ROME, February 17 – Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was a relieved man after his team survived a torrid opening to beat AC Milan 3-2 at the San Siro and put themselves in the driving seat in this Champions League last 16 first leg clash.Ronaldinho gave Milan a third minute lead and Clarence Seedorf kept the second round tie alive ahead of the second leg in Manchester with a close range finish five minutes from time.
But a lucky Paul Scholes goal and a brace from the brilliant Wayne Rooney gave United their first ever win away to Milan.
"I think we could have lost a few goals tonight, the first 20 minutes was a bad period for us, losing a goal the way we did (from a deflection)," admitted Fergie.
"It was a very unlucky goal to lose and for 20 minutes we lost our composure and it took us a long time to get going but once we got going I think we played well.
"I think the goal (from Scholes) helped us, we got it at a good time and from that moment on I think our game improved. Goals do change games and I think it changed the game today."
Fergie heaped praise on Rooney and said he can be considered alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka now that he has added goal-scoring to his repertoire, notching up 26 for the season now.
"Wayne Rooney in the second half carried on the form he has shown recently, he’s been in devastating form and they just couldn’t handle him in the second half. I thought he was marvellous," added Ferguson.
"Particularly in the last two months we have seen development in his game and confidence has a lot to do with that.
"His basic ability is as good as any of those players, what he’s got to do is improve his goalscoring, which he’s now doing and if he continues that trend then he’s got to be regarded alongside any player."
Ferguson also expressed his satisfaction with young Brazilian right-back Rafael, who he picked ahead of Gary Neville and who had coped quite well in trying to control an on-fire Ronaldinho.
"Ronaldinho has always had great talent, I think his game dropped away for a year or so but he’s looking back to his best.
"He’s a handful for a young player like Rafael to deal with but we’ve invested a great future we’re not going to stop the rewards of that because he’s playing AC Milan.
"He has to learn that you play against Ronaldinhos in the real world and he has to develop his game.
"He made some mistakes tonight but he won’t make them next season because the boy’s an outstanding talent."
Milan coach Leonardo was understandably disappointed with the result from a match his team bossed for the first 45 minutes without turning that superiority into goals.
But he insisted the tie is not over.
"Manchester United got the maximum reward from what they did in the game while we got the miniumum from what we did," he moaned.
"It was a great performance and we can still have much hope because we didn’t deserve this.
"We had the perfect approach, the right spirit but unfortunately didn’t score. If we had managed to convert the chances we created we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about this.
"The first half was a perfect game, we did very well but didn’t capitalise on what we deserved.
"The first goal from Manchester came from the only moment they could push in attack because our left back (Luca) Antonini was off the pitch at this time, it was a very lucky goal and this changed the history of the game.
"The only moment Man United did well and pushed in attack was the 15 minutes when they scored their two goals.
"It was very hard to manage that moment but even in this situation we scored a goal and lost 3-2 so everything is open and I think a result like 2-0 (at Old Trafford) is not impossible, there is everything to play for."