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United 4 AC Milan 0 (Utd win 7-2 on agg)
Published : 10 Mar 2010 22:24:50
Manchester United crushed AC Milan at Old Trafford to ease into the Champions League quarter-finals. In-form striker Wayne Rooney's double put the Reds in command before Ji-sung Park and Darren Fletcher sealed a comprehensive victory. The brace takes Rooney's tally up to 30 for the season. If United's win in the San Siro was a landmark victory according to Sir Alex Ferguson then this was quite simply a landslide success. The Reds boss believes Italian football is enjoying a renaissance this season and the Reds triumph in Milan was a psychological step forward for his side. After this performance it should be regarded more as a giant leap forward for a team who've had a roller-coaster Euro campaign that has mirrored their stomach churning Premier League term. An Old Trafford group stage defeat by Besiktas and a home draw against CSKA Moscow was in contrast to wins in Istanbul and Wolfsburg. The San Siro success topped that lot and was matched by this dominant performance. As much as this was a night of glory of the Reds you had to spare a thought for David Beckham in the end whose return was completely ruined once Old Trafford had done the obligatory and justified ovation for their former hero it was back to unemotional business. United helped crank up the nostalgia for the return of the prodigal son with even his best mate Gary Neville rolling back the years to those halcyon days for the Class of '92 when the full back and his buddy patrolled the right flank almost as one smooth unit to often devastating effect. This time it was Neville and Ecuadorian Antonio Valencia who led the early charge demanded by Fergie to kill this tie off. And kill it off they did. Had there been any deliberate late comers protesting against the Glazers then they would have missed the best bit! There had been no plans to arrive 10 minutes after kick off by Green and Gold sympathisers and perhaps they realised that when Sir Alex Ferguson demands that his side end the second leg with an early goal the he usually gets what he wants. It was hard to imagine that everyone had been so worried that Rooney's sore knee was so bad at one stage that the United boss had virtually written off his talisman in his head. But who's bothered about a dicky knee when you've got a more than decent forehead? The Reds medical staff obviously played a blinder the way the striker started the match in super-charged form. He'd lashed a left foot just wide after three minutes and thumped a right foot effort over the bar after six. Even Neville was caught up in the desire to break Milan's resistance early sending a shot over. Ferguson prediction The opening ten minutes wasn't all United as Milan had their moments in the open tie Fergie had predicted. It might have been a different story had Ronaldhino guided his header just slightly more left from Pirlo's free kick after eight minutes and if Klaas Jan-Huntelaar had had a better touch in front of goal when attempting to collect a brilliant ball from Silva. Perhaps this was why the Dutch striker has not hit it off at Europe's best outfits. A Nani cross and a Nemanja Vidic header piled up the chances but before anyone could contemplate that United might rue missing their early chances you know who popped up. Even Beckham would have been proud of the pinpoint delivery from Neville that presented Rooney with his 29th of the season. Had there have been a protest the demonstrators would probably have not even reached their seats when the killer goal crashed past Christian Abbiati. And just as Fergie had demanded that really did kill off this Champions League match as a spectacle. Only some majestic midfield work and one 20th minute shot from Andrea Pirlo suggested this Milan side had a fightback in them. But with the Reds comfortable it was never going to be enough to jangle the nerves. If Leonardo hoped he might ruffle some feathers at the interval and fire a meaningful recovery, once again the irrepressible Rooney cut it off at source with another expertly taken goal. Nani looked up and curled a superb pass with the outside of his right foot into Rooney's path. The only problem with the delivery was it was too low for the striker to get his head on it! Instead he deftly tucked it past Abbiati. Once Ji-sung Park had scored United's third with another assist from one of Becks' former youth team veterans Paul Scholes it almost became testimonial fare. It was a bit sad that Beckham's entrance came with his side chasing the impossible. Seven years ago he'd come off the bench against Real Madrid to score twice and engineer a United victory in a typical Beckham headline-hogging manner though it wasn't enough for the Spaniards to be KO'd. But that was then and this is now and his one-time unerring sense of occasion was restricted to one moment with a marvelously struck volley that needed Edwin Van der Sar's double punch to spoil what would have been a fitting ending under the circumstances. United still had the last word with Fletcher completing the rout when he stooped to head in Rafael's deep cross with three minutes to go. What is your verdict on the action? Have your say.