Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, does not expect Leonardo, his opposite number at AC Milan, to allow sentiment to cloud his judgement when deciding whether to start David Beckham in the second leg of the last 16 Champions League tie tonight. Beckham returns to Old Trafford for the first time since he left to join Real Madrid in 2003 but the United fans may be denied the chance to see the England midfielder in action.
The 34-year-old was substituted in the first leg at the San Siro after a poor display against his former club and has been on the periphery of the team since. Andrea Pirlo, Massimo Ambrosini and Gennaro Gattuso are expected to form a midfield triumvirate for the Italians who are seeking to overturn a 3-2 deficit. "I am finding it difficult to pick their team but I don't know whether Beckham will start," said Ferguson. "I have not got that down in my conclusions about their team.
"He has not started a game since the first leg, so it is difficult to say what impact he will have on the game. "But he will be there and the one thing you have to be aware of is his delivery of the ball, which is fantastic." Beckham arrived at Manchester airport amid frenzied scenes yesterday but even he admits he is unsure of his role this evening. "If I play, I won't be frightened, but I will be excited in any case because I played in that stadium for many years and I know what it means to be a Manchester United player," he said. "I'm not nervous, I'm happy because for the first time after seven years I will return to Manchester and go on the pitch."
Darren Fletcher, the United midfielder, added: "I am sure he will get a good reception from our supporters. But once the game kicks off, all that friendship goes out of the window." * With agencies