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Beckham factor spices Milan-United rivalry

Published: Friday 18 December 2009, 20.30CET
AC Milan coach Leonardo said his side and Manchester United FC "are two teams that have Europe in their blood" after their pairing in the last 16 which could mean at Old Trafford return for David Beckham.
Beckham factor spices Milan-United rivalry
Milan got the better of United over two legs in the 2006/07 semi-finals ©Getty Images

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Published: Friday 18 December 2009, 20.30CET

Beckham factor spices Milan-United rivalry

AC Milan coach Leonardo said his side and Manchester United FC "are two teams that have Europe in their blood" after their pairing in the last 16 which could mean at Old Trafford return for David Beckham.

David Beckham wrote on his blog this week: "Since I left in 2003, I have not returned to play at Old Trafford. Seven years have gone by and I would like for that to happen." That wait could be over after Manchester United FC and the team Beckham is rejoining on loan from LA Galaxy in January, AC Milan, were matched in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round.

Milan edge
These teams were matched before in the last 16 in 2004/05, Milan winning both legs 1-0 on their way to the final. Other than that, their fixtures have come at the semi-final stage but with a similar outcome, Milan victorious in 2006/07, 1968/69 and 1957/58, each time winning by a bigger margin at home than United prevailed by at Old Trafford. Milan will stage the first leg on 16 February before trip to Manchester on 10 March, and coach Leonardo, who will have the option of registering Beckham in January, cannot wait.

Leonardo excited
"Just like Milan, Manchester United have an important European tradition," he said. "We share the same objectives and it will be a well-balanced fixture, we both have the same chance of going through. It's too early to make a prediction. Milan and Manchester United are two teams that have Europe in their blood, and if we look back to the past games between these two clubs we can see how emotional and fascinating they have been."

'Fantastic setting'
Sir Alex Ferguson has managed United to three finals in this competition and overcome Italian opposition on the way each time, Milan the notable exception to their fine record against Serie A sides in knockout games in recent seasons. "We've come up against AC Milan many times so it'll be a fantastic setting for two great clubs and we're very much looking forward to it," the manager said.

Beckham return
Meanwhile, United spokesman Phil Townsend said the club would be thrilled to see Beckham back. "I think everyone at Old Trafford will be absolutely delighted," he said, "it's what the Champions League is all about. He will get a fantastic reception, as players coming back usually do at Manchester United. He was a terrific servant for the club and we all hope he will be playing."

Last updated: 18/12/09 18.29CET

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