Sir Alex Ferguson hailed Wayne Rooney as one of the world’s best after the striker’s brace saw Manchester United to a 3-2 Champions League win over Milan.
Two second half headers from Rooney took his season’s tally to 25 goals and ensured United have the advantage for the second leg of the last-16 game.
“He’s in devastating form, they could not handle him in the second half. He was marvellous,” said the United boss.
“What we said he has to do is improve his goalscoring and now he’s doing it.”
When asked if the Englishman should now be regarded alongside the likes of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo, Ferguson replied: “His basic ability is as good as the players you talk about.
“He has to be regarded at the highest level, along with all the other players we know about.”
Ferguson backed Rooney to reach the 30-goal mark for the first time this season and feels his recent goalscoring form has taken him to a new level.
“He could break 30,” added Ferguson. “This season in particular, over the last two months, there has been a marked improvement in his game.
“Confidence has a lot to do with it of course. I just felt he had to improve his goalscoring, which is what he is doing now.”
Those thoughts were echoed by Milan’s England midfielder David Beckham, who was largeky anonymous in his first match against United before being substituted in the 72nd minute.
“Rooney is obviously on fire again,” he said. “He’s been on fire for a few weeks now and I’ve always said he’s one of the best goalscorers in the world.”
Ferguson conceded his United side were not at their best, saying: “I think we could have lost a few goals tonight.
“The first 20 minutes was a bad period for us. For 20 minutes we lost composure. Once we got going, we played well.
“We could have been two or three down, to be honest because the bad start gave Milan encouragement. But we were desperate to hang on and thankfully we got ourselves back into it.”
And Milan counterpart Leonardo admitted his side felt aggrieved by the result.
“I think we didn’t score the goals we deserved,” said the Brazilian coach. “Manchester United managed to take 100% of their chances.
“It’s a question of centimetres unfortunately. You can’t play 90 minutes at the same rhythm we started the game with. I can’t criticise my side.”
“I don’t think to win 2-0 at Old Trafford is a totally impossible thing.”