Wayne Rooney delivered on foreign soil in a way he has never done before last night, scoring twice to secure Manchester United their first away win against Milan and help them take a huge step towards the quarter-finals.
Rooney struck both his goals in eight minutes to secure a famous 3-2 win on a thrilling night's football which included a first half in which United had been utterly overwhelmed defensively and had fallen behind to a third-minute goal by Ronaldinho, who terrorised the visitors' defence.
The night ended in controversy, with Michael Carrick sent off in injury time after apparently kicking the ball away. But Sir Alex Ferguson accepted that decision and paid glowing tribute to his striker's emergence as one of the world's great goalscoring forces. "His basic ability is as good as the best players in the world," Ferguson said. "What he has had to do is improve his goalscoring, which he is now doing. He will certainly break 30 goals this season." Rooney has 25 goals already. "He has got the confidence. Confidence has got a bit to do with that."
Of Carrick's dismissal, following a first booking for hacking at Ronaldinho, who was dazzling throughout, Ferguson said: "It was a soft red card but the referee had no option."
Rooney seemed frustrated with the quality of Nani's crosses from the right in the first half, leading Ferguson to demand more supply to him after the interval. "Some people were not doing their job right," Rooney said.
In particular, 19-year-old Rafael was given a torrid night by Ronaldinho, a player ten years his senior. "Ronaldinho was a handful for a player like Rafael," Ferguson admitted. "The reason I played him was quite simple; namely that we have invested in a great future and we were not going to stop the rewards of that because we were playing Milan. He has to learn, against Ronaldinho, that this is the real world."
Jonny Evans also received the rough edge of Ferguson's tongue: the manager was seen ordering him to "wake up" during celebrations for Paul Scholes' fortuitous equalising goal on 36 minutes.
Rooney's goals were both headers. The first on 66 minutes came when the striker rose above Daniele Bonera to deposit Antonio Valencia's cross from the right – the first touch of the night from the Ecuadorean, who had been on the field for only five minutes.
David Beckham's contribution in his first game against United since leaving the club seven years ago did not suggest he will pose a threat at Old Trafford in three weeks – for which Clarence Seedorf's 85th-minute strike keeps the tie competitive. Shouts of "One David Beckham" issued through the stadium when he departed on 73 minutes. "If we'd scored a couple more goals it might have been different," Beckham said. "But when you play against a team like Manchester United you have to take your chances when you get them."