Madrid stars say the heat is on for their tie against Lyon while Becks returns to United.
|Good to be back: Beckham in training on his return to Manchester United with AC Milan [AFP]|
A “timeless” David Beckham will take to the Old Trafford pitch for the first time in seven years to a warm welcome but it is the return of Wayne Rooney from injury that is likely to be more decisive.
Rooney’s goals mean that Manchester United take a 3-2 lead into the second leg of the European Champions League last 16 against AC Milan.
Three away goals are vital to the English champions but the Rossoneri will hold onto the hope handed to them by their two goals at the San Siro.
And with the on-loan Beckham still able to ping crosses onto a one-euro piece, the former England captain could play a limited if crucial role on Wednesday night.
On Monday Beckham said he was certain he would face Rooney after the striker aggravated a knee injury playing for England, and a day later united manager Alex Ferguson confirmed his 23-goal top-scorer would play.
Ferguson feels his return is a major boost as they plot a course to the quarter-finals and said the forward’s availability was not something he could take for granted.
1993-2003: Man Utd
“It was a worry. His injury prevented him playing on Saturday and on Friday I didn’t think he had any chance but he’s progressing,” he said.
“He has made a rapid improvement from Saturday.”
United are without England defender Wes Brown who could be sidelined for up to six weeks after scans revealed he broke a bone in his foot during the victory over Wolves.
Ferguson’s team were knocked out at the semi-final stage by eventual champions Milan in 2007 and the Italians also progressed from the first knockout stage at United’s expense in 2005.
The 34-year-old Beckham hasn’t played a club match at Old Trafford since his departure for Real Madrid in 2003 and United midfielder Paul Scholes believes the home fans will be pleased to see him again.
Love from the fans
“United fans still love him for what he did for this club and he will get a fantastic ovation,” said Scholes, who made the United first-team alongside Beckham in the 1990s.
|United’s attack has been bolstered by the return of Wayne Rooney [AFP]|
“He will need to be watched though. If you give him time and room on the ball there is no doubt he will pick players out. From free kicks as well, his delivery is as great as ever.”
With such encouraging words, it’s little wonder that Beckham isn’t apprehensive about returning to the club that helped him win six Premier League titles and a Champions League.
“I’m not nervous, I’m happy because for the first time after seven years I will return to Manchester and go on the pitch,” Beckham said.
Even if he doesn’t start on Wednesday, Milan coach Leonardo said Beckham’s influence on the team could be significant.
“There’s no denying it’s a big event for him to come back to where he achieved so much,” Leonardo said.
“I’m sure his presence, as it is in any game, will be important for us.
“He is timeless and very professional. And for the group he is very important – independent of what happens tomorrow.”