Fergie sets 40-goal target for Rooney

ALEX FERGUSON does not intend to demand Wayne Rooney matches Cristiano Ronaldo’s 42-goal haul from two seasons ago – 40 would be enough for the hard-to-please Manchester United boss.

After breaking the 30 barrier with his double in Wednesday night’s incredible four-goal demolition of AC Milan at Old Trafford, Rooney is not setting himself any targets for the remaining two months of the campaign.

Even Ferguson has tended to be reluctant, insisting his only aim for Rooney was 30, despite United’s number one striker being on 27 when the Scot last said it.

But yesterday Ferguson acknowledged Ronaldo’s 42 – an achievement that helped earn him the world player of the year honour in 2008 – is a definite possibility.

“I am delighted he has got to 30,” said Ferguson.

“That is what I wanted. But he is there now.

“We have nine league games left and hopefully five European matches, so that is 14 in total. If he gets a goal a game he will do it.

“But I am not greedy. I would be happy if he got to 40.”

The sight of Ronaldo disappearing down the tunnel at the Bernabeu on Wednesday night, clearly unhappy at Real Madrid’s latest Champions league exit, was a reminder of how wellUnited have adapted to life without the Portugal superstar.

Ferguson would never say his side are better without such a unique talent.

But quite apart from Rooney, others are coming to the fore – including Park Ji-sung and Nani, who had largely been viewed as bit-part players at best.

“Life is good at the moment,” Nani said. “I am so happy because things are going well.

“I felt more was expected of me when Ronaldo left. I knew I could do more. I have done it. I hope in the future I can do even better.

“I am certainly happy we are still in the competition. Maybe I will ring Cristiano and speak to him about it.”

On the eve of Wednesday night’s encounter, Ferguson stated that United’s first-leg win in the San Siro had been a ‘landmark victory’ for his club.

Although you only have to go back six years to Milan’s hammering by Deportivo for a similar sized defeat for the Italians, the sheer enormity of the win will be spoken about for years to come.

With the seven-times winners out of the way, plus the team that plays in the stadium where May’s final will be played – and either Chelsea or Inter Milan sure to fall when the remaining four last-16 clashes are concluded next week, United can look forward to the draw with confidence.

Barcelona are the obvious team to be avoided, whilst there are easier opponents than Arsenal despite United’s recent successes against them over the past 12 months.

“You could throw a net over all the clubs and there would be nothing between them,” said Ferguson. “The competition nowadays is so close.

“When the draw came out last time, and we were the final name, I said we had never beaten Milan in four attempts.

“Now we are in the last eight and I don’t think it matters who we play.

“It is not as if there is an easy game. We have to play one of them and with the performance level we produced last night we are capable of playing against anyone.”

AC Milan, for their part, were yesterday searching for an explanation after their humiliation at Old Trafford.

The Rossoneri went into the game with several players not fully fit but few could have expected Leonardo’s side to be destroyed the way they were by the Red Devils.

“Alessandro Nesta is a great champion and his absence hurt the team as did Daniele Bonera’s thigh injury throughout the game,” said AC Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati.

“But injuries should not be an excuse for this defeat.

“To lose 4-0 for a team like Milan is difficult to digest.

“It’s not going to be easy to forget this result and I personally, feel ashamed of the outcome.

“But we have to admit that Man United played better than us.

“Ferguson’s side has great champions and they made our lives difficult from the start.’’

AC Milan coach Leonardo conceded: “Without a doubt, this was a huge defeat against a great Manchester United side.

“We needed everything to go our way in order to go through but it was not to be.”

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