Beckham expecting emotional United tie
David Beckham could hardly contain his excitement on the eve of the Champions League tie between AC Milan and Manchester United at the San Siro in Milan on Tuesday.
Beckham won this competition back in 1999 with United and left the club four years later to join Real Madrid.
Yet this game will be the first time he has had the opportunity to run out with his former Manchester United teammates as an opposition player.
But although he was a boyhood United fan, despite being brought up in East London, a stone’s throw from West Ham’s ground, Upton Park, Beckham said he would have no mixed loyalties on Tuesday.
“Of course it will be a very emotional match for me,” he said. “In the seven years since I left United, tomorrow night’s match will be the first time that I come up against [Sir Alex] Ferguson’s team as an opposition player and I’ll do everything I can to help Milan win.
“United are a great team with great players who know how to hold onto the ball.
“[Wayne] Rooney is a key player for them. We will have to play our own game, we’ll need a bit of luck but the important thing is that we win.”
Despite his age, Beckham is 34 now, he feels he has even more to offer football than when he was a United player.
“It’s seven years since I left United and I thought I would stay there my whole career but instead I’ve changed clubs three times,” he added.
“Going back there will bring back many memories.
But with respect to seven years ago, now I’m more experienced as a person and as a player.
“Playing for different clubs always gives you more experience.”
Both teams lost important stars in the off season with United’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Milan’s Kaka both heading to Beckham’s former club Madrid.
And Beckham feels both teams have been equally affected by those losses.
“I think that when a club losses a player of the calibre of Kaka or Cristiano Ronaldo [who United bought as a replacement for Beckham] they always feel a difference,” he said.
“We’re talking about the best players in the world. But Man United are still playing well and have dealt with the departure of Ronaldo, and the same goes for Milan [with Kaka].”
Clash of the titans
Although Milan have won all four previous knock-out stage clashes between the two clubs in Europe’s premier competition, United’s recent Champions League history has been more successful than Milan’s.
Both have lifted the title once in the last three seasons but United have also reached another final and a semifinal while Milan were knocked out in the second round two years ago and last season had not even qualified for the competition.
Even so, Milan coach Leonardo believes the two teams are evenly matched and he stressed the importance of keeping a clean sheet.
“The two teams know each other well, not just because of the matches between them in the recent past but because we are continuously studying each other,” said the Brazilian.
“I believe I know Manchester United. Ferguson’s team are coming out of a difficult period when they had many players injured who have slowly but surely been coming back and they are a compact side that are great on the counter-attack.
“We have our own characteristics and tomorrow we will be trying to play our own game.
“Not conceding a goal is one of our aims but Manchester United are a team that always tries to score.
“We need to find the right balance between not conceding and trying to hurt them.”—AFP