While his starting place is uncertain, David Beckham’s mere presence at the Old Trafford could boost AC Milan’s attempt to overturn a 3-2 deficit against Manchester United in the Champions League pre-quarterfinal match to be played here tonight.
Unusually, United’s home fans will likely warmly embrace an opposition player.
The 34-year-old Beckham hasn’t played a club match at Old Trafford since his acrimonious departure in 2003 and United midfielder Paul Scholes believes the home fans will be pleased to see their former star again.
“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.
“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.
“If I play on Wednesday, I won’t be frightened, but I will be excited in any case because I played in that stadium for many years and I know what it means to be a Manchester United player.”
Beckham is on loan at Milan from the Los Angeles Galaxy until the end of the season and his hopes of reaching the Champions League quarterfinals were helped by Clarence Seedorf reducing the first-leg deficit with a late goal two weeks ago.
Milan had led through Ronaldinho’s early goal, but Scholes levelled with a fortuitous strike before Wayne Rooney grabbed two more for the Premier League leaders.
Rooney — the team's top scorer this season with 28 — trained on Tuesday morning after missing United's league win over Wolverhampton on Saturday with a knee injury.
“He's fit and I'm glad to say it,” United manager Alex Ferguson said. “He showed a rapid improvement from Saturday morning.”
Milan also looks set to have striker Alexandre Pato and Seedorf back in the team after they missed the 0-0 draw at AS Roma on Saturday.
“We don't fear any team in the world, not even Manchester United,” Milan president Silvio Berlusconi said. “On the contrary, it's the others who must fear us.”
United, though, have never been eliminated in Europe after winning an away first leg and have reached the last two Champions League finals, beating Chelsea on penalties but losing last year to Barcelona.