ROME, February 17 – Wayne Rooney was the hero as Manchester United made AC Milan look old in a 3-2 win in the Champions League last 16 first leg clash here on Tuesday to record their first ever victory in the San Siro.Rooney scored a brace as Milan’s old legs finally caught up with them as United came from behind to win at a canter until some late drama that saw United’s Michael Carrick dismissed in injury time for a second booking.
Ronaldinho gave Milan an early lead but after Paul Scholes’s fortuitous equaliser Sir Alex Ferguson’s side gradually took control and by the end they threatened to run up a cricket score.
Substitute Clarence Seedorf’s clever backheel finish from Ronaldinho’s cross five minutes from time was the only thing that gives the Italians hope for the second leg at Old Trafford.
"I thought we were coasting at 3-1," said Ferguson.
"But we’ve given them hope by allowing them to score towards the end.
"We just have to do the job at Old Trafford and win the match."
Ferguson admitted that it hadn’t been a great performance by his side in the first-half.
"It was a catalogue of errors," said the Scotsman.
"Once we settled, though, we did a lot better."
His AC Milan counterpart Leonardo could scarcely believe his side had lost.
"We did not deserve to lose this match," swaid the Brazilian.
"But nothing is finished. We have to win 2-0 in England, which is certainly not beyond us. When we got into our stride, we dominated United.
"Indeed the first-half could have ended 3-0 in our favour."
Rooney for his part was not best pleased with some of his team-mates for the first-half struggles.
"Some people weren’t doing their job," said Rooney, who looked frustrated by the service from the flanks of Nani especially.
"We did well to get back in the game and in the second-half we were better and deserved to win. We were the better side."
Milan were off to a dream start, taking the lead after only three minutes and appropriately United old boy David Beckham was involved.
His free-kick into the box was only helped on by Patrice Evra and fell kindly to Ronaldinho at the back post who caught it on the volley and a wicked deflection off Carrick took it past a helpless Edwin van der Sar.
"It took a wicked deflection," was Ferguson’s acerbic response to a question about Beckham’s contribution to the goal.
United drew level on 36 minutes.
If Milan’s opener owed something to luck, United’s equaliser was no more lacking in that department.
Darren Fletcher crossed from the right for Scholes arriving in the box but he missed with his swinging right foot and the ball hit his standing left leg, spun beyond Dida and trickled in off the post.
Milan almost caught United napping again three minutes into the second period as Pato stole in unchecked onto Giuseppe Favalli’s deep cross but the young Brazilian headed over.
Nani was having one of his more erratic days and Ferguson replaced him with Antonio Valencia halfway through the second period, a move that bore fruit within a minute as the Ecuador flyer got to the byline and crossed for Rooney at the back post to flick a floating header over Dida for his 25th goal of the season.
United were now content to hit Milan on the counter and Rooney flashed a shot just wide on 73 minutes but a minute later he ran onto Fletcher’s dink into the box past a static defence to head easily past Dida.
United were cruising until a late lapse allowed in Seedorf, who had replaced Beckham, to lift the crowd and give the visitors a nervous last few minutes.