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...but United manager cool on facing his former player

SIR ALEX Ferguson may remain a paternal figure in David Beckham’s eyes, but the Manchester United manager betrayed little fatherly affection when he discussed his former protege last night.

While Beckham gushed about an “incredible” man and buried talk of resentment over his sale in 2003, Ferguson appeared reluctant to talk about a player whose huge profile eventually became a source of friction.

“David left seven years ago,” he said, ahead of tonight’s first leg of the Champions League last 16 tie. “You move on in life. That is what happens. This is a different team and different players.

“David has experience. He has over 100 caps for England and has played for Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United. It is the same as Alessandro Nesta, Filippo Inzaghi and Clarence Seedorf. They all have that experience that Milan bring and I hope he is not celebrating at the end.”

Ferguson was far more at ease praising Old Trafford’s latest hero, Wayne Rooney, whose 23 goals this season have kept United chasing domestic and European glory.

“He has been fantastic this season and, without doubt, his form this season has brought him to the high point of his career,” the Scot added.

“But Rooney is also regarded as that kind of player. World class is a misused term, but with Rooney, you have to say he is getting to the point where he is now one of the best players in the world.”

Ferguson is again without centre-back Nemanja Vidic tonight but is set to thrust Rio Ferdinand back into the starting line-up.