[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] It's time to include Wayne Rooney among the great players in the world today. Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka -- none is hotter than Rooney, who scored his first two goals in this season's UEFA Champions League -- his 24th and 25th goals of the season -- to give Manchester United a 3-2 win at AC Milan on Tuesday.
The game was billed as David Beckham's first match against United since leaving in 2003, but Rooney, his England teammate, stole the show with two second-half goals, both on headers.
"It's devastating form," United manager Aex Ferguson said afterward. "They just couldn't handle him second half. I thought he was marvelous."
Asked to compare Rooney to Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Ferguson responded, "His basic ability is as good as the players you talk about. What we said he has to do is improve his goalscoring and now that he is ... he must be regarded alongside these players."
United's defense look suspect all evening -- beginning in the 7th minute when Beckham's free kick wasn't cleared and Ronaldinho put the ball away to give Milan the lead.
But United got a break in the 36th minute when Darren Fletcher's cross deflected off Paul Scholes' left leg and rolled inside the far post.
United exposed the Milan with a pair of Rooney headers -- the first off a cross by Antonio Valencia from the right wing that he headed back cross the goal inside the opposite post and the second when Fletcher chipped the ball over the middle of the Milan backline and found Rooney all alone.
Ronaldinho set up Clarence Seedorf to reduce the deficit in the 85th minute and Alessandro Nesta then missed an open header as time ran down.
Michael Carrickwas red-carded with a second yellow card for kicking the ball away and will miss the second leg at Old Trafford.