Belfast Telegraph

Alan Green: United will have enough to see off the Beckham factor

Thank heavens! The Champions League is back. Each season that’s a personal signal for me that spring is almost here. As I get older, I am increasingly intolerant of winter

Anyway, at the time of the draw, back in December, I speculated that the last 16 would see at least one English casualty and, as I head this week to Milan and Porto, I’m still of that mind.

Funnily enough, Chelsea, the team I see as the ‘safest’ of the three, aren’t playing until the following week.

I don’t know whether it’s down to security considerations (probably) or the inability of that notorious playing surface at San Siro to stage two major games on successive nights, but Jose Mourinho must wait to confront his old charges.

He’ll say he relishes the prospect; I’ll bet he’s dreading it. And John Terry, having been afforded ‘compassionate leave’ over the weekend, might well have recovered his form.

Of course, Manchester United, too, are meeting up with an old friend but there’s no certainly that David Beckham will be in the AC Milan starting 11 tomorrow night. It hardly matters: he’ll be all over the build up like a rash.

Contrary to the opinion of many, I don’t ‘hate’ Beckham. Indeed, I’d suggest that’s an impossible thing to do. David, and yes I’ve met him several times, is such a nice guy.

It’s merely that I’ve always considered he was over-rated as a footballer.

It’s true he never wanted to leave Old Trafford but Sir Alex never really offered him an alternative. The United boss was tired of the ‘circus’ that surrounded the player and still is, even more so today.

You’ll have gathered I’ve been away: on holiday in California. And, never mind that he’s currently playing in Italy, trust me Beckham is still ‘news’ in America. Indeed, you may have noticed, he figures in a prominent television promotion urging people to visit the state.

Perhaps, a month or so ago, United may have been vulnerable to the ‘Beckham effect’ and to a Milan team that, though ageing rapidly, still has the nous to win in Europe.

But last season’s beaten finalists have suddenly clicked. Though it was breakfast time where I was, I watched their win at the Emirates, I couldn’t have been more impressed: Rooney was phenomenal. And, despite having Nani sent off at Villa, they looked to me the likelier team to win that game. I don’t see them losing in Milan.

However, Arsenal may be more vulnerable. The win over Liverpool — a tad fortunate — helped buttress their Premier League hopes but, without Arshavin and, most likely, Song, I can see them losing in Portugal.

Porto aren’t one of the favourites but they’re very good at home. Arsenal had better be careful not to leave themselves with too much to do in the second leg.

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