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Neville praise for United's head boy

Manchester United FC impressed at both ends of the field in the defeat of AC Milan, Wayne Rooney's aerial prowess earning praise from Gary Neville and the side's defensive ethic from Nemanja Vidić.

Neville praise for United's head boy
Neville praise for United's head boy ©UEFA.com

Gary Neville hailed the new-found aerial prowess of Wayne Rooney after the Manchester United FC forward's latest headed strike put the English titleholders on their way to an impressive 4-0 defeat of AC Milan and into the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.

Rooney, who had netted with two headers in United's 3-2 first-leg win, nodded in a Neville cross for United's opening goal after 13 minutes. That completed a run of seven successive headed strikes from Rooney and he effectively killed off Milan with the night's second score moments after the restart – a confident finish past Christian Abbiati that took him to 30 goals for the season.

Right-back Neville told UEFA.com: "He has become prolific in the air, it is something he has improved massively this season. You always try to progress every year as a footballer and this season the difference with Wayne is his goalscoring in the air – he has become a real threat. Even his heading when the ball is played up from the goalkeeper is excellent, he has got a good spring on him. He can't stop scoring, his goalscoring with his head is fantastic at the moment."

Rooney's opener followed a header at the other end by Ronaldinho that missed by a whisker. Neville added: "There are always defining moments in games and they headed one past the post which we were a little bit fortunate with. A few minutes later we scored at the other end. There are fines lines and we are hopefully on the right side of those.

"But over the two games we deserved to go through. It is always difficult playing against Milan and we had to work very hard, particularly in the first game. Tonight the first 30-40 minutes were difficult. There will be two more difficult games in the quarter-finals, but we are confident at the moment, we are playing well."

After Ji-Sung Park and Darren Fletcher sealed a resounding victory for United, Sir Alex Ferguson will also have been satisfied with his side's first clean sheet in Europe since the 1-0 win at PFC CSKA Moskva on Matchday 3. It is probably no coincidence that Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić were back together for the first time since that previous shutout.

Centre-back Vidić said: "We understand each other, we've played four years together so we understand each other well. Hopefully injuries are behind us and we can keep going. It is all about the team – the midfield players work hard, you saw Antonio [Valencia] and Ji-Sung Park come back into our box and defend, that makes life easier for us defenders."

The announcement of Real Madrid CF's exit earned a big cheer from the Old Trafford crowd and ensured United have already travelled further in the competition than Cristiano Ronaldo – affirmation, if it were needed, that they have adapted impressively to life without their erstwhile top scorer. Vidić added: "He had a great part in our success and scored so many goals, we cannot deny it, but the players that came are doing very well and we are still in the Champions League and on top of the league. I hope we can keep going."

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