LONDON (AP) — Seven years after leaving Manchester United, David Beckham faces the team that turned him into a global star for the first time when AC Milan hosts the three-time winners in the Champions League.
The England midfielder, who never faced United during four seasons at Real Madrid, will get the opportunity during a second loan spell at Milan from the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS.
Milan hosts United on Tuesday as the Champions League resumes after a two-month break, with the eight first-leg matches in the first knockout round split over two weeks.
“It’s one of the biggest games for me,” said Beckham, who won the competition in 1999 with United. “But the most important thing is the team going through and beating United, which I hope we do. I don’t think it’ll be a big problem (playing United).
“Obviously there are a couple of players not there, but the team is just the same; they’ve got this great team spirit within the squad and that’s definitely not changed.”
Beckham left Old Trafford under a cloud in 2003 after 394 appearances in 11 years, with manager Sir Alex Ferguson frustrated by the then-England captain’s celebrity lifestyle.
Ferguson was at the San Siro on Friday to see Beckham’s team end a four-match losing streak by beating Udinese 3-2, and the 68-year-old Scot believes Milan is missing something since Brazil playmaker Kaka left the club to join Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.
“It’s a good time for us to be going to Milan,” said Ferguson, whose club lost 3-0 there in 2007. “They played this weekend, they’ve lost Kaka and have a few injuries (including defender Thiago Silva), whereas we weren’t playing this weekend and we have had a good rest.”
Plus United — in Beckham’s words — are “on fire” with Wayne Rooney already netting 23 goals this season, although the Premier League champions are behind Chelsea in the title race.
“I’ve always said that Wayne is one of the best goal scorers in football,” the 35-year-old Beckham said of his England teammate. “He’s proving that and he is at a great club like Manchester United.”