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Rooney points United's way to Athens

sports Updated: Apr 25, 2007 20:12 IST
Trevor Huggins
Highlight Story

Striker Wayne Rooney has charted a course for Manchester United to reach the Champions League final after steering them to a dramatic 3-2 win over AC Milan.

Left with a patched-up defence due to injuries, United started the second half of Tuesday's semi-final, first leg with a 2-1 deficit following Kaka's double-strike.

Cue two excellent goals by Rooney, the second arriving in stoppage time.

The goals appear to have tipped the tie narrowly in United's favour and lined up the prospect of an all-English final on May 23 in Athens against Liverpool or Chelsea.

Next Wednesday's game at San Siro promises to be as close as the Old Trafford thriller which laid bare the strengths and weaknesses of both sides.

United can point to their attack led by Rooney, who has suddenly hit form in Europe and taken his tally for the season to 22 in all competitions.

Criticised earlier this month for failing to score in the Champions League proper since a hat-trick on his debut back in 2004, Rooney has now netted in each of his last three outings against AS Roma and Milan.

With wingers Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs running at defenders and Paul Scholes pulling the strings, United are a fearsome side going forward; as Roma found out in a 7-1 drubbing here two weeks ago.

Create chances

"We feel we're going to create chances every time we go out," Giggs told reporters.

"It's always difficult going to San Siro but we've seen enough from the second half to show we can go there and get a good result."

United's obvious problem is their defence, which was missing five players on Tuesday and will be without left-back Patrice Evra through suspension next week.

Manager Alex Ferguson will have to re-shuffle once again, though he hopes England centre half Rio Ferdinand will be back.

"We have eight days to hopefully get Rio fit," Ferguson said. "That's crucial to us now simply because Patrice misses the game now."

For Milan too, the night brought good and bad omens.

United clearly cannot deal with Kaka and the situation may not change much on Wednesday, when a 1-0 home win and the away goals rule will qualify Carlo Ancelotti's men.

This Milan side has already beaten United 1-0 twice before, in the 2005 knockout round, and will clearly look to use home advantage to make up for Tuesday's bitter final twist.

"That's football but it hurts," said midfielder Gennaro Gattuso.

"Next time we'll be playing at San Siro in front of 70,000 of our fans. We'll see who's the strongest then."

The worrying thing for Milan is they appear to have learned nothing about English tenacity from their Champions League final defeat by Liverpool in 2005, when they went in at halftime with a 3-0 lead.