. I will live a few years less but it’s better to live like a lion than as a sheep.”
The draw for the Europa League Round of 16 is today at 13:00 CET. There is no seeding or country protection, so Milan can face anyone: from Arsenal and Atlético Madrid to Lazio and Viktoria Plzeň.