Rooney helps United destroy Milan

Rooney scored a goal in each half to take his tally for the season
to 30 and snuff out any chance AC Milan had of crowning David
Beckham’s appearance against his former club in glory. Instead, the
joy was all the hosts’ as Ji-Sung Park ran on to Paul Scholes’ pass
to widen the gap before Darren Fletcher headed a fourth near the
end. Always one to embrace a sense of occasion, Beckham was among
the last Milan players to leave the dressing room, making his
entrance to a standing ovation from supporters who never fell out
of love with him the way Ferguson did. Predictably though, Beckham
had been left on the bench, just as he was on his last European
appearance for United, against Real Madrid seven years ago, when he
eventually scored twice to prove a point without being able to save
the Red Devils from elimination. That night, Ronaldo – the
Brazilian one – scored a hat-trick for Real. Now United have their
own hero, and Ferguson has a world-class striker. It seems to have
been a quiet period for Rooney. That was just because he did not
play at Wolves on Saturday. As Ferguson has been known to engage in
the odd bout of kidology, the extent of the knee injury that kept
England’s star striker out of the Molineux encounter will never be
known. He sure was not going to miss out here though. His two goals
in the San Siro three weeks ago turned a tie on its head that
appeared to be floating out of United’s reach. His latest effort
merely rammed another nail in Milan’s coffin. Gary Neville was the
provider for the first, curling over a right-wing cross his old
friend Beckham would have been proud of. Rooney soared between
defenders and neatly glided the ball into the far corner. It was
his seventh header on the trot in a growing tally of goals that
threatens the 42 which helped get Cristiano Ronaldo crowned as the
world’s best player two years ago. The same accolades could easily
be being bestowed on Rooney next winter. Much will depend on the
respective success enjoyed by United and England of course. But
their talisman could not be doing any more and his second arrived
54 seconds after the restart. An outstanding pass, delivered from
the left-wing with the outside of his right-foot by Nani, provided
the opportunity. Christian Abbiati gave the game away by dashing
out. Rooney merely prodded it past him. Having already become only
the second player – after Walter Pandiani – to score home and away
against Milan in a European tie, Rooney was presumably creating
some kind of history by doing it twice. It was the end of Rooney’s
contribution, although not United’s scoring. After hinting at
retirement a few weeks ago, Paul Scholes appears to be enjoying
something of a renaissance and it was his brilliantly disguised
pass that was clinically finished by Park as the gap between these
two European heavyweights widened to a gulf. As there was little
else to do, Leonardo introduced Beckham. His arrival for Ignazio
Abate triggered a standing ovation. Had the midfielder’s volley
flashed past Edwin van der Sar instead of being beaten away by the
veteran Dutchman, it would probably have brought the biggest cheer
of the night. For all the adulation though, Beckham represents
Manchester United’s past. Rooney is the future, which on the pitch
– where Fletcher nodded home a fourth near the end – looks rosy,
despite the continued vocal and visual protests against the Glazer
family, whose willingness to plunge United into such massive debt
has vexed so many. In the stands, the members of the Glazer family
who had made the trip from Tampa, would need pretty thick skins to
remain unaffected by all the vicious taunts. With Beckham opting to
put a green and gold scarf round his neck as he made his way down
the tunnel, the abuse is not going to be silenced any time soon.