Rooney rules but Beckham steals show

Returning hero grabs limelight with scarf gesture but United shine on the pitch with comprehensive 4-0 win

David Beckham delivered the perfect publicity coup for the Manchester United green-and-gold campaign last night, leaving the Old Trafford pitch with one of the campaign's scarves draped around his neck after United had smashed Milan 4-0 to storm into the Champions League quarter-finals.

The scarf, picked up from a fan as Beckham left the pitch, seemed to have made a parting statement in what the 34-year-old acknowledged last night was "possibly" his last competitive match at Old Trafford. If that was the case, Beckham certainly rowed back on the gesture late last night. "I am a Manchester United fan. I saw the scarf there and just put it round my neck," he said. "It's the old colours [of Newton Heath, which preceded United] and that's all I know." Asked if he appreciated the symbolism he said: "It's not my business. I am a Manchester United fan and I support the club. I always will. It's nothing to do with me how it's run."

His timing was impeccable, though. United fans, galvanised by the attempts of the so-called "Red Knights" to buy out the clubs owners, the Glazer family, delivered "Glazers Out" chants throughout the match and held up anti-Glazer placards. Avram Glazer, son of Malcolm Glazer, ran the gauntlet to be at the game.

On a night rendered even sweeter for the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, by Real Madrid's shock exit at the hands of Lyons, Wayne Rooney maintained his imperious form with two goals, taking his season's ally to 30. "I think this year Rooney can grow up even more," the Milan manager, Leonardo, reflected after the 7-2 aggregate defeat. "He's the complete player; strong, fast and he does a lot of incredible movement... over short and long distances."

Ferguson said: "When we play like that we are very difficult to compete against." Unlike his Arsenal counterpart, Arsène Wenger, he does not have a preference for English opposition next. "With that team I've got, it doesn't matter who we play next," Ferguson, adding that new training routines had assisted Rooney's progress as probably the finest striker in the world on current form, with 21 goals in as many games now.

"He's improved his movement in the box but he has also been practising a lot more this season than ever before," Ferguson said of Rooney. "He's putting in extra work after training and I think you get the rewards of that. We try to encourage them all to do that. We've set little practices for a lot of players and they're responding to it."

United led from the 13th minute through a Rooney header, courtesy of the right boot of Gary Neville, who delivered an impeccable cross. Rooney doubled the advantage a minute after the interval when he strode on to a fine ball launched from the outside of Nani's boot and touched it right-footed past Christian Abbiati.

It was three when Park Ji-sung latched on to Paul Scholes' precise pass just before the hour and Darren Fletcher wrapped things up two minutes from time, getting his head first to a looping ball from substitute Rafael da Silva to power United on their way.

But Beckham still loomed large on the night, arriving from the bench just past the hour and providing several superb crosses and a powerful volley to test Edwin van der Sar before he took a long and emotional farewell. His abiding memory would be "just the fans, the way they were to me," he reflected. "It's always special here. It's unbelievable, really unbelievable, and I have to say thank you to them. It's just so nice to be back."

Last night's highlights

Champions league

Man Utd 4-0 Milan (7-2)

Real Madrid 1-1 Lyons (1-2)

Premier League

Burnley 1-1 Stoke City

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent