Roma's Fonseca draws on inside knowledge of Man United

·2-min read
Europa League - Quarter Final Second Leg - AS Roma v Ajax Amsterdam

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - AS Roma coach Paulo Fonseca has been getting the inside track on Manchester United from former players Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan ahead of their Europa League semi-final first leg at Old Trafford on Thursday.

Defender Smalling spent 10 years at United before signing for Roma last year following a successful loan spell while Armenian Mkhitaryan left Manchester for Arsenal in 2018 before heading to the Italian capital.

"This match is against a great team, maybe the favourite to win the competition," Fonseca told a news conference on Wednesday.

"We prepared for the match well. I talked to the two of them who played here and have experience in this moment of the competition. We know it will be difficult, we respect United but we have our ambitions.

"We don't always reach a semi-final, we understand the importance of the moment. We have seen our fans and it is important to feel this support. We want to fight for them and for the club."

Smalling picked up a knee injury in early March that kept him out of action until last weekend. Roma struggled in the Englishman's absence, winning one of their last seven league games to drop to seventh in the Serie A standings.

Back in the team, Smalling hopes he can help improve his side's fortunes in a match that will hold additional significance for him.

"It will be disappointing not have a full house and have all my friends and family watching the two clubs who have been a big part of my career," Smalling said.

"It is very rare that you play against a team where you know all the players, and in such a big game too. It has all the ingredients to be special.

"I have missed many matches this season (through injury) and it is unusual for me. But I feel good and I am ready to contribute. We know the importance of tomorrow."

(Reporting by Peter Hall, editing by Ed Osmond)