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A Game Apart


London Evening Standard



Paddy Power

Oakwood Estates

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

A bad night for two Manchester United legends - and Becks goes off in a rebels' scarf

AS predicted here yesterday, there are not one but two very unhappy former Manchester United legends wandering around Europe with the vacant knocked-out stare this morning.The world's most famous footballer, David Beckham, and the world's most expensive player, Cristiano Ronaldo, both saw their sides plunge out of the Champions League last night.
For Beckham - clad in the rebel green and gold - it was an embarrassment. A late substitute, he came on when AC Milan were 3-0 down for his first competitive game at Old Trafford since he left for £23million after a decade of brilliance in 2003. He had one chance, messed up one pass... and saw Sir Alex Ferrguson's side score another after a standing rendition of "There's Only One David Beckham" from the United faithful.
For Ronaldo, the £80million man, there was the embarrassment of a 1-1 home draw against gallant Frenchmen Lyon at the Bernebeu. And this after his early goal had given the Galacticos a great chance of turning the tie around after their 1-0 first leg defeat.
United then go through 7-2 after their 4-0 win. Wayne Rooney took his tally to four in the tie with an early header followed by a neat finish. The leader in Europe's League-based chase for the Golden Boot, he is unstoppable in Europe too.
His first was his seventh successive headed goal, he now has 9 headers in his last 10 games after scoring just four in his first 354 games. And his total in all competitions? Thirty in 34 games. Incredible.
Ji-Sung Park and Darren Fletcher added the a miserable night for Becks and crew who had not lost in four previous attempts against United. Like Arsenal the night before, winning after a first leg deficit for the first time in 31 years, United have rewritten a little bit of history.
And all this in front of two of the Glazers, Joel and Avi, with thousands protesting about the American owners' debt in the green and yellow of Newton Heath, the founding club. The slogan: "Green and gold until the club is sold". The Red Knights will no doubt be encouraged by Beckham's decision to don a green and gold scarf as he wandered off, though he later claimed he "didn't realise the significance" of his act.
Clearly emotional, the former England captain said: "You know, it was a disappointing night because we lost the game but returning here is always special. The reception was really unbelievable. It was really incredible. A tear in the eye? I don't know. It was nice to be back.
"I had a volley, I caught it too well but by then it was too late. They're a good team. They deserve to go all the way. When you don't start in games, it's one of those things where you want to play but you know, we're a team. We have to win together and we lose together.
"This is possibly my last game here. I will take a lot of memories away from here.
"Wayne Rooney is such an exceptional talent. He's always scared defenders. Without a doubt he's one of the best, if not the best, player at the moment with Messi and Ronaldo."
Sir Alex agreed: "Wayne has been absolutely sensational this season and I'm delighted he's got to 30 goals. Can he surpass Cristiano Ronaldo's 42? That's the challenge isn't it."
For Real and their £250m-worth of talent, it was even worse. Ronaldo fluffed a late chance, the 90,000 fans were leaking out of the stadium and Lyon failed with two one-on-one efforts to make it a seriously awkward result for boss Marco Pellegrini.

Real have now failed at the first knock-out stage for the last six seasons - and the final is scheduled for the Bernebeu this year.
So United and Lyon go through to join Bayern Munich - who benefited from former Real and Chelsea star Arjen Robben's late wondergoal - and an impressive Arsenal, 6-2 victors over Porto.
As a Gooner, I've got to go against Arsene Wenger's comments last night and say... anyone but United.
Chelsea, 2-1 down against Inter Milan, must wait until next week at Stamford Bridge to earn their place in the last eight. Given what we've seen from the two Premier League sides so far, I wouldn't be against them.

Labels: arsenal champions league, darren fletcher, david beckham substitute, european quarter-finals, wayne rooney header


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