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MANCHESTER - Sir Alex Ferguson was handed the news he wanted to hear when Wayne Rooney was passed fit for Manchester United's Champions League meeting with AC Milan tonight.
The England forward had been a major doubt with a knee injury he aggravated on international duty last week.
But he lived up to his reputation as a prodigiously quick healer and is ready to be unleashed against the Italian giants, much to the relief of his manager.
"Rooney's fit, I'm glad to say," said Ferguson, who had predicted at the weekend that he would be obliged to start with Dimitar Berbatov as a lone striker. "On Friday I didn't think he had a chance."
Rooney's importance to United in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo's pre-season departure was underlined by his performance in the first leg in the San Siro, his two headed goals helping United claim a 3-2 advantage that leaves the second-round tie tilted in their favour but still in the balance.
"The form Wayne is in at the moment, no matter what game he plays in, he'd be a threat to anyone," Ferguson said.
The Scot admitted that Clarence Seedorf's late goal for Milan last month had left the Italians in a much more favourable position than they would have been had United held out for a 3-1 win.
"It is certainly an open tie, no question," he said. "It is going to be a great game and a very open one, I think. We hope to win the tie by our own attacking ambitions and Milan have to score, so that should make it a real open match."
Ferguson accepts that his side missed an opportunity to kill off the tie in Italy but believes that beating Milan on their home turf - for the first time in four attempts - represented a significant mental breakthrough for his players.
"The first 15 minutes over there were the best for them and we could have been two or three down. But once we recovered we played very well and maybe should have killed the game. But Seedorf's goal keeps it in the balance."
Though Milan are obliged to score at least twice to go through, Ferguson insists he will not instruct his players to try and protect their advantage.
"I don't think we are very good at defending leads, to be honest. We are going to play our normal game and that includes attacking.
"I don't think we can take 3-2 as a bye into the next stage. We have to accept it is going to be a very difficult match for us tomorrow."
Rooney's rapid recovery will have been particularly welcome for Ferguson given the restrictions on his options in other areas. Ryan Giggs is still sidelined after breaking his arm, Michael Carrick is suspended and England defender Wes Brown has joined an injury list featuring Anderson, Jonny Evans and John O'Shea. - Sapa-AFP