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.