Rooney one of world's best - Fergie

Rooney one of world's best - Fergie

Published Feb. 17, 2010 9:54 a.m. ET

Sir Alex Ferguson hailed Wayne Rooney as one of the world's top talents after his show in Manchester United's Champions League win at AC Milan.

Rooney's second-half double at the San Siro were his first European goals of the campaign but his 24th and 25th of a fantastic season.

More importantly it allowed United to take a potentially vital 3-2 advantage into the second leg of their last-16 clash at Old Trafford.

After years of playing second fiddle to Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney is now emerging as the talent it was always felt he would become when he burst on to the scene as a raw teenager at Everton.

And, as Ferguson pointed out, it was too much for Milan's ageing defence.

"His second-half performance carried on the form Wayne has been showing recently," said Ferguson.

"He is in absolutely devastating form. They could not handle him. They just could not handle him in the second half. I thought he was marvellous."

Ferguson has noted a marked improvement in the 24-year-old since before Christmas.

At one point it was felt there was a significant gap between the Merseysider and superstars such as Ronaldo, Kaka and Lionel Messi.

However, if there is still a gap at all it is now very small.

"There has been an improvement in his game over the last two months," said Ferguson.

"Confidence has a lot to do with that but it's also his ability as a player.

"As I've said about him on a number of occasions what he has to do is improve his goal scoring. That is what he is doing now.

"When you look at the way he is performing at the moment he must be regarded amongst those players at the highest level."

Ferguson believes Rooney will break the 30-goal barrier for the season, which is probably a conservative estimate given his present form.

Rooney didn't look entirely happy with Nani in particular during a difficult opening for the Red Devils.

One-time United target Ronaldinho put Milan in front after just three minutes and, with the Brazilian and Klaas Jan Huntelaar going close, Ferguson admitted United could have been three behind before they had got out of the starting blocks.

"It was a bad start and it gave them encouragement," he said.

"It was a bad period for us. We could have been two or three goals down. We were desperate to hang on and thankfully we got ourselves back into the game."

United's route back into the tie was a fortuitous one as Darren Fletcher's cross bounced off Paul Scholes' standing left leg and into the corner of Dida's goal. Rooney then took control and appeared to have confirmed United's place in the last eight.

Clarence Seedorf grabbed a late effort for Milan, which at least gives them hope for the return leg in three weeks' time.

But having won against AC Milan in the San Siro for the first time in five attempts United will regard themselves as strong favourites to advance.