A brace from Wayne Rooney along with goals from Park and Fletcher take Manchester United into the quarter-finals of the Champions’ League. The Red Devils humiliate AC Milan on a day which saw David Beckham return to his boyhood club.
Wayne Rooney returned to the starting line-up for Manchester United after missing the game against Wolves on Saturday. Carrick missed the game through suspension and was replaced by Valencia in the five man midfield that played at the San Siro. Gary Neville started at right back.
Milan, on the other hand were handed a setback as experienced defender Nesta was a last minute pull-out due to injury. He joined Pato, who also failed to recover from his injury that kept him out for the game against Roma. Cristian Abbiati was handed a rare start in goal. David Beckham started on the bench on his return to Old Trafford alongside veteran Clarence Seedorf.
United created the first chance of the game when Rooney turned on the edge of the area but his left footed shot narrowly missed the target. Ronaldinho also got a glorious chance to bring Milan level on aggregate as Nani flicked Pirlo’s free kick straight on to him, but his header was inches wide with Van Der Sar rooted to the spot.
Huntelaar got the next chance and should have done better when sent clean through by Thiago Silva, but the Dutchman’s first touch was poor and the ball was gathered safely by his compatriot in the United goal.
It was United though that got the early breakthrough through their in-form striker Wayne Rooney. Neville delivered a precise ball from the right for Rooney, who scored his third header of the tie to make it 4-2 for United on aggregate.
Milan tried to respond after the goal, as Pirlo’s shot from the edge of the area had Van Der Sar in a bit of trouble as the goalkeeper failed to gather the ball at the first attempt. Unfortunately, for Milan, nobody was there to slot home the rebound.
Half time arrived with no further trouble for the home team, as either side failed to create much in the dying moments of the first half.
With no option left for Milan other than to attack, Leonardo put Seedorf on in place of centre back Bonera. But that meant Wayne Rooney could have acres of space to take advantage of, and he did.
Less than a minute into the second half, Nani darted down the left and played a sumptuous pass for Rooney to tap the ball beyond a charging Abbiati. The goal was the Englishman’s thirtieth goal of the season and his first from the foot after a run of seven consecutive headers.
The tie was put beyond Milan’s reach just before the hour mark by Ji-Sung Park who added a third for United. Paul Scholes’ brilliantly disguised pass was collected by the South-Korean, who slotted the ball into the net from a tight angle.
But, the loudest cheer of the night came from the United faithful when boyhood fan David Beckham was put on for Abate. With 3-0 up and the passage to the next round virtually secure, Sir Alex also took the chance to rest his stars. Rooney, Neville and Scholes were replaced by Berbatov, Rafael and Gibson respectively in quick succession.
Beckham was soon involved in the thick of things as his stunning volley from just outside the area brought up a reaction save from Van Der Sar. Gibson also had a chance at the other end with Valencia setting him up following Nani’s cross from the left hand side. But, the Irishman sent his shot sailing over the bar.
The scoring was completed with two minutes on the clock remaining when Rafael delivered a perfect cross towards an unmarked Darren Fletcher at the far post who made no mistake in guiding his header past the hapless Milan keeper.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Ji-Sung Park(Manchester United)
The work ethic of the midfielder and the effort put by him on the night to man-mark Pirlo won the match tactically for United. He was deservedly rewarded with a goal and is our choice for player of the match.
TheHardTackle’s REFEREE REPORT CARD
Grade: B (Decent)
MANCHESTER UNITED 4-0 AC MILAN (Agg. 7-2)
Venue: Old Trafford
Manchester United Line-up: Van der Sar, Neville (Rafael, 66’), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Fletcher, Scholes (Gibson, 73’), Park, Valencia, Nani, Rooney (Berbatov, 66’)
Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson
Cautions: Scholes (68’)
Scorers: Rooney (13’,46’), Park (59’), Fletcher (88’)
AC Milan Line-up: Abbiati, Abate (Beckham, 64’), Bonera (Seedorf, 45’), Thiago Silva, Jankulovski, Flamini, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Huntelaar, Borriello (Inzhagi, 69’), Ronaldinho
Cautions: Ronaldinho (72’), Flamini (85’)