MANCHESTER, March 11 – Wayne Rooney reached 30 goals for the season as Manchester United marched into the last eight of the Champions League with a clinical 4-0 demolition of AC Milan here on Wednesday.On a night that saw David Beckham return to where it all started for him, it was the current darling of the Old Trafford faithful who steered United into the quarter-finals by following up his double in the 3-2 first leg victory in Milan with another brace.
A first-half header put Sir Alex Ferguson’s side firmly in control and the the England striker killed the tie in the opening seconds of the second period.
Park Ji-Sung and Darren Fletcher round off a memorable night as United eliminated their opponents for the first time in five attempts since two of European football’s iconic institutions first met, 52 years ago.
The predictions of a fluid encounter were vindicated by an opening ten minutes in which Milan might have established the two-goal lead they required to overturn the deficit from the first leg.
United had the first opportunities, Rooney’s shot on the turn from the edge of the penalty area slipping just the wrong sight of the post, Gary Neville’s 25-yarder dipping into the roof of the net just too late and a Nani shot being turned round the post by Christian Abbiati.
But those were definitely in the half-chance category, unlike the openings enjoyed by Ronaldinho, who directed a free header from Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick wide, and Klaas Jan Huntelaar.
Having been put beyond the United back four by Ronaldinho’s floated pass, the Dutch striker fluffed his attempt to bring the ball under his control.
Milan’s profligacy was swiftly sanctioned with Rooney giving United a 13th-minute lead with his third headed goal of the tie.
Allowed to advance though the inside right channel in leisurely fashion, Neville had time to tee up a cross which Rooney directed beyond Abbiati’s right-hand having been granted an equally generous amount of space by his marker, Daniele Bonera.
That left Milan needing to score three times and, for the remainder of the first-half that appeared a very remote prospect, the visitors’ only moment of menace coming when Edwin van der Sar needed a second attempt to smother Pirlo’s swerving shot.
Darren Fletcher came closest to extending United’s lead before the break, his drive curling just wide in first-half stoppage time.
The break saw Bonera replaced by Clarence Seedorf as Milan played their final cards, but within a minute of the restart, Rooney had killed the tie.
Having escaped the attentions of Ignazio Abate, Nani curled a delightful pass behind the remodelled Milan back four and Rooney was able to tuck the ball past Abbiati.
Huntelaar spurned another opportunity when he headed Abate’s cross over from four yards out but that was a rare moment of menace from a team that was beginning to show its age.
With the hour mark approaching, Park latched on to a Paul Scholes pass and, at full stretch, directed a low finish across Abbiati and inside the far post.
Beckham’s entry for the last 25 minutes was greeted with the predicted ovation and, while there was little he could do about the outcome, he did offer a reminder of why he was such a favourite with the Old Trafford crowd with a sweetly struck volley that van der Sar had to touch over the bar.
United’s fourth goal came three minutes from the end, Fletcher ghosting in at the back post to head home Rafael’s cross from the right.