David Beckham has admitted he will find facing former team Manchester United ‘emotional’ as he aims for a place in the Milan side that will take on Sir Alex Ferguson’s men in the knockout phase of the Champions League. Speaking before the game to reporters Beckham admitted;
“It’s going to be an emotional game, but as a Manchester United fan it is probably going to be the first time I want Manchester United to lose. I’m a Milan player and I want us to play well in the game and I want us to progress into the next stage of the Champions League.”
Beckham has done well for Milan since agreeing his second loan spell at the club after the MLS season finished in December. Many Milan fans were sceptical that Beckham would be able to contribute to the team, but his performances for the club in both of his loan deals have seen him cement his place in the team, in Fabio Capello’s England set up and won him an army of new fans who have been impressed by his skills as a player and his tireless work ethic.
While much of the focus has been on Beckham lining up against his old team, it has somewhat detracted away from the players who are more likely to decide the tie. Such as Milan’s young striker Alexandre Pato and Manchester United’s bundle of perpetual angst and motion Wayne Rooney, both of whom lead the goalscorer markets with most betting sites online.
Certainly Pato has the talent to cause a weakened United defence, who will start without the injured Nemanja Vidic who didn’t even make the trip to Italy, all sorts of problems. The young Brazilian, who was linked with a £30m move to Chelsea earlier this season, has been a key performer for Milan this year and as he gains experience and strength, he is growing into an imposing forward, capable of leading the line for Milan in much the same way that Andriy Shevchenko once did.
United have their own threat in Wayne Rooney. The England star has been in sensational form for his club this season and his performances have driven the club on at times. Rooney will no doubt be expecting close attention from an experienced Milan back line, but the England man needs to show his doubters that he can perform against the best in the latter stages of competititions.
While Pato and Rooney may provide the striking threat and Beckham the eyes of the media, there will be one player whom Sir Alex Ferguson will have special plans for, the resurgent Brazilian Ronaldinho.
For most of the past two years, the former Barcelona man has been something of a forgotten figure in football. His move from Barcelona to Milan didn’t work out initially, he has been dropped from Carlos Dunga’s Brazilian squad and his form took a nosedive to such an extent that many commentators felt he was finished before the age of 30. However this year the Brazilian has, at times, been back to his brilliant best and Manchester United will be well aware of the problems he could cause them if he is given too much room in advanced areas.
Certainly United have reason to strive for victory. The defeat in the 2007 semi finals to a Kaka inspired Milan hurt United greatly and Sir Alex will want to avenge that loss in the best way possible, by setting themselves up for the second leg in Old Trafford in three weeks time by securing a strong result in the San Siro.
David Beckham and his magical right foot, notwithstanding of course.