MANCHESTER UTD (4) vs AC MILAN (0)
Man Utd win 7-2 on aggregate
WAYNE Rooney ensured David Beckham’s long-awaited return to Old Trafford was far more bitter than sweet as Manchester United’s latest hero condemned their old one to a crushing European defeat.
Rooney effectively ended the tie and swept United into the Champions League quarter-finals with two clinical finishes, before Ji-Sung Park and Darren Fletcher piled further misery on AC Milan.
The brace continued England striker Rooney’s blistering recent form, taking his tally for the season to 30, half of which have come in his last dozen games, and earned a gushing assessment from manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
“He just keeps improving and tonight again he was sensational,” said Ferguson. Asked whether Rooney could emulate Cristiano Ronaldo’s 42-goal haul of 2007-08, he added: “It’s a challenge. I was happy with him getting to 30 to be honest with you. When we play at that tempo, we’re difficult to play against.”
Beckham, who made a 27-minute cameo, jogged on and trudged off to a standing ovation from the fans who used to sing his name, but acknowledged he had been overshadowed by Rooney’s virtuoso performance.
“He’s such an exceptional talent,” said the 34-year-old, who may have played his last Champions League match. “I think without a doubt he’s one of the best, if not the best, player at the moment along with Ronaldo and [Lionel] Messi.”
Leading 3-2 from the first leg, United needed only to draw but instead joined Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Lyon in the last eight in the most emphatic style. Ronaldo and Real Madrid will be conspicuous by their absence, their draw with Lyon spelling a shock elimination.
Rooney needed only 13 minutes to strike the first blow, continuing his recent penchant for headers by applying the finish to Gary Neville’s right-wing cross. Seconds after the interval he put the tie beyond the Italians’ reach with his second, steering home Nani’s outside-of-the-boot delivery.
Beckham brought the crowd to their feet when he came on to grace the turf for the first time since 2003, and the England star stung Edwin van der Sar with one fierce volley.
But by then Park had already increased the humiliation, gathering a Paul Scholes pass before driving a shot past Christian Abbiati. Fletcher rounded off the scoring in stoppage time with a far-post diving header from Rafael’s deep cross.
Beckham gesture boosts anti-Glazer campaign
DAVID Beckham boosted the Red Knights’ campaign to oust Manchester United owners the Glazers by controversially donning a green and gold scarf after last night’s match (above).
Hours after it emerged that more than half of United regulars are considering giving up their season tickets, Beckham saluted his old fans in the garment, which symbolises the anti-Glazer movement.
The Red Knights have called on fans to force out the owners by refusing to renew season tickets, thereby starving the Americans of revenue. Some 59 per cent of the Old Trafford faithful are considering doing that, according to a survey by Virgin Money.